Thursday, October 30, 2008

Not my usual topic - Being Around Kids

Craig's dad, his wife and their 4 year old daughter are spending 6 months in Tyler, which is the closest they have lived to us since Craig's dad moved to Florida in 1998. We warned them, so as not to have (to avoid, anyway) hurt feelings, that even if Carrie chose a travel nursing contract within the state of Texas, we might not see them much more than if they lived in any other state. Craig's dad tries to respect our schedule but of course we have seen them more this fall than in past years. Frances is a great kid but like all kids she sometimes engenders in me my usual reactions to young humans - anxiety and exhaustion.

Having Frances spend the day at our house catapults me back to the 1970s when I did babysitting for a couple of years. I guess by some standards I was a good babysitter, since I had repeat business, but I hated it. I think that every other babysitter on the planet takes it easier than I did, assuming there is any truth to how babysitting is portrayed in the movies and on TV commercials - a relaxed teenager sitting on the couch with snacks and the TV remote while the kids do appropriate activities in the background. I was convinced that my job was to follow the kids around and interact with them, which I'm sure they enjoyed, but which made me feel like that old deodorant commercial where the star athlete tries to log as many miles as a stay-at-home mom does and collapses, exhausted, mid-afternoon. Even when I occasionally tried to take it easier or at least sit still for 5 minutes, the kids sensed that with minimal effort they could keep my focus on them. "I wanna show you something!", ad nauseum.

I used to have an if-I-ever-get-laid-off fantasy that I could teach public school if necessary, but a part of me, for very selfish reasons, was greatly relieved when the Dallas school district recently laid off hundreds of qualified teachers. Oh well, guess they won't be needing my services!

Frances is a well-behaved little lady now, but when she was younger we had some near misses at our house - Craig's and my idea of childproofing was moving the box of dog toys into the garage when toddlers came to visit. I had learned in a disgusting way that dog level is also toddler level when I caught a cousin’s son sucking happily on a rubber thing that had been an oral fixation of both dogs for many saliva-producing years.

Despite my history and non-history with kids, there has always been a small but significant level of comfort with Frances. She's not my child or even my immediate family, but I have some understanding of who she is...and maybe more importantly!, I have some authority over her. (I don't think I ever felt much authority as a babysitter.) It's nice when Craig and I spend time with her together. He provides the family connection – the reason she’s there and the reason we care and make an effort – and he also provides a counterbalance of childcare philosophies. It's not that we have opposing ideas, but every two people have different thoughts about childcare, and Lord knows it takes a team to manage a child.

[Craig was scowling because he thought enough photos had already been taken that weekend.]

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