I rarely babysat kids that weren’t my own siblings when I was a teenager – not because I didn’t like them, just because I didn’t. I kept myself busy with my own schedule, which was consistently overflowing with homework, softball, tennis, ballet, swim team, the school musical, the family guinea pig and obviously Boy Meets World. Memories of babysitting usually have me featured on the other end, enduring older teenagers trying to be “fun”. I have vivid memories of one particular gem jumping on my bed and staring at her with eyes that would’ve said “WTF”, if that was a thing in the ’90s. As the oldest child, I liked to consider myself an adult, sit at the big kids table and think of myself as pretty cool. At that point in my life, my parents’ requests for me to get a paying job were slim to none (RIP good times), so when babysitting came up, it was usually done as a favor more so than for bringing home the bacon.
CUT TO: Being 24, living in Los Angeles, paying rent, driving a car and suffering from a severe case of One-Click on Amazon.com. When I was offered a one month babysitting job for a recently nanny-less family “in the biz” staying in LA with their two kids, 3 and 6 years old, I couldn’t turn it down. As an “adult”, I don’t prefer to surround myself with youths, but I threw my distaste for the underaged out the door and put on my money pants. “Child care? Why of course, good sir!” For $200 a day, I would do anything with children, even smile at them. Arts and crafts, you ask? My mother is an art teacher. I figured the gig would be a big piece of cake. Or as I would soon come to learn from the children’s upper-class preferences, gluten-free red velvet cupcakes with imported vanilla truffle icing.
Despite what I’ve told everyone ever, I don’t hate children. Like most people, I once was a little kid myself. To be perfectly honest, I’m not one of those females whose ovaries tingle when I see a baby. I don’t have a giant clock on my wall counting down the days until I have the ultimate lady pleasure of wiping poop out of my spawn or Play-Doh out of the carpet. Some would say this makes me an evolutionary monster. But I don’t really care what Rush Limbaugh thinks. I understand that people love different things and that of all the things in the world to love, a child is a great and deserving thing to choose. I just happen to want an Emmy more than an Emily, so sue me.
I looked at the job as an opportunity to play, spend time with people who don’t have Facebook accounts, play Kristy in a real life Babysitters Club and be a nanny that wouldn’t jump on their beds. But what I got was a lot more than what I bargained for – two Gap Kids models and a Momster. It only took a few days to realize that the mother of these children, who was mostly present during my time with her children, had a different rearing plan than I did and that I wasn’t exceeding her expectations. Mind you, these children come from an extremely privileged background and while they had VIP press passes to London Fashion Week, they never had to hear the word “no”. This phrase is very familiar to me, but during my childhood was delivered in the form of “yeah, right” – especially when it came to the Barbie Power Wheels Jeep that I still don’t own. Admitting I was jealous of these children, or that I still want that Jeep, is a bit of an overstatement… but not by much. They have lived in multiple countries, have entertainment-professional parents, all the Wii games they want and 4,000 pairs of TOMS shoes. I never had a maid or a cook or a chauffeur. Oh wait, yes I did – my parents. And I love my parents. And my childhood.
Meanwhile, I began taking on the roll of temp-Mom by driving to play dates, sitting in sheet castles, rallying rounds of Red Light, Green Light in the park and pretending I loved being splashed in the face in the salt-water pool. I had conversations with the 6-year-old about our favorite countries (her answer was Portugal), our favorite foods (her answer was avocados and/or caviar) and how many American Girl Dolls we have (her answer was ‘one day, all of them’). She told me about how she thinks that all people on Earth were created by a bigger power put here to invent a way to love each other forever. She told me that she really didn’t want to go to gymnastics because she was scared, but that one time she did it and it was fun. She told me about seeing the movie Hugo with Martin Scorcese. You know, kid stuff.
The 3-year-old taught me how to use her iPad, filmed videos of her with my iPhone and demanded I stop calling her a ‘burrito’ when I wrapped her up in a towel because “[she's] not a burrito, [she's] a girl”. Both made good points. Both held my hand in public. Both asked me if I was coming back tomorrow. But every tomorrow, something would happen to irk the Misses. This Momster eventually made me want to–hyperbole alert!–put the “die” in Nanny Diaries. I was told I didn’t even know to cook pasta, that I was ignorant when it came to a diaper bag, that I was ‘so East Coast’ and that, and I quote, “[My] mother must have really let me fend for myself because that’s what I was doing with the girls” as I asked them to pick up the food they dropped on the floor during lunch. I take the East Coast comment as a compliment because that’s where I’m from (NJ, what up!) and I love those people. As for the rest, I left each 12 hour day defeated, left to contemplate how I was letting down the sweet children I had uncharacteristically come to love by over-applying cocoa butter to their soft faces. For them, I would return each morning with a smile wearing pants allowing me to comfortably sit on the floor and color.
The job ended a few days earlier than planned as a replacement live-in Nanny was hired to return to London with the family. I left their rental McMansion for the last time, high-fiving myself for becoming friends with kids and happily hanging up my babysitting hat. It’s possible I wasn’t the best babysitter the world had ever known. I hope, if anything, I was at least entertaining. I always related to Kristy more than any of those other BSC members and to be honest, that girl seemed to be just fine spending her time wearing rally caps around the club headquarters instead of dealing with Suzi pretend shaving. And so am I. In this life, I plan on wearing many hats…and some of them just may happen to be a little backwards.