Yesterday morning I did the insane. I woke up at eight o’clock on a Sunday morning. To babysit five children between the ages of one and ten years old. Of course, I only did this because they’re great kids who rarely give me much trouble and I’m happy to do a favour for their wonderful parents. And, despite my melodramatic, hook-to-draw-the-reader-in opening line(s), it actually went pretty well. I happened to be half-asleep, but it was okay, because it was 8:30 on a Sunday morning, so the kids were too.
When I got there, the TV was on and everyone was still hanging out in their pyjamas and it was well implied that I didn’t have to do anything crazy like make them get dressed or turn off the TV during the two hours that I would be there. So we mostly just sat around in the den, watching retro Goofy DVDs, reading adorable picture books and taking turns playing Angry Birds on my iPhone — I was obviously excluded from the latter activity. Perhaps I sound like an awful babysitter for just letting these kids sit around for two hours doing what you may consider to be nothing, but I was very pleased by how the morning turned out.
I normally make kids actually get up and do stuff when I babysit — we go to the park, we do arts and crafts, we make a pillow/blanket fort — something other than just sitting around. But I was so tired and it was just so peaceful (a word I don’t often have the privilege of using in reference to babysitting); there was no way I was going to ruin that. There were five small children — siblings, at that — all in one room; they got along with each other beautifully and we all managed to quietly occupy ourselves for upwards of two hours. No screaming, no fighting, no crying. I count it as a success.
It was actually an ideal babysitting gig. The kids behaved themselves and acted like calm, socialized human beings (which can’t always be taken for granted with a less-than-one-year-old, three-year-old, five-year-old, eight-year-old and ten-year-old present). We (I) read adorable picture books in very dramatic, performance-y voices. And the less-than-one-year-old, a tiny, angelic little girl — who I believe is around ten months old — fell asleep in my arms.
This wasn’t a new experience for me on any level, I’ve spent quite a lot of time over the past ten years holding cherubic little babies and rocking them to sleep, but for some reason — perhaps due to my own sleep deprivation — it was absolutely magical. I held an entire human being in my arms, a whole entire person who would grow up and be a teenager one day — just like me.
Heck, we’ll both grow up to be old ladies someday and the 17 year age difference will by then be hardly anything. She’ll grow up to have her own perspective and point of view, to have opinions and ideas and a whole slew of idiosyncrasies, strengths and weaknesses. Though she can’t talk yet, and seems like more of a doll than a real, live person, she has all that potential wrapped up in her tiny package of little fingers and teensy feet and almost-gone soft-spot. And, potential aside, even as I held her, she was already an actual person, already unique, already developing her person skills (like eating and sleeping and breathing — my own favourite skills). And I held all this in my arms.
I think what amazed me most was that I wasn’t even thinking about it that much. I wasn’t sitting in a quiet room, focussing on keeping her asleep. I wasn’t contemplating the tiny-ness of her finger nails, or the rhythms of her breathing. I couldn’t be — I had four other children to tend to. And yet, while I slowly, carefully walked through the house, getting and doing things for her older siblings, and then sat on the couch reading them a picture book, which I held over her little body on my lap, this tiny person was content to just lie sleeping in my arms, unconsciously trusting me to keep her safe.
For the past few months she’s refused to even go to me for a moment, screaming as soon as her mother or father placed her in my arms, and yesterday, while both of her parents were out, she just went to me. And she didn’t just let me hold her tentatively, she trusted me so implicitly that she complacently gave herself up and drifted off to sleep, so smoothly without any ceremony and with little more coaxing than my carrying her around the house with me.
It was a quiet babysitting job, thoroughly uneventful. No retrospectively funny, nearly disastrous stories, no melodramatic diaper-changing incidents, no major antics to laugh over with my friends. We just hung out, these five children and I. We snuggled on the couch, watched some TV, read some books, played some Angry Birds, did some sleeping. But sometimes it’s the very little nothings that are really something. The things that happen regularly that are so singular. It was just a cozy, sleepy Sunday morning.