Wednesday, February 12, 2014

You work hard for your money - First Jobs

I can never quite decide what my first job was – I never know if babysitting counts, or if a job only counts if it’s at a workplace. But from 12-14 I babysat almost every Saturday for a different family in our neighborhood. I was always busy with youth group on Fridays (no point in asking, there was no way I was skipping that) but would babysit any other day. Saturdays were usually booked up for babysitting, and often Sunday or random nights throughout the week would be booked. I LOVED babysitting. I made $2.50 or $3 an hour, and got to eat chips (I don’t know if that was in the contract but there were always chips no matter whose house I was at). I’m thankful that I babysat in the days before teenage babysitters were expected to clean the kitchen, do dishes or fold laundry as well or I would have HATED babysitting and probably would have done it way less. But I’ll tell you what, I still earned my $2.50.

There were a few main families that I sat for regularly (Stewarts, O’Reillys, McGraws) and I LOVED their kids. Since I didn't have too many friends in Junior High I felt like these kids were my friends too. I wasn't just there to put them in front a movie while their parents were out – no, this was serious play time.

  • Did your family just get a new fridge? Get that box out and let's make a fort! What are we waiting for!!! (Best day ever. I don't even think I was scheduled to babysit but when I heard about the new fridge I ran straight on down the road to make this happen)
  • You have balloons? Lets invent a new game called Pantaloon that involves lot of jumping and balloons and running. (Side note: I later discovered that the kids I "taught" this game to ended up teaching it to the kids they babysat years later!)
  • You want a story? Perfect, I’ll make one up…..I’ll act it out with voices and actions and it will be the best story ever. (never scary though, I'm terrible at scary)
  • You want to do PE type games? Great, we'll throw a mini Olympics in  your back yard and invite the other neighbor kids over to compete with us - there will be medallions made out of recycling and everything! (don't tell me those next door neighbor parents weren't stoked to get their kids babysat for a while randomly)
  • Got a great story brewing that just telling it won't be enough? Great, it's time to pull out that play box, set up that living room stage, and get that play going! (hint: I'm always the director, I loved to boss people around)

Those kids would end up in bed at the end of the night sweaty and exhausted but we played hard and it was worth it. I loved those nights. I got to be a kid again (as if 13 was soooo old) and got to watch these kids that I loved come alive. So rewarding. So much fun.

Then….then, oh then, the kids went to bed. And I got to eat chips and watch TV. My mom was pretty strict about TV when we were growing up and depending on the year there were different limits for the amount of time we were allowed to spend watching TV. But babysitting nights were free nights and didn't count for that limit (mostly because there was no way she could monitor it). Holla!

And after all that, the parents came home and paid me!!! Paid me! Money! Man, what a life. I was loaded (normal average paycheck totaled about $10) and that money was burning a hole in my pocket. Jacks convenience store and your sweet sweet candy aisle, here I come!

Now that I'm an adult and babysit for my nephews it feels very different (also I don't get paid or get chips - what!). I definitely don't have the drive or energy to play with them in that way anymore - we definitely goof around together and I engage with them, but no longer with the wild, energetic abandon that I used to. Sometimes I feel bad about that, then I realize that that's what teenagers are for - kids need other kids or teenagers to engage with them in that way, and now as an adult I have a new way to engage with them. I get to be the aunt - the one that teaches you to bake, and lends encouragement or a stern voice when needed. My aunts always were my biggest cheerleaders - they support and encourage and listen and I get to do that for my nephews.

We're not pregnant but the thought of having kids one day and finding babysitters for them seems so crazy and grown up! I can't imagine. And as you can imagine from the post above, will:
a) always stock chips for my teenage babysitters, 
b) never ask them to do dishes, and 
c) always expect them to play with those kids as if it was the best time ever.

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