Saturday, May 09, 2009

No Regrets!

One of my first babysitting gigs was for the toddler next door. I only sat for him when my mom was home and steps away but we had a good time. I was even called in to stay with him until a responsible adult arrived when his parents rushed to the hospital to have his baby brother. That night he popped out of bed a couple of times. I was only about 12, maybe 13, and being a Capricorn had an abnormal need to stick to any explicit instructions. When babysitting there were bed times and bed times were to be stuck to so I made the poor kid go back to bed, no comfort to be had. Later my mother explained gently that sometimes there are extenuating circumstances and, in this particular case, I might have given compassion a shot and reassured the kid. It's only in my adult years that I realized I probably gave the kid his first "I need therapy" moment.

In that weird gray period after JAM and I broke up I still went on our annual trip to his family's beach house with our friends and his family. It's one of those things that, in retrospect, was stupid but at the time needed to happen. I wound up sleeping on the couch on the ground floor so I could wake up to the ocean. The other ground floor residents were JAM's parents, who were giving the present of a full night's sleep to their daughter by keeping their granddaughter's crib in their room. On the first or second night of the trip, sometime between 2 and 5am there came a small wail and the padding of bare, panicked feet. A light sleeper I sat up like I'd been tazered and saw my toddling friend beelining straight for the back of the couch, yelling for mom. Since Grandma hadn't caught up to her yet I called out and, miraculously, she came around the sofa and into my arms. I waved Grandma off and snuggled down with the babe. Still freaked, she tried to sit up but I had a rare spark of genius and said, "Just put your head down. You don't have to sleep, just put your head down and you can stay here." Head down, sleep achieved, almost simultaneously. If you haven't experienced the feeling of a completely sacked out small child on your chest, head nestled underneath your chin then you're missing out. I could easily have followed the little girl to dreamland but I was worried that her grandmother was waiting for her return. So I willed myself awake, waiting to be certain she was really out before I made the awkward trip into the bedroom of my former almost-in-laws in my pajamas. Grandma was not waiting, grandma was happily cashed and I could have kept the kid with me as long as I liked.

So there are two regrets generally in the forefront of my mind. It seems I can be taught, though. When I spent my first evening with MusicBoy I was given all the instructions for care and feeding and sleeping and at first I followed them. Then I remembered regretting not just letting that little girl sleep and I gently disobeyed the orders. Still hard for me, well into my 30s, but totally worth it to legitimately nap my babysitting away with the boy nestled in the crook of my arm.

Tonight I compromised. Little Seal had failed to nap today. He was peppy and bright, as ever. It's in his contract as Happiest Child On Earth. He got only slightly confused when his parents left, waving goodbye to me for a while before I picked him up and we waved his parents out the door together. Finger sucking was in earnest by that point and the eyes were glazing and bed time was hours away. I suggested books and, boy of my heart, he agreed heartily. So heartily in fact that he crashed out in my lap, sprawled over the arm of the comfy chair, shoving the last book away. Now, I've read the blogs, I've absorbed post after post on kids who won't sleep through the night and how life isn't worth living when the schedule gets thrown off so at first I felt a little guilty. Then I reminded myself of how guilty I still feel over a little boy I wronged when I was twelve and I got over it. Little disco nap can't hurt, right, especially when I could have a little disco nap, too. I took 15 minutes, put him in the crib for another 15 minutes while I organized our things for a trek into the outside world. I also spent that second 15 minutes wondering how pissed off the kid was going to be when I woke him up. Gently I roused him and told him we were going out. Gently he kicked me in the arm and rolled over. Quietly I called his name and slowly he rose and asked to be picked up. From there he pointed to the door of his room. I took him out the door. He looked around and pointed to the next door. I went into the kitchen and began to worry about what was going to happen when he realized his parents weren't anywhere in the house. Then he pointed again, this time to the front door. "You want to go outside?" I asked. He nodded.

Happiest kid on freaking earth.

Here I sit, blogging away, bed time some time past, debating with myself whether to go in and see if there's anything I can do to tamp down the chatter in the chatterbox. We've still got an hour before his parents return and I'm really hoping he'll be asleep by then.

But I'm not counting on it.


  1. Anytime that we left our happy boy for a rare evening out, we always returned home to a bright-eyed wide awake kid. But, you know what? It was okay, because the time off was all the recharging we needed.

  2. Miflohny4:29 PM

    No need to worry about Little Seal's schedule. I frequently let him sleep longer than I should, because he just looks so peaceful asleep. As long as he's in one piece upon our return, we're happy - and thankful - that we had some time out. We never expect him to be asleep - we're hopeful, but we don't expect it. And I'm sure he had fun with you! Thanks a ton! Hope you had a quick trip home and a fun brunch!!!

  3. I did have a remarkably quick trip home and brunch was lovely. We had so much fun it was almost 3 before we even looked up from the table. Wish you could have joined us.

    I had fun with the boy, and I think he was having fun, too. It's hard to tell, he seems to have fun no matter what!

  4. Miflohny9:10 PM

    Unless someone told you explicitly to do something other than put the kid straight to bed, it's doubtful you would have done otherwise at 12 or 13 - I'm pretty sure that's an age of strong concrete thinking / little abstract thought. For example, at around that age I went to a doctor who was a GP instead of a pediatrician. I think I had an ear infection and a high fever or something like that. I was given a medicine for the ear infection and told to take one tylenol every half hour, or something like that. The doctor never said until the fever goes away, or until whatever condition changes what was the cause of me taking the tylenol. So I was dutifully following doctor's orders and taking the tylenol every half hour and before long I could barely hear! These days, being older and capable of more abstract thought, I would have figured out that I had to stop the drug at some point, figured out why I was taking the drug, and asked more questions until I understood the reason for what I was doing, instead of just following instructions blindly. But, like you, I still would have followed the instructions explicitly - I just would have understood why, etc., so that I wouldn't have overdosed on Tylenol and gone mostly deaf for the better part of a day! So cut yourself some slack for many reasons - your response was to the situation was mostly driven by your age at the time and not by your Capricorn-ness! (And pat yourself on the back for being to help out a family in need!)