For as long as I can remember, I have always loved kids. It doesn’t matter the age, I just like being around them. I love helping them become who they will be some day, seeing them grow, and finding out who they are as people. So many adults write kids off as annoying just because they are little, but actually taking the time to know a child is one of the hardest jobs out there.
As someone who was the designated babysitter in her neighborhood, and was a very in-demand babysitter during the summer, I had my fair share of jobs. Each job was as different as night and day. Some of the kids I had the privilege of hanging out with were as easy to talk to as some of my friends. Others, you really had to keep trying to see what they were all about. And then, there were the ones that made you want to pull your hair out. I had a variety of all three, and somehow I wasn’t scared off by any of them, even though a few probably thought they had succeeded in doing so.
When I made the decision to move to the Big Apple, nanny-ing was one way to make ends meet, so I kept with it. The first family I had was a pair of eleven-year-old twins who I became extremely attached to (even though I would never tell them that). They had only been in the city for the past three years, so they were not the full-fledged city kids that I was expecting. The three of us got along pretty well most of the time, except for the occasional preteen flare up. And as anyone who has had a preteen in their house will tell you, these are not exactly fun to deal with.
The screaming and crying were bad enough, but the attitude was something I was not prepared for. When they gave me sass, it took all that I had not to scream right back at them. But after this happened a few times, I began to realize exactly why they were happening. Since the two of them had come from a suburban neighborhood in Ohio, New York was not exactly their cup of tea. They were used to having space to run in their backyards and friends to play with in the neighborhood, so a park a few blocks away from their apartment just didn’t cut it. It fixed things for a day, but I could tell just by looking at both of them that they wanted out of New York.
When they found out they were moving at the end of the school year, I was so sad to see them go, but I knew they were ecstatic to get back to their normal lives. The short span of time I was with them may not have seemed like much in their eyes, but to me, it was a lifetime of lessons. They taught me how to give someone space when they needed it, how to kindly get them to do things without pushing their buttons, and how to really talk to them. That is the thing so many adults are missing; they do not know how to talk to their own kids because they are not around them enough. I see this all the time, especially with the two girls I babysit now.
Compared to last year, the kids I babysit now are in a completely different league. They were born in the city and had known nothing else. I’m almost positive that they know the city better than I do, and they’re not even teenagers yet! And though they aren’t teenagers yet, I can tell that they already have teenage-sized problems.
Their parents both work, so they have never known what it is like to come home from school and have their parents there on a daily basis. They have always had nannies, so all they want most of the time is their parents to spend time with them. My heart breaks for them every time they call their mom or dad and ask them to come home early, only to be told no because they can’t get out of the office. What also breaks me is that they do not know what they are missing out on, either.
I was one of those lucky kids where every night consisted of sitting around the dinner table with my family. We talked about our day, what was going on at school or work. It was the only time of day we all saw each other for longer than ten minutes, so it was special. My girls, though, they eat by themselves almost every night and in front of the TV. I have never seen them eat with their parents because their mom comes home after the little one has eaten, and their Dad usually does not get home until around 8 pm as they are getting ready for bed.
The lack of connection between them all is quite clear, at least to me, when I ask the girls about their days at school, and they have nothing to say when they get off the bus. There is also the clambering that happens when their mom walks in the door, and all she wants to do is relax, but all the girls want to do is talk to her. They want their parent’s attention so desperately but the time they get with them is never enough.
This has resulted in the girls being depressed in some ways. Like this week, their dad was going to surprise them by picking them up from dance class. When he couldn’t get out of the office, it was like the world was ending. I was the one who had to look at their crestfallen faces on the way home, and all I wanted to do was hug them and tell them it was okay, but I knew that I was not the one they wanted.
And because their parents have never been able to stay home with them, the girls have not had consistent discipline. With the number of nannies they have had, I can tell that no one has ever really taken the time to raise them, so this has essentially left me with the job of parenting them myself, which I know they do not like. Getting them to say “please” and “thank you” was like pulling teeth at first, putting things away like their mom asked did not happen, and forget about putting down the electronics. I remember texting my mom something along the lines of, “Okay, I get it now,” the first few times this happened, because it made me think back to all those times I did the same thing to my her.
But by being on the other side of things has given me an entirely new perspective. I may not have my own kids yet, but I now fully understand how much of a job it truly is. As a kid, this does not even cross your mind; your parents are your parents, and that’s it. What you do not see is the time, effort, and frustration it takes to raise a child and raise them well.
The girls may not know what they are missing, but I am trying my best to give them a taste of that. The one night a week we can all eat together, the TV stays off, and I force them to talk to me—it is amazing what happens when they get a bit of attention. I am also trying my best not exactly to raise them, but to discipline them in the same way that I was, and I have to say, we are making headway since the magic words are not so hard for them to say anymore, and things are slowly getting off the floor.
They may test my patience sometimes, but those girls are two of my favorite people to build homework forts with, read books to, and help with homework. I know they do not realize that I won’t always be there, and I am already dreading leaving them when that happens. But for now, I hope I can give them the best I can give because, in the end, that is all they need.