A year ago I began babysitting for a family with two children. I spent a few months with their youngest, until she started school like her big brother. This weekend, Nanny Lauree got the call to return so the parents could have a date night.
Just like before, so many great lessons were learned in such a short time. See if you recognize yourself in these.
1. My friend, huh? I'm not buying it.
When the TV was turned off and bedtime announced, the kids made their way to their rituals: PJs, brushing teeth, picking out a favorite book.
The youngest turned back to me and pointed to the dark living room from where we had just come.
Elmo won't say, but I think he's scared of the dark. We should get him.
Elmo is scared of the dark. Riiight.
We go back together and carry the stuffed animal to her room, where she leaves him in the dark by the way once she forgets he's there.
How many times have you used my friend to hide what's really happening?
I admit I've done it when I'm afraid of what people will think of me if they know the truth.
We may be better than a four year-old at hiding it, but chances are not much.
2. Labels start early.
Little kids love sharing...everything. I've been offered a tour of mommy and daddy's medicine cabinet, and told what the other child got in trouble for right before I arrived.
They also hold onto what we say. Really hold onto it.
I have accidents at school.
I have tummy problems.
[Parent/teacher] told me I can't ___ very well.
I don't think we can help sometimes what children take on about themselves. I do think it's interesting, though, just what they take on.
And despite their young ages, I can already see how it affects them. How cautious they become, as if they're thinking: Last time I did that, this bad thing happened. I'm not sure I want to try again.
Sound familiar? Adults do it too.
In fact, we bring some of the same lessons we learned as children into adulthood. The labels that we believed then can cloud our judgment now.
What have you taken on about yourself? It might have been true for a specific circumstance, but not every one after that.
3. Please don't be sorry.
Within five minutes of arriving, I inevitably hear an apology.
For a potted plant dying on the doorstep, folded laundry not put away, or the kids being kids and not presentable at the exact moment you'd hope they would be.
From where I'm standing, the house is beautiful, the kids are cute and the parents, well, they are just like me.
I've hosted more than one dinner—okay, every dinner I've hosted—where guests can't remove their coats before I am compelled to point out something that is less than perfect before they notice.
My guests never see, or don't care, what I see. The same is true here.
Parents, your children will grow up to be functioning, quirky adults just like the rest of us, and much like they already are now.
You're doing the best you can. Really well, if you ask me.
How about giving yourself a break, okay?
I adore this family, and I love being Nanny Lauree. The little kid hugs that melt your heart. The funny moments.
How one child can be eating, and the other sitting on the toilet, perhaps within feet of each other, and no one seems to mind. Including, strangely, you.
I'll end with my favorite line of the night involving our friend, Elmo, again.
While the kids were playing after dinner, I heard from a room away the youngest announce in her sternest voice:
Elmo, settle down you're making too much noise
Not a peep in reply. I guess she told him.