First, I'm going to say again and again how grateful I am that there are people in the world who want to spend the day with my children while I'm at work. So, thank you to Elsie's first caregiver, Miss J; to Oscar's first (Elsie's second), JC, and now to K and JS (my sick-day back-up) for being so good to my children.
So, during my weird weekend a week ago, we had a spend-the-night guest at the last minute. He was 4. He came over, watched an episode of VeggieTales, went to sleep, woke me up at 6 ready to greet the day, and was picked up at 8:30. Really, it was only 3 hours with him awake, but I started watching the clock at about 7:30. When would he go?
Well, before she left him that night, his mother (an acquaintance, really) told me that she was in a bind this weekend and needed a babysitter for Friday night. I said he could come sleep over again because I truly, honestly, wanted to be able to help her in this time of need, and this was before he stayed over, so I didn't know any better. Come, he did, and he stayed for about 6 waking hours longer.
What this weekend and last have made abundantly clear to me is something I'm going to be completely honest with you about: I still don't like little kids. At least, I don't like other people's toddlers. No offense to any of my friends out there. I hope you'll understand that I'm a middle school teacher for a reason. And it most likely has nothing to do with your child specifically, but instead is a conflict with my tolerance and their ages. In fact, the children of my friends are generally children I would want my children to play with--they are well-behaved and mind their parents. Just don't ask me to babysit unless you are in an absolute bind (until about 5th grade or so).
I love my kids, obviously. But, I'm still not comfortable with them at the ages they're at. It's a learning curve. I'm even less comfortable with other people's kids, especially if they're at an age I haven't encountered with my own children. I mean, I have no problem telling them what to do or correcting them (Did I mention that I'm a teacher? I've reprimanded children at the Chick-Fil-A play place for bullying children that aren't even my own), but how to deal long-term with the high pitch shrieking every time E doesn't want to play "Police Mans" the way he wants to, the poor cats running for their lives because he just wants "to pet them" or wants to make them sleep in his bed, the yelling at my children to "shut up" when they are talking in their room in the morning, the jumping from coffee and end tables to couches, teaching my children behaviors that I loathe??
Easy. Find a different solution next time, because I won't be available.
To be clear, this boy that was here was not a bad child. He went to bed pretty easily after I convinced him that the cats would come sleep with him when he fell asleep. He's potty-trained, and generally respectful in his verbal dealings with adults (though not with "peers"). I just had to keep correcting him over and over again (stay off the stairs, leave the cats alone, share please, don't push him--he's little and doesn't know any better...again and again and again), and I had to pray to the Lord (literally) that he would not remember it as me being negative, even though sometimes I was. But, I think he gets away with a lot more at home, because he has babysitters every night of the week while his under-30 single-mother works full time, goes to grad school, and plays on a university club sports team, and still finds time to party with her friends. It's the truth that parents are doing the best they can, wherever they are, whoever they are, and in whatever circumstances they are. In my day job, I get paid to meet those kids right where they are and make the best of it, and I do it willingly, even when I'm exhausted when it's time to interact with my own children. And while I did enter into this weekend and last willingly, I've learned that I'm not cut out of that cloth seven days a weeks and need very much to have my own time with my family as I learn about their ages and stages (husband, too, haha) and decompress and rejuvenate for the week ahead.
And that is why I'll be unavailable.
On the bright side, I've been a little bit cured of my recent desire for another child (for now). Just like watching my nephew being born when I was sixteen was great motivation to not have kids for another 14 years, so was watching someone else's toddler at a time when it seems everyone I know and love is having another baby and I feel a little bit left out and incomplete. Though, I won't wait 14 years, but you get the idea.