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The Babysitter’s Club

December 1, 2012

The year is 2000 and it’s December. I have a job at a school as an aide through the work study program but since I can only work between 7:30 AM and 3:30 PM, it is hard to work enough hours to pay my bills since I’m a full time sophomore student at Michigan State. I live in what is affectionately referred to as the student ghetto, or Cedar Village. The city of East Lansing tries to get it condemned every few years and refers to it as ‘blighted,’ but if what they mean is cheap rent considering it’s within walking distance to all my classes and close to the bars, then call it blighted all you want. But I’m a student and I’m poor. I’ve picked up a seasonal job at the GAP at the mall but I think they hate me and there’s no way they will keep me on after holiday. It may be because I am the world’s worst retail employee ever–I don’t like to open, I don’t like to do the super late shift and stock shelves from 11 PM until 3 AM and I generally don’t like speaking to the customers. And I can’t really board fold to save my life. But I’ve made a lot of friends and we have fun together, except there is this one senior guy named Don that keeps asking me out even though I have a boyfriend. He suspects that the boyfriend and I are on the outs and I suspect that my boyfriend doesn’t really like me that much anymore, but the only date Don and I go on is to the soft pretzel vendor during our break. But I need a new job for the next semester and I’m running out of ideas. I can’t wait tables, I don’t want to do retail but I need something on nights and weekends. My neighbor Jen tells me to just babysit for cash and I think she’s crazy–but she explains that she watches the kids after school, she has time to do her homework, she can eat meals there and she gets paid well. Sign me up! I open up the State News and start going through the ads. I leave a few messages and I’m not planning on actually speaking with anyone until a lady named Melanie answers the phone.

“Um hi,” I stammer, “I’m calling in regard to the babysitting job in the State News? May I speak to Melanie?”

“This is she,” Melanie replies briskly. “Tell me a little about yourself.”

I quickly explain that I’m a sophomore education student at MSU, I’m the oldest of 11 siblings and before I can say much else she schedules an interview for me in two days.

And that was that. I go to the interview in my nice leather boots and best GAP apparel only to be stuck outside playing in the snow with three small children. I survive three hours of outdoor play, snack and dinner prep and I’m hired. Their kitchen is larger than my apartment. Their neighbors include people with the last name Izzo and Sabin (you may have heard of them?) and before I know it, I’m in deep. I stick around for the next five years, until I have my own son in 2005.

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Ian, age 5. This was a sign of love.

In the same way that time with my own children has flown by in an instant, all those years with my nanny kids passed by too quickly. When I met them, they were 7, 4 and 1 year old. Today they are 19, 16 and 13. When I see them I remember how much fun we had together and all our adventures, but it is just bits and pieces. We talk about the vacations, the times when I stayed with them for a week when their parents went out of town and we all slept together in a king bed. We talk about how I couldn’t cook and we ordered take out and stopped for Slurpees after school at 7/11. We talk about how crazy the boys were and how I let Ian dive from the 7.5m platform when he was 5 and how I sometimes took Christopher to class. Monell and I laugh about how when I was 19 I was the cool one, and now that she’s 19, I look to her for fashion advice. I remember that the days were busy and long, that the clean up was never ending and that sometimes I could kill them. But I also remember how it felt to snuggle up with them on the couch, and how thrilled they were James was born and how much I’ve missed watching them grow up over the years. (We left the state in 2007.)

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Monell and I before a wedding in 2001.

Working as a nanny through college saved my butt in so many ways. I made decent money, I always had referrals to other families (like the K family with three small boys, whom I adored) and they kept me busy. They supported me when I married that Don guy the following December; Melanie even paid for poinsettias that graced each table at the reception.  And most importantly, they prepared me for motherhood over and over. By the time I had my own three children, I’d perfected child wrangling. I don’t sweat the small stuff and I pick my battles. I know that in the end, snuggling on the couch in a pile is more important than anything else. That is what the kids remember the most–they remember that I loved them. And that I bought them contraband Lucky Charms when their mom went out of town.

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Chris, my little partner in crime for four years.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Aunt Jane permalink
    December 3, 2012 1:55 pm

    Wow those pics bring back memories!

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