Friday, April 29, 2011

The First Taste of Parenting...Babysitting?

My first job as a tween was babysitting.  I absolutely loved it and I'd like to think that it set me up for becoming a fairly decent Mom.

The first babysitting job I had was sitting for 2 boys ages 6 and 8 during the summer months.  It was a full time job from 8 until 4 and the days flew by.  It helped that they had a pool too.  I spent those summers riding bikes with them, doing cannonballs into the pool with them, having swimming races, serving well cooked grilled cheese sandwiches and Campbell's tomato soup (well cooked meaning...maybe a bit burnt).  We'd go to the variety store and stock up on candy.  I'd buy my weekly supply of Tiger Beat and Bop magazines (of which I scoured for pictures of River Phoenix after watching Stand By Me...oh what a hunk he was with his pack of cigarettes rolled up into the shoulder of white t-shirt sleeve) We'd watch movies on the rainy days or play board games and I'd make them laugh like crazy by doing really obnoxious loud burps. I believe babysitting these 2 boys made me long to have 2 boys of my own someday.  They were really, really great kids.

Occasionally I'd babysit for my Mom's friends who had young ones.  I remember babysitting this one family in particular.  She had 3 kids. 2 boys and a girl.  The girl was the middle child and I figured out quickly that she was pretty much the spawn of the devil.  She was sneaky, violent and just plain mean to her brothers.  I recall having to stop her from pinging marbles off her 1 year old brother's head and bonking him on the head with random objects.  I would turn away and the poor baby boy would start yelping turn back and see her sitting there like she had no idea why he was upset.  

She was the reason I never wanted any girls.

I babysat for another family that lived in my neighborhood at the time.  I don't remember how many kids there were...I think 3 but all I remember was the baby.  The baby that would NOT STOP CRYING.  I remember cooking them all dinner, Kraft mac and cheese, I do remember that, and I had to carry the baby the whole time.  Every time I put her down she would scream so loud and so hard her face turned purple.  I had put the other kids to bed and still this baby would not. stop. crying.  The mom even called to "check in" around dinner time and heard the relentless, pitiful cries in the background.  Her reaction was pretty much....meh.  Maybe I know now why they left the house at 4 pm and didn't come back until after midnight.  (I'm surprised they came back at all if that's what they had to deal with day to day...which by the Mom's reaction of her baby's cries am sure that was exactly true.) They found me listening to the only music (on repeat) that I was familiar with from their strange cd collection (Melissa Etheridge - who I'd barely heard of at that time) reclined in their lazy boy with their baby (finally) asleep on my chest.  I had literally danced that baby and myself to sleep.  

This experience taught me patience, that I could handle cooking with a screaming baby on my hip and that dancing with a baby in your arms works wonders.

And that I still wanted boys.

Another memorable babysitting experience was looking after 2 toddlers.  A boy and a girl.  They were twins...ginger babies.  Super adorable.  The mother warned me that her son didn't take to strangers at all but her little girl loved everyone.  

Really?  Because her little boy upon meeting me for the first time gave me the sweetest smile and cuddled right up to me.  The little girl...cried so hard when her Mom left that she puked.  All over the front steps.

And it didn't end there.  Oh no it didn't.  

The 'mother' forgot to tell me her little girl was allergic to MILK.  So I unknowingly gave her bottle of milk before bed (as per the Mom's notes) then I changed her into her pj's, laid her down in her crib and left her room.  I walked in a half an hour later to check on her and she was bathed in vomit.  

Oh my lord.

I can't handle cleaning up barf.  Yes, the puke on the front steps I did simply pouring pitcher after pitcher of water on it until it was gone.  This.  THIS.  Was my worst nightmare.  To this day I cannot clean up my own kid's vomit, nor my dog's without gagging profusely.  So you can imagine how difficult this was for me....still, when I think of her my heart aches.  I know it was totally not my fault but I felt absolutely terrible.

Lesson learned from this:  that I COULD suck it up and clean up a child's vomit when push came to shove.  

And that I still wanted boys.

One of my last babysitting experiences was when I lived in a 3 story walk up condo when I was in high school (this is also where a dog pissed on my head from the balcony above me while I was unlocking my bike to go to school one early morning...just the tip of the iceberg in the follies of me)  Anyway, there was a single mother of 3 kids that lived on the floor above us.  She had 2 girls and a boy ages about 10, 8 and 6.  I was 17 or 18 at the time and she had to go out of town for one reason or another.  Probably work related.  She didn't have any family that could help her and since she knew me and my mom she asked if I could take care of her 3 kids for 3 nights.  

That's right.  3 kids for 3 nights.  This meant that I slept there, fed them, got them ready for school....I was basically a mom of 3 for 3 days at the age of 18.  And you know what?  I don't remember a single negative thing about it.  They were great kids.  I loved it.  I read to them every night.  I cooked dinner for them, made their lunches.  Got them to school in one piece...although I think my Mom may have done that...I can't remember how they actually GOT to school...or back home for that matter.  Hmmm.  

This experience set me up for the 'real' world of having kids.  Of-course it's always easy when they aren't yours.

And they aren't toddlers or pre-schoolers.

And it's temporary.

And there's no major emotional attachment.

And no pressures involved about raising them to be decent, well mannered, high moralled, contributing members of society.

But it was a great starting point.

Then I got my two boys.

And found out it's a million, billion, trillion times harder than babysitting ever was.

Actually, there is no comparison.

But the love you have for your own kids?

Well, nothing can compare to that.


Lisa said...

I also started babysitting at a young age. And you're right there is no comparison. :)

Shell said...

Babysitting= you know the job isn't going to last that long!