I miss kids
June 4, 2013 2:24 PM   Subscribe

How can I spend more time around children? I basically have zero interaction with any children, ever, and it's sort of getting me down.

I'm in my mid-20s, live in NYC. The only person in my extended family under the age of 18 is one cousin who lives in Kansas, and who I've never actually met. I don't have any friends with children, or with plans to have children any time soon. I don't work with children, I don't participate in any social activities where children might be present, and basically I could easily go for months without speaking to a person below the legal drinking age.

But, I LOVE children. I think they're fascinating and fun and brilliant. I love spending time around them, and when I do get to interact with them I have so much fun. And kids usually seem to like me, too. I really wish I had more opportunities to be around them- especially because I'd like to have them one day, and I don't want to be woefully unprepared by the time it happens. Plus, I just find it sort of unnatural and limiting to only be exposed to people in my own age group on a regular basis.

I can't really think how to make this happen, though. The entire structure of my life seems basically dedicated to ensuring that I only spend time with other childfree people in their 20s and 30s. And I don't want to be, like, WEIRD about it. I'm not trying to steal anyone's babies here, but even typing up this question I'm worried that it comes across that way.

So... any ideas?
posted by showbiz_liz to Human Relations (31 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Volunteer for Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC.
posted by Perplexity at 2:28 PM on June 4, 2013 [18 favorites]

Be a Girl Scout troop leader! That's what I did. It's awesome. My girls are awesome. Girl Scouts are awesome.

Memail me if you want more info on being a troop leader.
posted by phunniemee at 2:28 PM on June 4, 2013 [20 favorites]

Volunteer! I tutored middle school kids in Math for a few years. It was surprisingly fun!
posted by larthegreat at 2:29 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

New York Cares. Volunteer. You have to go to an orientation first then you pick the types of projects you want to do. Many involve tutoring or afterschool programs with children of all different ages. They would love to meet an enthusiastic adult. Win win. (and zero creep factor:))
posted by bquarters at 2:29 PM on June 4, 2013 [3 favorites]

As a word of caution, volunteering with children may be a very different experience than hanging out at a social occasion where children are present. If you tutor or mentor, your mentee may not actually want your help, or may want the payoff, but not the effort. You may get resistance and resentment. In general, you will be working with children who need help and may not be doing well, for a variety of reasons. Your assigned child may be living in poverty, or come from a dysfunctional family. There may be a significant language and culture barrier. This is worlds apart from going to a party at a friend's place where someone's toddler is saying the darnest things or whatever.
posted by Nomyte at 2:40 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

I totally understand your feelings because I have a young daughter and feel sad that soon she will not be so young - like many parents, I'm going to miss a lot of things that are so fun right now. I think some day I'm going to be you (again)! Not sure what skills and how much spare time you have, but there are probably things you could do in a pre-school or kindergarten environment, such as teaching chess, teaching a foreign language, reading to kids (or having them read to you), teaching them how to cook or play the piano, being an overqualified (who cares!) babysitter, etc. If you want to MeMail me more about your background and interests, maybe I can come up with some more targeted ideas for you.
posted by Dansaman at 2:43 PM on June 4, 2013

Any interest in babysitting? Set up a profile on Care.com or SitterCity, and see what turns up.

(Or MeMail me and I can send your info out to my mommy lists.)
posted by snickerdoodle at 2:47 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

pretty sure there are plenty of nyc mefites who would pay you to take their kids away somewhere for a day.
posted by elizardbits at 2:49 PM on June 4, 2013 [14 favorites]

Being a volunteer baby-cuddler at the NICU at a local hospital would have less of a commitment* than BBBS or tutoring/teaching, so it might be a good place to start. Babies benefit tremendously and parents who just can't be there 24/7 are so grateful. Plus bonus new-baby smell.

*Lots of people think they want to be a BBBS or tutor/teach, and then it turns out they don't want to, and the kid is left tutor-less halfway through the school year; better to be really sure before you sign up.
posted by headnsouth at 2:57 PM on June 4, 2013 [9 favorites]

Just as a heads up, I applied to be a baby cuddler at a NICU and I made it through the application to the in-person interview, actually showed up at the hospital to meet the adorable preemies, and then they chose somebody who was already a mother for that volunteer position. I was preeeeeetty surprised that a volunteer position could be so competitive, but I guess everyone loves newborns??
posted by Cygnet at 2:59 PM on June 4, 2013

Join a martial arts class that teaches adults and kids. That's how I get the bulk of my kid-interactions these days, as Nephew Nerd lives 80 miles away.
posted by luckynerd at 3:03 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Do you have any friends who are teachers, or who know teachers? I volunteer about one day a month in a friend's elementary school reading classes, and my job is to hang out with groups of kids and let them read aloud to me. We pick out books they would like to read, then the kids read aloud to me, and I help them sound out words and figure out what the books are about. Some schools near me have Saturday remedial classes, so you could do this even if you work full time. I get to hang out with lots of different kids and talk about books and give high fives and make silly faces. It's awesome.
posted by decathecting at 3:05 PM on June 4, 2013 [4 favorites]

Go to church? I don't know if all churches are this way, but I'm a UU (I actually went to Community Church on E 35th as a kid) and in all the UU churches I've ever been to, there's a lot of intergenerational stuff going on pretty much all the time that you can participate in (and bonus, meet new interesting [adult] people too).
posted by rabbitrabbit at 3:13 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

In my city one of the volunteer roles that not many people know about is reception at family services - when parents are arrested, children don't always go immediately to a foster family. They also pitch in when the family comes in to meet with their assigned social worker. This is the kind of stuff you'd find out about through New York Cares. There are also quite a few projects listed that deal specifically with hanging out with kids in fun environments - if I lived in Queens I would totally sign up to take shelter kids to the science center.

I'd also recommend church, if you're down for it. I'm always the Sunday School teacher, and it's always a freaking blast.
posted by SMPA at 3:33 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

Since you live in New York, I suggest taking the subway and making funny faces at any little kids who look at you. Or just grinning at them. I end up playing peekaboo with strangers' children at least once a week in public spaces. I don't know what that says about me.
posted by colfax at 4:06 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

How about volunteering to be a docent at a children's museum?
If you attend church, volunteer to help with Sunday school classes or the church's daycare.
Some schools have volunteers read to the kids or be playground or lunchroom monitors.
How about a homeless shelter for families: you could help out with a kids' craft class.
posted by easily confused at 4:48 PM on June 4, 2013

I agree about babysitting. The Red Cross probably offers a babysitter's course, and they definitely offer infant/ child CPR and 1st aid. It's always useful to know 1st Aid in any case. Then put up a flyer offering babysitting services. You'd probably also like volunteering for the Girl Scouts or another organization, too.
posted by theora55 at 4:49 PM on June 4, 2013

I volunteer at a children's hospital and mostly am around school-aged kids but can usually find a baby to snuggle if I wander over to the NICU (often giving caregivers a much-needed break). The application process was set up to seem competitive but really wasn't, in the end.
posted by teremala at 4:54 PM on June 4, 2013 [1 favorite]

I agree that if you are at all inclined to attend a church, that it's an awesome way to hang out with great kids. I started going to Quaker meetings five or so years ago and after a few months, got drafted to help with the children's programs. (QUAKER KIDS ARE AWESOME.) If you're not super-religious but interested in services, Quaker or U.U. services would probably be a good place to start. Like rabbitrabbit points out, you can also make great grown-up friends there too, I definitely did.
posted by Aquifer at 6:32 PM on June 4, 2013

Teach Religious Education

My sister does the baby NICU thing and loves it.

Girl Scout Troop Leader would be awesome.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:36 PM on June 4, 2013

I used to volunteer with the Education Department of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and I got to do a ton of crafts and things with kids. Lots of fun low-stakes interaction. There's bound to be some similar opportunities at museums in NYC.
posted by sigmagalator at 6:47 PM on June 4, 2013

I'm mostly around kids through my church, and it will open up a lot of babysitting opportunities as well if you want that (if not, you can teach Sunday school and/or just get to hang out with kids at church events).
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:03 PM on June 4, 2013

I don't know how many are around in NYC, but you could always check for part time employment opportunities for a business similar to Monkey Joes, or volunteering at after school/YMCA programs. These usually have a "kids at play" environment versus a tutoring or academic vibe. The same goes with part-time work at a daycare.

That said, without getting into what this says about society and being prepared for parenthood, I can't think of many situations where a parent or organization would not find it creepy for an adult to be around kids, unless employed by a business or an official volunteer.

Failing that, you could always try the six degrees of separation thing, and put the word out among childless friends who can speak for your character to ask people they know about babysitting or other similar gigs.
posted by Debaser626 at 7:38 PM on June 4, 2013

I like volunteering with 826NYC, as I often mention around these parts. I think you could get your fun kid time in, especially if you volunteer to help with a field trip--where the kinds collaboratively write a story--or with one of the workshops (moviemaking! book writing!), as opposed to homework tutoring, though that can also be enjoyable.
posted by mlle valentine at 7:42 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

Volunteer at the nearest children's museum, which would be a lot less heavy than other volunteer suggestions. One drawback to this would be that you wouldn't necessarily develop ongoing relationships with the same set of kids.
posted by Philemon at 7:56 PM on June 4, 2013 [2 favorites]

I used to volunteer at a science museum - lots of interactions with kids (and adults), everyone from bored teenagers to toddlers who would attempt to sit in my lap. And they asked so many great questions! (My favorites: "Is the mommy monkey with Jesus now?" and "Wait... how does the baby get *in*?")

It was loads of fun, and as others mention it's a low-stakes kind of interaction - if a kid doesn't like you or doesn't want to learn, they walk away, and another kid shows up moments later! Also I made friends with other volunteers/employees at the museum, some of whom have kids, and their kids are fun too.

Other suggestion: pressure your friends and family members to have kids?
posted by mskyle at 6:56 AM on June 5, 2013

Other suggestion: pressure your friends and family members to have kids?

Ugh, please don't do that.

Starting with the low-stakes stuff is a good idea. I have just finished raising mine (graduation Friday!) and am way too tired/selfish right now to commit to a kid relying on me even in a small way, but I do have the best driveway for sidewalk chalk and I move my car into the street on request. I get my kid-fix that way and it makes the neighborhood a nice place to be for everyone.
posted by headnsouth at 7:25 AM on June 5, 2013

I was KIDDING, guys!

In case anyone thought I was serious and agreed with me: don't pressure anyone to have kids, it's obnoxious and terrible.
posted by mskyle at 7:26 AM on June 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

You might get involved with a program that does storytelling, like with the library or through the city.
posted by vignettist at 7:46 AM on June 5, 2013

Park districts need coaches or other adults to supervise activities. Any talent you might have - I can almost guarantee there is a camp or park district that would love to have you teach a class or a workshop to kids. Coaching is usually a volunteer gig, and you have to pass a background check. There may be stipends involved for other kinds of classes/workshops. Check with your local college too. They often have community outreach types of activities geared toward children.

Check your local library. Do they need someone to read to kids, or tell stories, or supervise crafts?
posted by SuperSquirrel at 3:24 PM on June 5, 2013

My husband and I just signed up to volunteer at the Boys and Girls Club. I was kind of shocked at how low-key the application/interview process was, and also at how low the scheduling expectations were. YMMV (this is in a fairly small city) but definitely take a look!
posted by charmcityblues at 7:56 PM on June 5, 2013

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