Thursday, October 21, 2010

Child "Care"

I babysat my nieces Annabelle and Eve tonight. They rule, and I love them insanely. Plus I totally love babysitting. When I was young, there was never anything more exciting than going over to someone else’s house to watch their kids. All the exotic foods you had access to (Pizza in a ROLL? Whaaa?), the shows on – gasp – CABLE that I couldn’t see at home, and the responsibility. Ooooh, that sweet, sweet responsibility! I am the 4th out of 5 kids so I NEVER had to take care of anyone at home. So babysitting ruled. I’d be all “Now, no TV allowed. You have to go ride your bikes. And you can only ride in the street if you don’t see any cars. And those crayons aren’t toys. Organize them by color! Them’s the rules, minions.” Sheesh, fun-hater. It was totally arbitrary what kind of rules I’d enforce because I was only about 14 at the time. But that sense of power and control was awesome. Babysitting now is, like, so much better though.

I used to “nanny” for my niece Annabelle when my sister Prinna was pregnant with my niece Eve. Prinna was the Murphy’s Law of pregnant women. She contracted cryptosporidium at Waterpark of America, she was severely dehydrated all the time, and also suffered with intense nausea that could only be suppressed with drugs and an occasional dose of acupuncture. I was unemployed at the time, so I just basically spent my days hanging out with Annabelle while Prinna lay debilitated in her bed. I. Loved. That. Job. I showed Annabelle how to eat snow and make a snowman. I’d sneak her candy under the table when she finished her broccoli (or “trees” as she called them). I would yell “Dance Break!” while I was cleaning up the kitchen, and Annabelle would run into the kitchen, I’d swoop her up in my arms and we’d dance around for like 20 minutes to a song on the radio. It was incredibly joyful. I didn’t have to do any of the Hard Stuff though. I had no part in potty training her, teaching her the alphabet, or disciplining her when she was naughty. Babysitting was straight up fun.

All this was pretty different from when I was young. At 14, I thought “Hey, if I have to follow rules, you do too.” And I’d set unnecessary boundaries and time limits on everything. I didn’t understand yet why rules were rules. I just thought to myself “Everything I want to do is against some rule, so the idea of babysitting was if it’s too fun, it’s probably against the rules.” Now that I’m older, though, I get it. My college writing professor used to say “You must learn the rules before you can know how to break them with purpose.” So now, sure I set boundaries. And I enforce the rules if necessary. But I’m flexible. Probably more so than my sister would like. I know kids shouldn't watch too much TV, but what ELSE are they supposed to do while I’m playing Angry Birds?

I also used to religiously read The Babysitters Club books. The girls in the books treated babysitting like a business, so I did too. I took it way too seriously. It felt so grown up sitting at a dining room table with a tall glass of chocolate milk, doing my homework, listening to a sleeping baby on the monitor. Then when the baby would wake up, I’d sigh, chug my milk down, close my books, and head into the baby’s room. God, I was so annoyingly grown-up about it. That is – luckily – no longer the case. I pack my nieces so full of candy that they can’t see straight. And instead of making them go to bed on time, I’ll set up sleeping bags in the living room and watch a movie with them until they crash right there. Then my sister comes home, silently curses my name upon seeing the havoc we've wreaked, and I hop out the door leaving the destruction in my dust. Prinna – remind me again why you ask me to babysit?!

But all in all it was a successful night full of discipline-free fun and plenty of sugar. Gotta love irresponsible child care! Have a great weekend, everyone! And don't forget to stop and dance around a room for a bit, or prepare a dinner consisting solely of candy bracelets. Kids seem to like it!

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