The parents are the difficult ones here!…special education teacher

After working for several years as an aide in a special education school, I decided that I wanted to move up in the world and be a special education teacher. This would require me to go to college full time, so I had to quit my job as a teacher’s aid. I wanted to find another job that would permit me to work with children with special needs, while having more flexible hours than the job in the school. I tried working in a day care center, but it didn’t go very well! (By the way, never… and I mean NEVER… allow your children to go to KinderCare!)
Anyway eventually I heard of a job that seemed like a dream come true. The job would entail working with children with special needs. It would mean being like a mentor to a child, taking him or her out into the community and doing fun things with him, both to give his parents a break and to give him a positive experience and help him practice social skills.
I got the job, and right away I was paired with two different children. One was a 15-year-old boy with Down’s Syndrome, and the other was an 11-year-old girl with developmental delays. Their parents seemed very nice, and the kids couldn’t wait for me to start taking them out into the world!
Now it was time to create a schedule with the parents. Both sets of parents decided that they specifically wanted Saturday nights. And they thought that, since there was not much to do with children out in the community on Saturday nights, it would be just as well if I stayed at home with the children, while the PARENTS went out into the community! I would be able to fix dinner for the children, clean up after them, get them ready for bed, give them their night medicines, and put them to bed. (In a word… I, at the age of 25, was a babysitter.)

I had really been looking forward to being able to take kids out and do fun things with them. When I had first gotten hired for the job, and before I had gone to meet the families, I had spent hours compiling a notebook with the names, addresses, descriptions and prices of kid-friendly places in the area. I had checked out library books and poured over the internet, looking for places my new charges might enjoy! I had categorized the ideas by what the children could gain from the experiences. I had educational places, sports places, cultural places, nature places, arts-and-craft places, eating places, etc, etc, etc… and a lot of “just fun” places like Chuck E. Cheese, of course! I would think of what a good mentor I was going to be to these kids, and I was so proud of myself for finding such a fun job where I could make a difference!

So imagine how I feel now… 26 years old and my job entails nothing more than heating up frozen pizza and arguing over bedtimes.
Don’t get me wrong… I love the kids, and I’ve managed to try to make the babysitting evenings more interesting. I’ve accumulated a trunkload of board games I try to entice the kids to play, and I often bring science experiments, art projects or cooking ingredients to keep the kids busy.

But it is weird being in people’s houses so much.

These are not, by any degree, people you’d look at and think were “trashy” or even just poor. They are rich. They have fancy cars, and house doors that use a secret computer code instead of a key. Their homes make the house I grew up in look like an outhouse.

But it is weird to me because their cups and plates often look dirty in the cabinets, their refrigerators don’[t hold kid-friendly food, their pots and pans are ancient and rusty, they don’t own can openers. They have TV screens bigger than my mom’s kitchen table, piles of video games and DVD’s, back yards that stretch as far as the eye can see… but they frown upon giving me five dollars to take their kids out for ice cream.

I dind’t really like babysitting when I was a kid. I always grew restless being forced to stay home with kids. I wanted to be OUT AND ABOUT! That’s what I signed up for with this job! I DON’T WANT TO BE A BABYSITTER!!!!!

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