Let me begin by saying that I love kids. Really. I do. I think they are lovely people, and it’s an incredible thing to watch them discover the world around them. It’s amazing to see a baby smile. And it’s a miracle to see a child form their first words (however, not a miracle to help a kid who’s not yours pull out their first tooth when their parent isn’t there. Bad miracle! Bad miracle!). I like movies with kids in them, sometimes I think they’re better actors than adults; it could be honesty or they just deliver their lines cuter, I don’t know.
I’ve liked kids my whole life. At my parent’s work barbecues, or dinner at a parent’s friend’s house, I could be found with either the child or the family pet. I just found them more interesting or we had a similar mindset. Seeing a beagle eat a cat’s poop out of the litter box is disgusting and fascinating at the same time, it’s just not something to brag about. So it was only natural that I took my Red Cross babysitting course at the age of 12 or 13 to start taking care of something I already liked for money. Not a difficult job. You just basically have to make sure that no catastrophe befalls the innocent, and you will get paid. I was taught, however, that a babysitter doesn’t just “babysit”, but make sure they brush their teeth, make sure they get to bed at a decent hour, make sure they don’t watch too much tv, and make an effort to tidy up the mess that you or the kids made before the parents get home to hide the evidence of the macaroni and cheese with mustard and french fries disaster that happened earlier in the evening.
In college, I had returned from a semester in Costa Rica, I wanted to move out of my parent’s house, so I needed a job. Babysitting skills and years of experience with children translated into a nanny position. Ladies and gentlemen, I got spoiled. I was getting paid to take care of a sweet kid and teach him everything I know. I’m not saying there weren’t challenging moments, and it definitely provided an excellent form of birth control, but more importantly: the parents and I were on the same page as to what was acceptable and what wasn’t acceptable. And, to be completely honest, I found this with most (there are bratty kids in Denver, too) of the families I would sit for. Just so there’s no confusion, I made up a list of things that were and were not acceptable:
8. sitting quietly while I check my email
1. ripping up the pages of a library book.
Fast forward a few years to moving to New York…Ho-ly shit. There’s stuff that would NOT HAVE FLOWN when I was a kid. For example: I was expected to be on my best behavior in restaurants. If not, I would be removed from that booth booster seat faster than you could blink, and I would never see those restaurant crayons or coloring- book style placemat ever again. I understood that what I had done was unacceptable. I was to always use please and thank you in my own home and, especially, if I was company at someone’s house. And if I was being taken care of by a babysitter it was a privilege…not a right. Maybe my parents were disciplinarians, but their kids didn’t become brats. When I first started seeking out a nanny job when I moved to the city, I was appalled. I interviewed with one family on the Lower East Side, whose mother told me that, “If Uma wants to climb and play on the [dinner] table, she can.” Play doesn’t mean sit in a high chair and do finger painting, it means run back and forth along the length of the table. My mind fast forwarded about ten years, to a kid with pig tails, screaming, running up and down the length of the table with both parents in various states of hair loss. I didn’t take the job. There were a couple kids I took care of in my neighborhood for a while, but eventually had to stop because I started to lose my voice from trying to get the message across to these kids to get them to do what their parents had asked me to do. I should’ve taken the cue from the first time I went there when the father started screaming at the kids while the mom sat by rolling her eyes and trying to laugh it off. Um, I don’t think that works… I felt that a lot of that could’ve been resolved if getting their kids to respect their parents at an earlier age might’ve been helpful. What are people thinking? “My two year old doesn’t understand what “no” means.” Newsflash! They do! There’s even a “no” song on Sesame Street. Why parents don’t think it’s necessary to give their children consequences for their actions is beyond me. I’m no expert on the subject, but I might put the pieces together and say that a child without this kind of structure has difficulty in school and has consistently bad behavior making it difficult to make friends or keep them, and falls into a lifetime of drug and alcohol abuse. Ok that last part isn’t true, but you see where I’m going with this. They just become increasingly hard to handle, and no one likes to be around that. There has to be a point, as a parent, where you realize that your kid is not the angel you once thought s/he was. Of course, it’s different when they’re yours.
Maybe I take my job too seriously. I have to accept that I may not be able to change someone’s behavior in a four hour period, but it sure would make them easier to be around if they weren’t acting like they were feral and just recently emerged from their home in the forests of the Amazon. I babysit now because I need the money. Not because I want to. I’m good at it. I’m reliable. But it sure makes the job easier when your kid isn’t acting like a total brat. It also makes me want to be a repeat babysitter, and not go spend all the money I just made babysitting on getting drunk from the forty I buy at 7-11 as soon as I leave your house. It has gotten to the point though, where a lot of times, I just won’t even argue. You don’t want to brush your teeth? Fine. You’re the one who’s gonna have to deal with your breath smelling like ass in the morning. You don’t want to go to bed? Fine. Stay up until your parents get home. I don’t care. You don’t like me? That’s fine, I have other people in my life who validate my existence. Goodnight. Click.