I’ve been babysitting since I was twelve.
Well, sort of.
My first ever babysitting experience was with the Cella’s infant daughter while they were off at another daughter’s First Communion.
I was fresh out of the Red Cross certification session that we did as Girl Scouts and I was ready to go. Babysitting schmabysitting, it was going to be no problem.
It was horrible.
I was never asked back and I don’t even have to hesitate as to why.
The baby was supposed to go down for her nap and sleep the entire time (thus making her delightfully rested for the after-party). Of course, when I went to put her down for that nap, she cried, and I, overwhelmed with the prospect of letting a small child cry, picked her up and played with her for the next two hours.
There was purple marker all over her by the time the parents came home and she was just getting ready to head to bed.
Since then, there’s been marked improvement.
I babysat all through college. Since then, it’s been a great way to supplement my income on a semi-regular basis. It’s also giving me a crash course in pre-parenthood, so that when I get around to procreating (not soon, not for many years) I won’t even have to bat an eye about the basics.
I tend to babysit for kids under five (I’ve got one six-year old now).
I gravitate toward babies. They’re easy. They have few needs. They haven’t yet learned how to lie. They are still amused by simple things.
However, I do like the imagination and conversation that comes with slightly older children.
The three boys (twin three-year olds and their five month brother, when I started in September 2008) gave me a run for my money. By the end of my year and a half with them, I was no longer stressed out about little stuff. I stared down tantrums and was getting better at being strict.
They were some of the best kids I’ve ever sat for, partially becuase of the bond we developed.
But trust me, it definitely made me rethink my plan for having three kids.
When I first started sitting for them, the twins were having trouble coming to terms with the fact that their little brother was there. He was interrupting their lives. “Can’t we just put him back?” they’d whine. Biting back a smile, I’d explain that he really looked up to them and wanted to be just like them.
That baby was one of the sweetest babies I’ve ever had charge of. We’d go to circle time, or whatever it was called, at the library, and we’d read and clap and do baby things. It was always funny becuase there would be a handful of parents and then a handful of caregivers like me, who sort of had an idea what they were doing in the circle, but sort of felt awkward.
I love how intelligent the kids can be. I love the way their minds work; I love the questions they ask.
One day, we were playing with the magnetic triangles that the boys had. (I loved these toys. I am getting a set for my kids one day.)
One of the twins said, “Katie, pass the isosceles.”
I handed him a triangle, taking my best guess as to what an isosecles might be.
If he could have rolled his eyes at me, he would have. “That’s not an isosceles,” he said, disappointed.
Lately, the twins here in Denver have been all about their music. Asking for classical music by name so that they can re-enact Fantasia in the bathtub is wonderful. Graham asked me if I knew who Beethoven was. “He made a symphony,” he announced.
I also love how understanding they can be.
The twins in Chicago used to have a hard time falling asleep. They all slept in the same room, so it was understandable that someone was going to talk or interrupt the other ones and general chaos would ensue.
Sometimes, when they couldn’t sleep, I’d go in and lay with them, holding their hands until they fell asleep. My last night with them, I held their hands and sang to them and then cried. (They had tricked me into the singing business by telling me that their mom sang to them every night. She definitely didn’t, and I definitely am a horrible singer, so I’d usually end up humming the refrain to a Beatles song until they got bored and asked for a new one.)
While I was babysitting for the Chicago crew, I was dating someone who had the name name as one of the twins. The other brother, Luke, once asked me if I had another Luke. I told him that he was my only one.
After the breakup, little Hunter told me that it was okay, because he would go on dates with me. He thought about it for a minute and then said, “We can put my carseat in your car.”
My last night there, they told me that instead of going to get ice cream that night, they wanted to go to the beach because I reminded them of summer and the beach. And so we went.
We always ended up messy at the beach. We’d stand with our toes in the sand, waiting for the waves to come up and wash over us up to our ankles. They’d scream and run back from the waves. I’d pick up the baby and he’d laugh.
These happy moments would usually dissolve. I remember one night carrying the baby and his tricycle (because he refused to get off), while I had two dinosaur backpacks on my shoulders as well as one of the twins. The one who was on bike wasn’t wearing anything but a pair of underwear .
Hey, at least they get home safe and happy.
That’s all I can promise.
I love intelligent, imaginative kids. In those situations, it doesn’t feel like work anymore, and it feels as though we’re just playing.
I love going to the park.
I love their inquiries.
My favorite quote from the past few weeks:
Me: Do you need to go potty?
6 year old: I went before I got in the bath!
3 year old: I went in the bath!
While I usually manage to create a routine that’s satisfactory to both myself and the children, I’ve run into a situation I’m unable to control, and one that has little chance of changing.
I call her the Cryer. It’s a terrible name, I know, but there really isn’t much else to describe the situation.
She’s eleven months old now, and I sit for them about once a week. I get there and she cries, we recover, and then she cries.
There’s no cause.
There’s no solution.
I feel horrible, having to listen to her tears and see her face scrunched up in that horrible baby bawl. I don’t know how to explain to the parents that this is the first time I’ve ever run across this issue.
I walk with her. I hold her. I try to distract her with toys. I feed her. Together, we feed the fish and then watch them.
I’m not connecting.
But I’m trying.
Last night, she went down at seven and was up again at eight thirty. The grandmother is in town for back surgery, and I’m not wondering if part of that played a factor in the wake up. (Coincidentally, it happened the minute the grandma walked past the baby’s room.) And once she was up, all she wanted was grandma, who can’t lift her.
And so we went upstairs and watched tv.
That’s not usually my go-to solution, but it seemed to work. We played peek-a-boo with a blanket and threw some toys around.
Eventually, she went back to sleep.
It’s an adventure, that’s for sure. But I’m hoping that she’ll warm up to me soon. I’m hoping that we’ll soon be getting along terrifically.
But until then, it’s a stressful experience for both of us.