After high school, I took a year off to work full time. I was burned out from pushing myself too hard and stretching myself too thinly. I envisioned the time being spent earning money as I decided what I wanted to major in during my college years, thus influencing what institution I would choose to attend.
In that time (after a blink of an eye spent as a nanny), I worked at a daycare. 'Worked' may not be entirely accurate to categorize what I did there. I went swimming, taught children how to create a sand village complete with volcanoes and tattoo parlors, painted fingernails, drew pictures, transformed into a bear or the hot-lava monster, built a fort, ventured on walks, flew kites, read books, went sledding, comforted hurt or crying children, and braided hair.
It was a great year. I know some people were worried I was about to waste my life and become content 'just working at a daycare,' not going to college. And in fact I might have dispelled some stereotypes I harbored in my mind about those who didn't get further education.
In the end, I was refreshed when I started college, unlike some of my freshman peers who wasted a semester or two because they weren't mature enough to make the transition. While I don't believe everyone needs a year break, I still recommend time off before college for those just at the end of their ropes.
At the daycare, I worked primarily with the preschool-aged children, although I was a floater when a quick substitute was needed in the baby or toddler rooms.
At Christmas time, Santa graced us with his presence. He took the children on his lap as they were awed almost to silence. They quietly whispered their requests to this full-bearded, obese man with the limited wardrobe. Until one three-year-old came along. Santa asked what he wanted for Christmas. The young boy earnestly answered, "Scotch tape!"
After the holidays I was to learn that Santa was good to him that year, and even saw fit to give him more than transparent adhesive.
I must admit, this episode caused me to identify this unassuming boy as a kindred spirit of mine. For when I was around his age, all I wanted was bandaids for my birthday. Once received, I was able to give tender ministrations to my Cabbage Patch doll and anything else that was so unfortunate to cross paths with me while I was trying to expand my practice.