I changed my first diaper when I was nine years old, because my generation actually knew how to interact with fellow members of the human race (sans a personalized reminder to put the newest version of the iPhone away, because I didn’t have a phone until college). Plus that Baby G watch and Miami Dolphins Starter Jacket (picked it for the colors, not the team, relax) weren’t going to pay for themselves. Therefore, babysitting was the obvious career choice at nine for the $2/ hour pay, and the luxury of eating other family’s awesome snacks — the kind Mom would never buy because she didn’t want it in the house.
The experience of having to do something so disgustingly selfless for another human also helped me slowly recognize the wonderful opportunity at my fingertips to relearn all the stuff I outgrew somewhere between infancy and adulthood. Like crying in public, drooling, and pulling freshly styled hair.
Throughout my years as a babysitter, I’ve learned that while kids 0 through 10 may be inexperienced, ridiculously demanding, and accident-prone (particularly when placed within 5 feet of a sharp blunt object) — they carry with them some deep lessons if you are willing to open your mind (and pinch your nose).
LESSONS LEARNED WHILST BABYSITTING
1. Patience is an expensive virtue — Children do things on their time, and often at the expense of your favorite shirt. This in turn forces you (as the paid caretaker) to wear awful clothing, and drop your agenda altogether. You wanted to get some homework done, text your boyfriend, or heat up expensive leftovers that baby’s Mom & Dad got last night from Mastro’s? Too bad. You’re now on infant-turf — a whole new playing field with rules you painstakingly learn as you go. The learning curve on baby-turf takes a lot of patience — patience with the child, with yourself, with child’s crazy parents, and with the family who referred you to them in the first place.
2. It’s not all about you — Children always remind me that I’m no big deal. They never laugh at my jokes, they hardly listen to the words coming out of my mouth to begin with, and they certainly don’t enjoy their Curious George read in Iambic pentameter. No, they want things their way. And that’s awesome. Children unabashedly proclaim their desires, and that’s why they get whatever they want. Until at some point some careless adult, or caretaker, tells them otherwise. Don’t be that jerk. Let kids rule, and grab the life-lesson that the planet does not revolve around Uranus.
3. Devil’s in the Details — Babies (especially in their first couple years) enjoy playing with everything. You think your Arrowhead water bottle is trash? Think again. Children constantly show me the hidden fun in every one of my possessions — which I’ve taken for granted, especially as the possession is broken, colored on, or covered in blue green vomit. Kids will stare at a solid blue bouncy ball for hours, putting it into their mouth to get to know it better. Kids play with blades of grass, and look at their reflection in the mirror like it’s the coolest thing ever. Kids are a reminder of the horrible effects of overly socialized media which makes everything we once appreciated as babies seem so blahh.
4. Public Flatulence is NO BIGGIE — Public farting has never been a big deal for me, but apparently some adults find it embarrassing. Well, kids prove the insanity of this sentiment — kids truly don’t care about any sound coming out of any of their orifices. They poop whenever they want and allow strangers to change it for them. They even reach down and grab at the mess, their privates, and all around, with absolutely no shame.
And to think that adults spend so much time trying to cover up all their supposed imperfections. Why? We all used to nap together, and eat each other’s booger-covered animal crackers. THAT, my friends, is the true definition of unity. It’s evidence that we are one.
5. Sharing is overrated — Ever see a kid share? It’s an urban myth! Infants get whatever they want, because they just cry and refuse to let go of the object of their affection. On the flip-side, adults idiotically employ the opposite fight-or-flight response — they either freeze or flee the scene, and then complain that they get nothing in life. I’m so glad I have children in my life to teach me to whine, kick, scream, grab, and pull until I get whatever I want.
6. Perseverance — There is nothing quite like witnessing a baby’s attempt at walking. It’s hysterical. Every single one of them looks like Leo DiCaprio from that scene in Wolf of Wall Street where he takes too many ludes. Babies just keep slithering and foaming at the mouth until they eventually crawl, then walk, then get into all your stuff.
7. Curiosity — Never killed a baby (Curiosity, that is. I’ve also never killed one either, obviously. But. Nevermind!) Kids are incredibly curious, inquiring about every object, however insignificant. What a wake-up call to just how little we actually know when stumped by most of these children’s inquiries. And an example of the beauty of asking questions — they create such an inviting space for others to come in and help answer.
8. You’re behind — It’s a whole new scary breed of internet savvy babies being born these days. They know everything. When my little brother was 3 he downloaded 3 pages of applications onto my iPhone, disclaimed they were the free ones, and that my battery was low. He hadn’t even learned to read yet. How?! True story.
Nate, currently 5-years-old & a ladies man
My theory is that every baby is now born with a Google microchip that enables them to master the use of technology at an alarming speed. I’ve realized that I’m already outdated, like the iPhone you bought last week.
Guys, the list goes on. But because people don’t read, I’ll curb it.
However, I urge you to ask the next child you see about the meaning of life, or what you need to work on within yourself, or about their dreams — treat them like Siri. You’ll be pleasantly surprised (most likely) at the esoteric messages you receive.