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Posted on July 12th, 2016

The Geography of My Mind – Kids

For the last 6+ months I’ve been running a small afterschool program. It’s a noble job; kids need a safe space to play, be creative and to exist outside the structure that is provided by school; and often home life, too. This job is tangentially related to my field of interest – recreation (an ambiguous concept, yes) – so I figured it’d be a good way to kill some time without looking like a complete waste of space for the “real” jobs I had been applying for. Of interest, perhaps, is that I don’t really “like” kids; I have zero interest in having any of my own and am often perplexed by those who do. Little bratty versions of you. How nice. Just what this world needs. For the record, I’d be okay with letting our species trickle out. If anything, we’ve proved that we’re not capable of much good. Too cynical? Look around you: do the pros really outweigh the cons?

At this point you’re probably thinking, “Oh god, dear me. How did this animal get this job? He despises kids? Well, I never!” I’ve actually worked with kids a lot in the past. I’ve done a couple environmental education programs, led a parks maintenance program for teens and ran an afterschool program before this one with 125+ kids; so maybe when I say I don’t like kids, I don’t really mean it. But the thing is, I do mean it. But I should probably just add that I don’t really like people in general. On an individual level, it’s a case by case basis; from a curiosity standpoint, they’re fascinating; but I just have little faith in humankind. The band Porno for Pyros had a song called Pets with the lyric: “Children are innocent, teenagers (screwed) up in the head. Adults are even more (screwed up), and elderlies are like children.” I don’t find children all that innocent, especially not after this last stint with them.

The company I worked for oversaw several programs at individual schools, and the one I worked at had had a lot of trouble over the years. The attendance was thinner than other places, the staff turnover was higher, and the problems generated by the kids was the result of many of those expedited vacancies. During my tenure there I had the principal, several teachers, several parents whose kids weren’t in the program and other staff of my organization tell me how I had the perfect storm of “characters” (for the sake of trying to be nice). There wasn’t an hour that went by where I didn’t deal with headache after headache. I don’t think there was one day where I didn’t have to reprimand at least 2-3 kids. Many times it was trivial, but that stuff just got old. Oftentimes it was fighting, public urination, swearing, general lack of respect, emotional bullying, you name it. And it wasn’t even like I was a disciplinarian; oh, I cracked the whip when needed, and it often was, but I typically allowed a long leash. I wanted these kids to have fun, but to do so safely and respectfully. That was, apparently, too much to ask.

The job, on the surface, was easy. Four to five hours a day of standing around supervising kids. But there was so much chaos that I often found myself muttering how much I hated that job. When we got to the last hour of the day, I often looked eagerly, and longingly, at the door, waiting for parents to come, one by one, to pick up their little monsters. Now, of course, they weren’t all bad, all the time. There were several that were good kids. There were several parents that understood just how much of a handful their kids were. Oftentimes I would have to write-up the most severe incidents and have the parents sign the form to make sure they knew what was going on. Some parents were appalled at their children’s behavior; others seemed that they could care less. Only once did I have to send a kid home – the worst kid by all accounts – and on a few days when I wasn’t there, he did some extra bad stuff that really irked the subs to the point where he had a behavior contract: one more screw-up and he was bounced. Oh, he screwed up a bunch after that, but I didn’t have the heart to make the parents’ lives any crappier. I knew my time was winding down. Just grin and bear it.

I actually left the job about a month before the schoolyear ended because I needed to get on with my life and lay the foundations for my career that was really only just now starting. I left a note for the person taking my position, telling her about all of the quirks of each kid. I hope she found it useful. She may have found it daunting. She may have quit after reading it. One of the days that I was absent while traveling for a job interview, I heard that the sub that day broke down and cried. I hope this one is tougher.

Another thing: my organization decided to pull up camp from this location. They’ve been in business for 35 years, and at this location for 15-20, and they finally decided to shut her down. I think the headaches were just adding up to too much. The school didn’t seem to care; there always seemed to be some issue there. The parents did though, mostly. They were outraged that they would have to find other places for their brats. Well, you wanted ‘em. Comes with the territory. I don’t know how you could ever really know what you’re getting yourself into when you choose to have a kid. But once you figure out how much work it is, how do you decide to have another? I get the whole biology of it to a degree, but if we’re supposed to be an advanced people, why haven’t we learned that kids don’t make our lives any easier? From this outsider’s perspective, it sure doesn’t make life any more fun. One of my friends who has two kids told me to be absolutely sure I wanted them before I ever committed to doing so. I assured him I knew I didn’t want any. He said he didn’t regret it, but that his life wasn’t his any longer; and that was kind of defeating. He then told me the story about how his 4-year old pooped his pants three times in one day; not because he wasn’t potty-trained, but because he was lazy and didn’t care if he walked around with poop in his pants. Yea, I’m okay with never having to deal with that.

I once told another friend that if I ever had kids, it wasn’t because I changed my mind, it was because I screwed up. I’ve never had this conversation with my parents; I don’t know if they’re waiting for grandkids. It’ll be an awfully long wait if they are. I don’t want the headaches, the expenses, the responsibilities, and I certainly don’t want the potential for heartache. Life is difficult enough as it is on your own. Adding some minions to the mix makes it even more so. I’m a dog person; it’s all the responsibility I want and need. Sure, they can’t take care of me when I’m old and senile, but that shouldn’t be the reason you want to have kids. The reason you want to have kids, in my opinion, is because you’re a glutton for punishment. Too harsh? Well, I was a kid once too…

Marco Esquandoles
Proud parent-never-to-be

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