Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I Always Liked Claudia. So Exotic.

“I heard you like babysitting. Kids…and stuff.”

On Saturday morning, I got a call from a guy who left a nervous, rambling message asking if we could meet. He’d gotten my name and number from my aunt and uncle, and was hoping I could babysit his five-year-old son.

Cue flashbacks to my years from age 12 until age 22. I didn’t have a fast food job in high school, I babysat. And I even quit a college job so I could babysit regularly.

As a 10-year-old, my best friend and I combed the streets of her suburban allotment, knocking on doors and handing out fliers advertising our services as “Mother’s Helpers”. I can only imagine how difficult it was for those moms to contain amused smiles as they answered the door to the two tiniest 10-year-olds that ever did exist, pitching themselves in squeaky little voices.

As an 11-year-old, I founded my very own preschool in my basement. Every week, I’d scour over preschool lesson plans and spend hours planning the preschool for six (paying!) neighborhood children.

As a 13-year-old, I again showed my marketing panache by stuffing mailboxes in our neighborhood with fliers offering my babysitting services. “I’m the oldest of 5 children!” the ad exclaimed. I probably charged about $4 an hour. And loved every minute of it.

I blame The Babysitter’s Club for all this entrepreneurialism.

Honestly, though, babysitting is one of the BEST jobs ever. Play with the kids, feed them some delicious food like peanut butter and jelly or mac and cheese, throw them to bed, and have the house all to yourself. Free food, cable (I totally snuck some MTV when I was in high school), and plenty of homework time.

My best job to date was a summer nanny job for a family while I was in college– we went on four vacations where I saw beautiful parts of the country, fell in love with six delightful children, and learned to water ski. The paychecks were just a bonus.

There is something so utterly cozy about family life –and babysitting always gave me a glimpse of that.

Last night, I met with the family. The five-year-old proudly showed me his toy crossbow and nunchucks. He showed me how he can use his computer. He showed me how he can jump from the window to the couch. His parents showed me the igloo they spent three hours carefully constructing in their backyard.

“You can put your boots on and go look at it!” his mom said excitedly.

Which just confirms my suspicion – we have kids because we want an excuse to play again. We want to buy an igloo kit “for our son” and take our kids to the awesome children’s museum.

People just tend to look at you suspiciously when you go in to Chuck E. Cheese without kids.


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