Last night we babysat for our friend Senor Sinister and his Lovely Wife– we were over there about a month ago for Senor Sinister’s birthday brunch, and as always, we enjoyed hanging out with them and their children, the Banana and the Baby. We’ve known the Banana since birth, the Baby, too, and you’ve never met more happy, well-behaved children. It’s been great to see the Banana move from baby to toddler– we were there the first time she stood up for herself, for three or four whole seconds before she plopped back down on her rump. She’s inquisitive, articulate, intelligent, sweet, and fun. She’s also very, very, active. SS and LW enrich and interact with her in a way that stimulates her talking, and she’s very well behaved, though of course she gets tired and cranky like everyone else. Baby has the same grin Banana did at the age Baby is now, and head held steadily, Baby is way into rocking and sitting and looking around, as well as putting her hands onto everything. Plus? Baby is warm like the best kind of heating pad and has Baby smell. What more do you need?
We babysat a few times for our friends T and B when we lived out in W. Mass. Their son, D., was as inquisitive and verbal as the Banana, and his baby sister as adorable as the Baby, though in different ways. It’s a joy to see the BH interact with the kids, too, because he’s more instinctively fun than I am, and can interact with them at a goofy level that never fails to make them enjoy themselves. D. adored the BH, and the Banana and he were getting along like gangbusters before she went to bed– I’m a bit more of a stiff with the toddlers, just because I’m less playful? carefree?/ more self-conscious? moody? serious?. He doesn’t have much experience with babies, though, so I bring all my babysitting years as a teen into play, not that it’s needed most of the time. D.’s little sister and the Baby are well behaved, sleepy, happy babies who didn’t need changing once they were put to bed– they just needed just someone to listen to the monitors while mom and dad went out and did what the BH and I do every day. Just be the two of them.
We don’t have children. I thought at one point before I was married that I might want them, but by the time the BH and I were dating, I was less and less certain. Since he’s ten years older than me, I also didn’t really really have more than ten years to decide. There were a number of reasons I was doubtful– my mood swings, my ACOA issues, my fitful levels of energy, and not wanting to inflict any of that on a child. But I also just really enjoyed it being the two of us, even as much as we’ve had a great time with the children of our friends. With the PCOS diagnosis thereafter, which would have made it hard to get pregnant without artificial assistance, I became even more doubtful about giving birth, and I still hadn’t resolved whether I thought I could be a stable parent to an adopted one. The bipolar diagnosis came not long after I’d already decided it should stay just the two of us– I would never want to pass on the genes for this. Medication and therapy make it manageable, but I spent so much of my life feeling miserable and at the whim of non-understood forces– I could never inflict the risk of that on someone else, much less my own child.
But we still enjoy kids– and it’s been a joy seeing all our various good friends have and enjoy lovely, active, smart children. If every kid could be blessed with parents as kind, and firm, and engaging as the ones we’ve had the privilege to know, the world would be a much better place. Which is why we offer to babysit.
I get tired just taking care of me. So I offered us up as babysitters– SS and LW were looking markedly tired when we were over for brunch, and no wonder, since they put all their heart into their time with their kids. It’s wonderful to see, and their kids will be wonderful as a result, but it’s exhausting, and like any caretaking exercise, the best caretakers also take some time off for themselves. Not because they don’t love their kids, but because not only does everyone deserve a break, but because the time off together means that they get to spend time being just the two of them– something that forms in no small part how they now are as parents.
That adult relationship is important, and deserves some time to itself– the support and love and respect they have for each other forms the foundation for their relationship with their kids and the commitment the work requires. It’s so easy to get worn out and forget in the middle of it, and so easy to fall off of adult conversation and interactions that don’t involve plush toys and organic baby food and play dates– all things that will make for wonderful future adults. If you think of the children as highly rewarding but challenging job during the week, well… everyone deserves a weekend, not to mention an afternoon off. It makes you fresher and better able to tackle the work when it’s over.
Even though it was only a few hours, SS and LW came back looking animated and better for their dinner and time together– and so much less tired than they’d looked at their brunch. They were so grateful that we’d volunteered, but really, it was no trouble. “It’s nice to go hang out at someone else’s house for a change,” as the BH said. It’s even nicer to see our friends feeling more relaxed and “them” with each other– as the BH and I have the fortune to be most of the time. The Banana and the Baby are lucky to have them– which is why we offered. Everyone deserves wonderful parents, and wonderful parents deserve weekends, too.
It’s snowing out this morning, the slow flecked fall of fat flakes falling straight downward in the still air– the kind of snow that says it’s cold out and likely to keep on for a bit at this pace. It most likely won’t stick, it rarely does until much closer to Christmas, but it’s a nice change.