What could I do to help my middle school student know if this really is the career path for her?
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We talked about the importance of getting good grades, especially in math and science.
We talked about relating to children and their parents all day long, week after week, month after month.
We talked about the years of schooling, the long hours, the responsibility.
Then we went to work.
I told her she needed to be around little ones and provide care for them whenever she has an opportunity.
I stressed that she needs to learn how to follow procedures carefully.
It's also important, I added, to think fast and make decisions based on acquired knowledge and experience.
In addition, a bedside manner is always a plus.
What better training ground for these fundamentals than the church nursery?
When our children were babies, my husband and I served in the nursery. As our children grew, we branched out into other ministries.
I told my daughter if she wanted to work in the nursery, I would serve alongside her. So, we signed up and were (almost immediately) put on the schedule.
On our first day, we received thorough training on the procedures. We listened carefully. My daughter was especially attentive. She seemed to realize that it is important for parents to feel confident when leaving their children in our care.
Following procedures? I don't think that will be a problem.
I observed her as she fed a snack to a toddler. She was patient and careful. She seemed to find the child's tactics amusing. Having a sense of humor helps when dealing with children.
You can't be too intense or too laid back.
The little ones seemed to listen to her quiet instructions and soothing manner.
I wasn't surprised. She enjoys baby-sitting and looks forward to motherhood — most aspects of it, at least.
I think she appreciated having me so close at hand, especially when it was time to deal with all the messes.
She watched as I cleaned up one of the little ones.
Once babies are clean, it is obvious that they feel better.
As I explained this, I reached over, tucked in a little boy's shirt, picked him up and carried him back to the play area.
He snuggled close in my arms and hugged me tightly as if to say, "Thank you, nursery worker, for making me feel so much better."
My daughter noticed his reaction. She smiled.
Who knows what she will pursue after high school. The experiences she has now are helping her learn to care for others, take responsibilities seriously and work diligently.
Those are lessons she can use in any career.
Until she decides exactly what that career will be, we'll have fun exploring the options together.
Lisa Tedrick Prejean writes a weekly column for The Herald-Mail's Family page. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.