Sitting on Babies

Remember those Amelia Bedelia books? That fun-spirited maid who didn’t understand figures of speech and would take them too literally? She would sketch the drapery if you asked her to draw the curtains, stick purple fruits into the shrubbery if you asked her to prune the hedges.  As an early reader and a fairly articulate child, this play on words fascinated me.  I never got sick of reading about this child-like woman’s antics, and probably devoured every book in the series over time.

However, one particular phrase stuck with me, even all these years later.  For some reason, the book in which she took “babysitting” too literally and SAT on the child she was tending blew my mind.  I think perhaps because it wasn’t as much of a figure of speech as it was a common term that I had never really broken down before. My babysitter was someone who came over to put my brother to bed and play with me while my parents were out. She babysat. I never once put together that there were no infants and little sitting involved at all.

The reason this goofy series popped into my head today is because I am babysitting tonight.  I do not intend on actually using either of them as seating, though I do sometimes refer to it as “sittin’ on bebehs” just to avoid the monotony of using the same word over and over.

I’m excited. I love children. Though, sadly, these babies will most likely be asleep for the majority of my stay. Possibly all of it.  Which really feels more like house-sitting. I’m always tempted to wake up a baby to play with it, but I ususally respect the parents too much to possibly put them through whatever chaos results from interrupted babysleep.

I used to have a regular Saturday babysitting gig for two little ones.  An infant and a toddler. The first few times I babysat, I literally never even saw them. I was babysitting for invisible children.  Eventually, the older one’s bedtime got pushed back, so I got to play with him and put him to bed myself.  This child was all kinds of adorable and SO smart.  In the beginning, he had a hard time falling asleep. So he would turn his huge blue eyes at me and say, “You sleep on floor? You stay?”  And, I mean, how do you say no to that?  His parents had warned me of this and told me that if I just sat on the floor for a minute, he’d pass out and I could leave.

This child was on to their tricks, however, and would eye me through the slats in his crib until he was sure I was lying down in a sleeping position.  The first night, after he had curled up and rolled over, I stood up and quietly slipped out of the room.  I was barely outside the room when I heard a tiny voice cry out, “Balerie?!”  [The “v” sound is one of the last to develop. My brother went through a variety of names from “Ba-yee” to “Balerie” before arriving at Valerie]. “Balerie! You sleep on floor!”  So I slipped back into the room and whispered, “Yes, I’ll sleep on the floor.” And resumed my position on the carpet.  This time I stayed there for a considerable amount of time before army-crawling out the door I had left slightly ajar for my swift exit.

I couldn’t even be annoyed, it was so sweet. This little boy who ran around all night full of confidence and conducting like he’d been formally trained [heh] to do it suddenly just wanted me to be close by while he fell asleep.

He was also just so smart.  He was barely two years old and instructing me on the differences between engines and coal cars, cabooses and passenger cars.  Once, a long train we had been dragging along fell over.  I looked at him and said, “Uh oh!” and he responded by throwing his little arms out, palms up and giving a big, dramatic shrug while exclaiming, “What are we going to do?!”.  Before I could respond, he flicks one pointer finger in the air and continues on in his cartoonish exaggerated voice, “I know!”.  It was clear he got his adventuring techniques from classic children’s television shows and it was everything I could do not to laugh right out loud.

These little ones have since moved to New Jersey, so we no longer have our Saturday night playdates. This makes me sad because I had grown accustomed to seeing children regularly. Over my four years in college, I had been in a classroom setting at least a few times a week almost every day.  I loved being around their energy and enthusiasm, learning from their vivid imaginations and simplistic view of the world.

I guess the moral of this story is that I love kids and working with them. There’s little I enjoy more in this world than seeing a tiny lightbulb go off when you explain something and it clicks.  Or that moment of achievement when they finally get something they had been working on for so long.  Their looks of incredulity when you seem overly excited for things like reading books or doing math.  Their excitement over things like a new box of crayons or learning a new song.

A friend of mine once called me a child whisperer.  A teacher once commented that I had a unique ability to capture the attention of an entire classroom while reading them a story. My mother once commented on how she found it fascinating that kids always seem to like me.

I don’t know if these things are true. All I know is that nothing beats the feeling of having a little person throw themselves into your legs, wrapping their arms around you.  Or instinctively running to you when they start to cry.

So, I know I’ll work with kids someday.  Whether I’m a teacher or open an orphanage or become a foster parent, I’ll do it.  Some people in my life are worried I won’t, that I’m straying from what I had originally planned for myself. But they’re wrong. They don’t understand the passion I feel towards this. So, even though I don’t have any immediate plans and I don’t know what in respect it will end up being, I’ll work with children again someday.


~ by Valerie Anne on 03/25/2011.

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