January 22, 2013 at 7:30 am | Posted in Life and Living | Leave a comment
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This past weekend I went to my old high school to see the senior show.  My best friend from when I was in high school was directing it, and I always go to her shows to support her.  But this show was different for me than any in the past.  Aside from being in my old high school, I actually knew some of the kids.  They were kids that I babysat when they were 3,4, and 5 years old.  As the show went on, I didn’t even recognize 2 of them, but 1 I knew, and when she started singing her solo, I was amazed and almost brought to tears with the voice that came from her.  I was so proud, all these years later.

Truth be told — if someone was to point out one of my babysitters from when I was a kid, I would not remember them to save my life.  But I couldn’t resist.  I recognized the parents of one of the kids in the audience and had to introduce myself.  I hadn’t seen them since I was 17, but I don’t look that different and they remembered me.  They pulled their son over to meet me again, and I knew he wouldn’t remember me. Like I said, he was way too young.  But before me was a man, a 16 year old man that I used to care for.  It was a very sobering reality that I really am not a kid anymore. How can I be?  The kids I watched aren’t kids anymore.

Back to the girl with the solo.  I got to see her and her parents after the show and was amazed that she actually remembered me.  She was one of my favorite kids (I probably watched over 20 kids in my 6 year career as a babysitter), and she said to me, “You were my favorite babysitter!” and I just melted.  I could hold on to that moment forever.

In watching the show, I was really taken back to when I was once on that same stage.  I remember my relationships and the social situation in school.  I remember and still reminisce about the crazy and sometimes stupid things I did at that age.  As I watched these young men and women bop around on stage for what is likely to be for most of them the last time they ever do something like that, I realized that it was their turn, that these young people were doing all the things that I did.

After a wide-eyed mini heart attack I realized that that was the time to do this.  I came to college way ahead of many of my classmates because of my experiences in high school.  Through my work I see a very different kind of teenager, an urban teenager.  They don’t have the same life experiences as these suburban kids for sure.  They have to deal with much more serious stuff.  These kids have very little to worry about and can make many dumb mistakes knowing that in the end, everything will be okay.

I also realized this.  Some of the emotions you have in high school don’t change.  I look at people I knew when I was young who married their high school sweethearts and I realize how important those formative years really are.  What age does for you is give you more time for more experiences, more time apart from what has happened to review with a new perspective.  There is a lot that you learn, but you can be just as confused or just as certain in your emotions at 30 as you are at 18.

In being with these kids, I immediately felt the need to care for them, to mentor them, kind of like a big sister.  They are about to go off on their next journey, one where they will have to take on a new world of responsibility that they never knew before.  I wanted to hold them close and let them know that it will be fun and it will be okay.  But somehow, they will learn this their own way, as I have.

Teens Do the Darndest Things

January 10, 2012 at 6:46 am | Posted in Life and Living | 1 Comment
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When I was working at my last job, I had a very high profile client who was launching a campaign geared towards parents of teenagers.  The goal was to encourage parents to have open and honest conversation with their children about sex and relationships.  At the time, I was thrilled to work on this project as it was something I believed was really important seeing as the majority of my lessons on this topic were learned through Cosmo magazine, friends, and awkward early experiences.  I could easily flash back to my teenage years and think, “I wish my parents would have told me that.”

At the time that I was working on this project, there were no children, let alone teenagers, in my life.  I had gone from babysitting a wide age range of children for 6 years to college and the years following college where there was not an adolescent in sight.  So while I remember what it was like for me, I had no one to show me what it’s like in this day and age to be an adolescent.

Fast forward to present day.  Beyond the babies that are popping up seemingly everywhere, there are some teens in my life today that I can influence, even without being a parent.  So when I get caught up in conversations with other adults about the teens we know and their activities and how we respond, I can see so clearly how difficult it is to communicate effectively and be the person they need you to be.  Adults just don’t agree on how to manage teen issues or how they should treat teens.  What is the appropriate response, particularly when a teen wants to know about your life as a teen?  What should we be asking teens on a daily basis to make them feel like valued members of society and not youngin’s that know nothing?  How do we teach them right from wrong without telling them what not to do?

It’s a delicate balance, and I’m happy to have this experience now while I am still young.  Because although times have changed, so much of the learning process has to stayed the same, even though many of the questions I had came a few years later than they may come now.  I think the most important thing is to remember how it was when you were there, which is easier to do when you are still young.  But if you can keep the memories alive, you can more easily put yourself in the teen’s shoes so they truly believe that you understand, that you are there to help and not to pry, that you are to be trusted and that your opinion really matters when it comes to the tough decisions teens have to make.

The Kids from Yesterday

January 27, 2011 at 9:47 am | Posted in Life and Living | 4 Comments
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adventures in babysitting

It seems like a lifetime ago that my main source of income was taking care  of children.  For six years, I watched kids from aged 11 months up to 11 years and made really good money doing it.  It was a pretty easy job most of the time (except for that summer where I watched 3 young boys — boys really are harder than girls).

I had started out working at a local day camp. I had 11 three year olds to care for with the help of two other counselors.  Since the kids were so young, they were only in the program for a half day, but I still got paid for the full day. I would use the remaining time to work at Dunkin’ Donuts and hang out with my friends.  It was the summertime, after all.

Most of my babysitting experience was daytime work, not much of that Saturday night babysitting that I really hated. I really got to know the kids I watched, but I only really watched them for a couple years before moving on to the next stage in my life.

My last babysitting job was when I came home from college.  I had graduated early, but still had a few credits left to complete my degree, so I took my last two classes and babysat for two girls, aged 8 and 11.  At that age, it’s really all about play dates and dance class, so there was a lot of chauffeuring as part of the gig.  The girls were great, and I have kept in touch with them via Facebook ever since.

Recently, the older one had a status update that said she had just turned 17.  When I read this, I literally almost fell out of my chair.  Where had the last six years go?  How did she get so old?  She’s too young to drive, too young to go to college. These are things I can’t handle.

A few years ago, I ran into one of my former three year old campers.  She was 11 when I saw her.  It just doesn’t register in my brain that these kids have grown up.  It’s a strange thing to imagine people that are younger than you aging as well.

I will always remember the kids I watched at the age that I watched them.  I will always remember Mia looking like Dora the Explorer.  I will always remember Jocelyn doing gymnastics in the living room.  I will always remember Savannah and her love for writing.  I will always remember Dakota picking on Madison.  This is how these kids will always be to me, in my memory.

The title of this post is inspired by a great song from My Chemical Romance. Check it out.

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