Ever since my little brother was born, 22 months after me, I was obsessed with all things babies and cute kiddos! I blame a lot of this on him, because he was the cutest baby with the most kissable cheeks. I always tried to kiss his cheeks, even on the school bus. He didn’t like it much, but he always let me baby him. My mom said people would come over to see him, and I would say, “He’s my baby!” and was not happy when they wanted to hold him. Sorry, Johnny, I was a crazy sister!
I started babysitting our neighbors when I was in the second or third grade. I would watch the little girl while her mom worked in the garden or even went to the grocery store. One time, I was carrying her on the driveway and tripped and fell. Typical Sarie stuff. My knees were skinned and bleeding, but I held Kelleen so tight that she was completely safe and never got close to the concrete. My sister and I would sometimes babysit together, but it was much more natural for me at such an early age. I was born maternal.
When I was younger, I wanted to be a prenatal nurse, simply so I could hold babies. Being a teacher occurred to me a lot because it was my favorite game to play. My fear was always that I would become too attached to the kids and seeing them move on and leave me would be heartbreaking. Throughout the years, no matter where I have been or what I studied, babysitting was always on the side. I became so close to some of the kids, I felt like I was a part of their families. People trust me with their kids, and it makes it extremely difficult to move on.
I have been thinking a lot about this “career path” recently, and have realized a few things that make me good with kids. I am not a perfect example, being a human and all, but I consider myself pretty experienced in helping with childcare. Here are a few examples why and how to apply it to your relationships:
- Silliness. Don’t be afraid to make dumb jokes, funny faces, wrestle, or act foolish. Children love when adults get on their level and act like a kid again.
- Laughter. I laugh often, but children are a different level of humor. When something is funny, laugh. They also find it quite humorous to entertain you.
- Listening. I know parental duties never end, but simply listening about events of the day, emotions, and interactions makes them feel valuable. Putting down the phone or holding off emails and choosing to give them attention adds value to your relationship.
- Inside jokes. It’ll happen, you’ll see.
- Be there. When they need to cry, scream, vent, play… be there for them. I try to always listen to their needs, and let them know I am a safe place to come to. Be trustworthy.
- Hugs! I have always been a huge hugger and love snuggling. Human contact also helps children feel comfortable, safe, and loved.
- Take photos! For memories, of course, and most kids are funny in front of the lens!
- Be yourself.
I asked the kids I babysit why they like me, and I was surprised by their responses. One said “Because you are not strict.” The other said, “You’re funny.” Their words make me think these are a few reasons why they trust me. Letting go of adulthood, productivity, expectations, and choosing mindfulness, compassion, and surrendering the ideas of our grown-up world will help you to be a child again.
And in turn, children will sense the light-heartedness and feel comforted.