Maybe I will after all
How a summer job became more than just that
As we creep lackadaisically back into our college routines, I’m sure we’ll all take comfort in reminiscing about these past three months of summer vacation. To be honest, though, there’s not much to report about my own vacation.
I ate my weight in Sweet Frog at least once a week. I had an incredibly awkward run-in with my ex at the gym where, sweaty and red-faced, I forced casual small talk as though we had not had a massive fight only two days before. And I tripped over a chair and broke my toe at one o’clock in the morning. Same old story, really. But amid the not-so-life-altering frozen yogurt, hurt feelings and broken toes I also got my first real job: nannying.
When I agreed to the job, though, I had no idea it would prompt me to rethink my position on parenthood — or on children in general. To put it lightly, I had no strong desire to have children. So why nannying, rather than food service or retail? Simply put, I’m good at it; no children have broken any bones or furniture under my vigilant watch — plus, this way I didn’t have to pay taxes.
It’s not as if I don’t like children; I do. I like the way they ask simple questions yet expect complex answers. I like that they can entertain themselves for 40 minutes with nothing but duct tape. I like that they take so much pleasure in smearing a magenta crayon onto the walls of their bedrooms even though it will cost their parents $300 to repaint, because they have no concept of money.
On the other hand, they also drive me a bit nuts — like when they refuse to eat their Chef Boyardee and throw it all over the floor, and me, instead. I get slightly paranoid that they will find the one dangerous object within an 800 square-foot house and cut off their pinkie finger or knock out an eye. And there’s only so much “Sesame Street” this girl can handle.
Despite these qualms and my own hesitations about becoming a parent, I enjoyed nannying. No matter how difficult a day may have been, I always left my employer’s home at a set time, secure in the knowledge that I was driving toward eight hours of solitude — as well as the bliss of being able to watch a television show besides “Curious George.” I think if parenthood, like nannying, was a nine-to-five job, it would hold a lot more universal appeal.
But through all the liters of spilled milk, the soiled diapers and the tears shed about eight o’clock bedtimes, I have reevaluated my opinions on children. Before this summer, I largely stereotyped them as smelly, whiney and simple-minded. Though they certainly can be smelly and whiney, their simplicity of mind is precisely what makes them essential to every adult’s life.
I learned so much from the four children I watched this summer. Sure, I encouraged them to share and to be wary of flinging their dinners about the dining room, but I nevertheless feel I didn’t teach them a fraction of what they taught me. Their joy upon seeing a flock of geese overhead was boundless. They made no pretense of masking their frustration from not being able to go outside when it was raining. Their honesty of emotion and their pureness of sentiment is precisely what makes their simple-mindedness so beautiful.
After three months of nannying, I’m still unsure whether or not I want children of my own. But at some point in the future, when the question of having kids becomes more than an idle thought and a few words in the school paper, I will remember the echoing laughter, candid innocence, sprightly temperaments and sweet, sweet smiles of little Lily, Lorraine, Connor and Halley.