Tag Archives: babysitting

Makeup and Growing Up

They came down with their faces covered in makeup.

Pink blush smeared across their cheeks, gray eyeshadow swiped along their eyelids, and even through their pride, I could see that the gooey pink lipgloss was already annoying them.

They’d never admit it.

The thing about babysitting is that you learn a lot about parenting. You learn a lot about loving the right way — and the wrong way. You learn the art of blocking your ears to whining because if you didn’t, you’d probably flip your lid.

You also learn when and how to live out the theories you worked so painstakingly to create for the past however-many-years-you’ve-lived.

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[Now that’s some little-girl makeup I can get behind. Photo: Jean-Paul Gaillard]

I knew a boy in college whose earnestness was unsurpassed. He chose his words carefully, he chose his theories with the heart of someone who cared almost too deeply to survive this world. He had all these ideas.

But he didn’t know how to live with them, really.

His desire for equality was constantly bumping up against reality, against young women on campus who didn’t understand. Why doesn’t he hold the door for me? I’d hold it for him!

Once we talked about high heels. He told me I should never wear them, that they were used to make women vulnerable, that it was all about “The Man.” I laughed and said, “Well, I like the way I look in heels. I don’t care what men think!”

“But you should!” he said, sounding concerned. “That’s the problem: everything is defined by what men think.”

And while his theories were right and his heart was right, I did look pretty good in a pair of heels and I continue to throw on a pair when I so feel like it.

Theory vs. Reality.

~     ~     ~

And here these girls stood before me with faces shining (although perhaps less-so due to the powder they’d covered them with). My mind raced to all the implications:

UGH MAKEUP

I hate it. Even though I use it. I hate it.

She’s only seven.

What is WITH this culture that makes young girls so obsessed with how they look?

And this will lead to more makeup and tight clothes and endless dieting and weird walks and hilarious but awkward flirting and…and…and…

I took a deep breath.

I looked at their smiling rouged-up faces, and I said,

“Looks like someone’s been playing with Mom’s makeup.”

And they giggled and ran up the stairs.

Maybe someday I’ll talk to her about looks and culture and men and living fully.

Maybe someday I’ll teach her how to put on blush so she doesn’t look like a clown.

Maybe someday I’ll be able to show her that she is as beautiful when she is telling me a story as she is when she’s wearing that fluffy floral dress.

But today she is seven and she has a friend over. Today she is playing at adulthood and laughing.

Today is not the day.

Bedtime Stories

“Would you be able to babysit? Even though you have a grown-up job?”

I got a text Sunday from a friend in a bind, so of course I said yes. Monday night rolls around and I find myself kneeling by a Thomas the Tank Engine bed. His nose is red and runny, but his spirits are high and he talks with excitement in mumblings.

After I say, “Here, put this one away,” he looks me in the eye, calculates his risk, and says, “No.” Of course I make him, and I don’t even correct him when he puts the Dr. Seuss in backwards, which is a big deal for me. He picks out a second story and settles into his cozy blankets. I look at the book and immediately know what it is by its green:

giving

The Giving Tree

I want to hide it quickly under his bed where he won’t find it and make me read.

But I know it’s too late.

So I open the hardcover, its paper slipping off, and begin reading. It’s not so bad, I think, enjoying the simple pencil drawings, the smooth repetition of words. Maybe it’s not the way I remember.

He’s engrossed in the story and my face is turned from him as I start to cry.

“I’m sorry,” said the tree, “but I
have no money.
I have only leaves and apples.
Take my apples, Boy, and sell them in
the city. Then you will have money and
you will be happy.”
And so the boy climbed up the
tree and gathered her apples
and carried them away.
And the tree was happy.”

My voice wavered a little and I could feel him looking at me with his big gray eyes. I kept reading and the story kept going and the boy kept taking and the tree kept giving. He wanted a house, so she gave it to him.

“And so the boy cut off her branches
and carried them away
to build his house.
And the tree was happy.”

By now the tears were pretty thick and I knew I should have been embarrassed in front of this boy in footy pajamas. I glanced at him – did he notice? And he whispered in a little voice, “It’s sad,” and I said, “Yes, it is,” and I wiped my cheeks and kept reading.

I finished the green book, the little old man sitting on the stump of what’s left of the apple tree, and I closed it. He didn’t say anything, but he watched me quietly, and I wondered what it would do to him to see a woman cry over a children’s picture book.

Good Time Saturday Night

I am sitting in a darkened home. Three children are asleep upstairs and the refrigerator hums as I type.

[I felt my body being jostled and there she was, all seven-years of her, shaking me. I’d fallen asleep watching Master Chef Jr. at 8:30. That does not fly when you haven’t seen each other in months and there is still so much to talk about.]

What did we talk about?

She told me about school and how “first grade is so boring.” (“Boring” seems to be the new word.) I asked her why.

“All we do is sit at desks and do math.”

“That sounds pretty boring,” I said.

“I miss kindergarten.”

Don’t we all.

“I wish I were your teacher. Then we could have fun and learn at the same time.”

But I shouldn’t have said it because I saw her eyes dart for a moment with the thought of it.

We watched the oldest brother play flag football, losing terribly. They played tag because let’s face it, I wasn’t feeling it. We sang Lorde’s “Royals” and Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” and a thousand other songs. Catherine, everyone is looking at us ’cause you’re singing.

And?

They got over it pretty quickly and joined in. Don’t worry. We weren’t too obnoxious.

He threw his body and contorted himself in all different shapes until finally I said,

“You watch it. No hospital runs until after I eat my dinner.”

They thought that was the funniest thing. Oh, Catherine said she won’t take us to the hospital until after she eats. Better be careful! 

We laughed in the pizza place waiting for our order. The middle boy shook my soda till all the bubbles filled the bottle. We almost took the wrong food. I forgot to order the mozzarella sticks. We licked our fingers.

They told me about their new babysitter, who sounded nice.

But she, as though concerned for my feelings, leaned over and whispered in my ear,

“You’re funner.”

I read Angelina Ballerina, did not give in to the half-hearted request for more, smoothed hair, turned out lights.

The 10, 9, and 5-year-old are now 11, 10, and 7. They still guess that I’m in my thirties, wonder where my children are, and ask if I can have sleepovers.

Not bad for a Saturday night.

Hospitals, Cake, and Stories

After a long day of babysitting, I came home and ate a piece of cake.

It was delicious.

Two days spent trying to figure out the next step — hospitals are scary, but every single one of the doctors and nurses was kind. They took care of me. Robert kept asking me if I was okay, if I was comfortable. It was strange when he said, “Nice to meet you,” and I realized that I’d never see this man again, after two hours of him almost holding my hand.

Still no idea, so today I went back to work and ate cake.

[The little girl I watch makes up songs and stories like it’s her job. Example:

Pre-schooler: My boyfriend’s the greatest.

Me: Really? What makes him the greatest?

Pre-schooler: He gives me popcorn every day.

If only it were that simple. ]

Unexpected Helpers

Today has been on and off rainy (thunder cracked at lunchtime and sent me and the boys I was watching back into the house — picnic aborted!!).

But after that shower died down, we headed in the truck to my house. I promised I’d show them the chicks in my room (yes, still in my room…don’t ask).

I removed the cover and held the baby over the box. His eyes lit up. I picked up a fuzzy yellow chick and held it up to the baby. He reached out, and I said “gentle” and he was. He was so gentle I couldn’t believe it, his tiny fingers barely grazing the soft down of the chick’s head. He looked at me, questioning, and then did it again.

Sweetness.

J. (he’s nearing 5 and curious) looked and asked questions.

“Where is their food?”

“How do you feed them?”

“Where are the eggs?”

That last one was my favorite.

After trying to explain that no, the chickens don’t eat the eggs, they lay them, we went outside to the hen house so I could show him. There, four eggs in a box, ready to eat.

Then, with J. fascinated and distracted by feeding the hens grass, I took the baby to my garden, plunked him down on the path, and started clearing away deadness from last year.

He looked around, pulling at dead grass, watching me as I moved around him. I brushed some dirt off the large flat stones, and he copied me, his tiny hand flashing across the ground.

And then he put that hand with a handful of dirt into his baby mouth and smiled.

(P.S. I made THE MOST AMAZING GRANOLA two days ago. Thank you very much.)

And next week?

Yesterday I met a family about babysitting. They live in the next town over in a nice house on a hill — three kids, a dog, pretty much what you’d imagine. The mom was really nice: energetic, happy, easy to talk to. The youngest, a daughter, sat at the table with us the whole time, not saying a word. Her cropped blonde head just went back and forth between us, watching.

And as much as I tried to avoid it, the question, “So, what do you hope to do?” came up, and I was obliged to give some sort of answer. At first I was going to talk about publishing. Because it’s easy. Because it’s something people can wrap their minds around. But I can’t keep lying to everyone. Too much alone time. Too much paperwork. So I was honest.

“I’m not sure,” I said. “I love writing, but I don’t think I want that to be my main source of income. I’ve been thinking about getting certified to teach English as a foreign language.”

This was true. I’ve been doing research online about potential programs, different places to study, different job possibilities once I’m done.

“Oh, that sounds interesting!” she said.

Good. I came up with the right answer. But the thing is, that’s just what I’m thinking about this week. This week I emailed a friend in New York, one of my best friends, asking to let me stay with her while I studied my own language. To paraphrase Anne of Green Gables, I soared up on the wings of anticipation – fast-paced days in the big city, meeting people from all over the world, eating out at little hole-in-the-wall diners tourists never find, writing in a nook in the public library – and then thudded right back down when my friend said that wouldn’t work.

Who knows what my answer will be next week?!