The last 5 days I’ve had the privilege of watching 4 kids because their parents had to go out of state for a family emergency. This is a family I’m already close to, so I was excited for the opportunity. I would just be spending quality time with some kiddos that I absolutely love. I’m no newbie when it comes to babysitting, but I’ve still learned quite a few things.
1. Moms are awesome. This is one that I already knew, but it now has more weight behind it. I was a working single mom of 4 kids ages 12, 10, 7 and 3. The oldest three went to school, but the little guy stayed with me. I’m super lucky to have a job where I can bring him to work with me, but working with a 3 year old is a whole new ball game. Scheduling my time was crazy. I had to manage dropping kids at school, getting to work, squeezing in naptime, feeding everyone, helping with homework, driving kids to after school activities and also finding time to sleep.
My first night after all the kids were in bed, I laid on the bed at 9pm and turned on the TV. Quickly I turned it off when I realized the quiet was so much better. I was asleep by 9:15pm. I had so much fun! But every night I was so exhausted. Moms do this all day, every day without any break. You all deserve an award.
2. Naps are of the utmost importance. I now understand the nap struggle that all moms talk about. I made this mistake the first day. The girls got out of school early and I got little man down for a nap too late, after getting home from work and fixing lunch. This meant I had to wake him up to pick up the girls and his nap was cut short. We had a crabby little guy for the rest of the night. That was also the night we had softball practice from 5:30-8:15pm.
Highlight of the night was a 3 year old meltdown that started by him insisting that I wait in the hallway and not watch while he went pee. That was until I heard a glass fall in the sink and break while little guy was playing with his sister’s perfume. After the glass incident I insisted he go potty while I was cleaning up glass shards. At least they were in the sink and not on the floor.
As he was standing on his stool he tripped and fell in the toilet. His little arm went all the way down into the drain. Immediately he started crying and I started laughing hysterically. I apologized for laughing, but I couldn’t stop. It was bath time so I put a 3 year old in the bathtub with tears still rolling down his face.
He calmed down a bit as water started to fill the tub. Then as he scooted across the bottom we both noticed a poop trail. His cries started again and my laughter conveniently came back. So again I had a hysterical little one while I cleaned the tub and his bottom, also still laughing. I felt bad as I looked into his face, because I knew his little body was beyond exhausted. He was already off his schedule to keep up with my life, and he didn’t get to sleep enough.
Now that the tub was poop free we started bath time over again and eventually the tears stopped. Until I let the water out of the bathtub and again we were back to hysterics. To make it even better, we had another battle just to get him to stay in bed.
After the night of hilarity on my part, I also learned my lesson. You do not mess with nap time. For everyone’s sake.
3. Life is full of little moments. These little moments are something to be treasured and experienced. Carrying in a sleeping preschooler from the car. Those soft sweet voices whispering, “I love you,” before bed. Wading through a creek with no shoes and feeling the cold stones under my feet. Laughing around the kitchen table as we eat peanut butter and jelly crackers before bed and talk about everything from moist armpits to frog pee. Glancing in the back seat of my car and seeing the little man smile back. Being a “creepy goat dragon” while putting the kids to bed and us all laughing so hard, we can’t catch our breath. Feeling so much joy at times that I feel like my body can’t even contain it.
4. With each moment you can choose to see it as a gift or as a frustration. One night I forgot to roll up my car windows. We got in the car in the morning and found a bazillion dead bugs all over the seats. I decided that we got to experience the special gift of “bug confetti”. The kids laughed and I picked dead gnats off my clothes when I got to work. No biggie.
5. You can buy glow sticks at the dollar store. For under $10 I bought A TON of glow sticks to satisfy four kids. We then had an after dark dance party on the trampoline. That night I put kids to bed with rooms lit with multiple colors from their glow stick fun. Money well spent.
6. Being in a church is about being a part of a family. I had 4 women make me dinner for each night. This made my life immensely easier. It was such a relief to not have to cook each night after such a busy day. These moms took time out of their day and money out of their pocket to help us out. And that is huge.
I also realized that it was a big deal that this family trusted me enough to watch their kids. I heard the strain in the dad’s voice as he told me about the stress of his mother’s surgery. They were states away and he told me that he knew his kids were in good hands. It’s amazing to think that I was doing something I truly enjoy, but this meant exponentially more to the parents who needed to leave last minute.
A few years ago I didn’t have a place to live and this same family allowed me to live with them for about two months. They welcomed me into their family. This is the kind of family I’m talking about. Not the surface-y “how are you?” offered on a Sunday, but then it ends there. I’m talking about the real living life together.
The kind that loves without boundaries. The love that is willing to rearrange your life to help the people you love. The giving and receiving that changes lives. This is what the church is supposed to be. Getting even a glimpse of how this works is really shaking up my whole life. It’s wonderful.
7. Bedtime and morning time is way better if you use weird accents, dance around, and sing crazy made-up songs. A house full of kids or not, I think this is going to come a part of my normal routine. How can you not have a wonderful day if you narrate your morning with a crazy voice?!
8. I have learned to appreciate my life where it is at. Being able to play mom for a week has been wonderful and challenging and I’ve loved every minute of it. I love children. I love waiting in the parent line at school. I love sitting around the dinner table. I love all of it. And I long for the day that I might have a family of my own. But it’s so easy to be patient right now. I am 25 years old and single. And there are great gifts during singleness. I can lie in bed and read until noon some days. I can spend extended period of times by myself. I can choose to go wherever I want, whenever I want.
I can also have the space to continue to get the healing I need. I can focus more on digging in to allow God to heal me and change me. And it’s not that I’ll ever be all the way there. There will always be things to work on. But I can utilize the time that I have now. Since becoming a Christian I prayed that God would work through a lot of the junk from my childhood before I would ever start dating. That was so important to me. I didn’t want any chance my family as an adult would turn out like my family as a child. I would choose no family at all over the mess that I grew up in.
And I know that this time on my own is precious. And it probably won’t last forever. It’s limited. So why not enjoy where I am now? There are things to savor. Little moments to soak up.
Spending time with kids helps me to be patient. I can still enjoy the things that I hope for in my future. I don’t need to be a mom to love the little ones. I have so many children around me. I can impact lives now. I can snuggle babies now. I can read books and help with homework and play outside. And I can hope and dream for when it’s my time to have kids of my own.
There are so many other things that I have learned. So many other stories and moments I could talk about. But that’s enough writing for now. I have some kids that are just out of school and want to jump on the trampoline. It’s so much better to live in the moment.