Photo: "Aunt April plays with lorelei!" Wikimedia Commons

Photo: “Aunt April plays with lorelei!” Wikimedia Commons

Given a choice between spending time with a kid or a grownup, I’ll take the child every time. Children are more interesting than adults. They’ll tell you exactly what they’re thinking. The world still fascinates them; it’s still full of magic. And children are full of surprises. You never know what a 3-year-old will say next

I’m particularly mad about babies. If I hold a baby for 10 minutes, I’m high for the rest of the day. I’m the rare person on the airplane who hopes the exhausted single mom struggling down the aisle with the fretful infant in her arms is going to sit next to me.

When my own son was born, 24 years ago, I left the practice of law to stay home with him. Although trading legal briefs for bath toys wouldn’t work for every 34-year-old professional, I was exactly where I wanted to be.

On the floor, singing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” to my kid.

“You may not be getting quality time,” I often told him as I hunkered down beside him in the sandbox, “but God knows you’re getting quantity time.”

The sad truth about motherhood, though, is that if you do your job well and raise a happy, secure, and confident individual—you put yourself out of a job.

At 15, Tom no longer needed active mothering. Now he needed space and independence. I had to let go. And I did. But it hurt!

I was proud of my accomplished, confident teenager. But I missed the little boy who had wanted nothing more than to read books, paint pictures, make his stuffed animals come to life, and explore the neighborhood with me.

I could have returned to the practice of law. But I’m really good with kids. And I realized that I needed them in my life.  So I did something unusual for a 50-year-old woman with a law degree.

I started babysitting.

I took a part-time job at my local library and put up a notice: “Wise, fun, mature library worker, great with kids, seeks occasional babysitting in your home.”

I was a little nervous on my first job.  I hadn’t taken care of a toddler in over a decade.  But I needn’t have worried. Moments after I met happy, bright-eyed Olivia, we were building towers with her blocks, acting out goofy stories with her stuffed bears, and reading board books.

I was back where I belonged. On the floor, with a child.

In the decade since, I’ve cared for dozens of  neighborhood kids. I have only two rules. I won’t drive. And I don’t watch television.

I’ll often find a new charge in front of the screen, expecting that I’ll spend the next few hours watching along.

“It’s beautiful outside, ” I‘ll suggest. “Let’s go for a walk and explore.”

That’s usually all it takes. But if not, I don’t give up.

“Want to read a story?” I’ll ask. “Play hide and seek?”

The Disney Channel can be very compelling. But I persist.

“Let’s walk the dog. You haven’t got a dog? Let’s borrow a neighbor’s dog and take him for a walk.”

There isn’t a kid who wouldn‘t rather play than watch Hannah Montana.  Cable is great, but I’m from a generation that went out to play, roaming the neighborhood till it was too dark to see.

I take care of twenty-first century kids as if it’s still the fifties.

Milo, formerly addicted to Elmo, now adores the playground. Zoey makes up songs on the piano for her sister (and their hamster) to dance to. Sam writes picture books to sell to his parents when they get home.

One of the best times I’ve ever had was a morning I spent with 2-year-old Suzi, a little girl who is fascinated by heavy machinery, following a compellingly noisy garbage truck around the neighborhood. She was totally blissed out.

I, too, was perfectly contented.

“It doesn’t get better than this,” I said to her.

Babysitting is so cool that I often wonder why more empty-nesters don’t try it.

I’ve taken care of 5-year-old Hanina every week since he was a baby. I’m such an integral part of his life that, for a while, he insisted I was actually a member of his family. (A pretty neat trick, given that he’s an Orthodox Jew and I’m an atheist.)

“You love Roz,” his folks told him. “And she loves you too. But she’s not family.”

“Yes she is,” he insisted.

So he asked me.  “We’re family, aren’t we?”

“You can’t choose your family,” I told him. “But you can choose your friends.”

“I choose you!” he said.

None of my legal clients ever felt like that about me.

I look forward to caring for Hanina as he grows, to attending his Bar Mitzvah, and to dancing at his wedding as joyfully as I recently danced at my own son’s wedding.

When Hanina is too old to need a babysitter, letting go will be hard.

But by then there could be grandchildren.

 

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  • Susan - ofeverymoment June 25, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    I traded a nursing career for motherhood, and for me it was the best decision as well. Like you, I have nearly put myself out of a job (with kids in high school and college, I am still needed just a little). My remedy has been to begin to write, and with that has come a lot of reminiscing.

    Reply
  • T King March 11, 2013 at 3:10 pm

    Roz,
    These thoughts and observations are beautiful and oh so true!!

    Reply
  • Roz Warren February 9, 2013 at 11:51 am

    Marie, you were the best babysitter — EVER! Your kids are so lucky to have you as a mom.

    Reply
  • Marie Hawley February 1, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    Hi Roz-
    Some of my fondest memories are those spent babysitting Tom, Isaac and Amy. I remember one particular evening when Amy asked me if we could have dinner in the tree in the front yard-and of course we did because-why not have a delicious bowl of mac-n-cheese while enjoying the outdoors-with a view?? Now, with my own 3 children I always try to remember that babysitter who had boundless energy and was herself a kid a heart when my kids come ask me a “can we….” question and answer “Why not?”
    Thanks for the memories!
    Mia-The Overly Indulgent Babysitter

    Reply
  • Kelly January 30, 2013 at 4:26 pm

    I completely agree. Kids are much cooler than adults and I definitely prefer their company over people my own age!

    Reply
  • Jody January 30, 2013 at 1:48 pm

    Lovely article. Not many people I know can actually enjoy children the way they deserve to be enjoyed. You have a gift!

    Reply
  • Gordon January 29, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    Great article

    Reply
  • Stephen Nelson January 29, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    I’m impressed – garbage trucks and all. If I could find somewhere to dam a stream and make a lake with a kid like I tried to do when I was a kid, I’d be in!

    Reply
  • wen January 29, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    nice

    Reply
  • Claudia Harkins January 29, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    What a “feel good” uplifting article. I am a first time grandmother who babysits my 15-month granddaughter twice a week. I definitely agree with the sentiments of the author. Spending time with young children is pure joy!

    Reply
  • Toni Myers January 29, 2013 at 12:43 pm

    Oh, Roz! I love you! I want to forward this to everyone
    I know. At least those who love or could love children.
    Have you ever considered moving to Seattle?

    Reply
  • Mark Lowe January 29, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Wonnderful!

    Reply
  • isabella January 29, 2013 at 11:38 am

    I really enjoyed this one. I think a lot of people enjoy spending time with kids because they speak their minds.

    Reply
  • hillsmom January 29, 2013 at 10:40 am

    Loved it Roz! Would you do cat sitting? She doesn’t care for TV either as now the sets are too skinny to sit on.

    Reply
  • Diane Dettmann January 29, 2013 at 9:43 am

    Good for you, Roz, you’re enriching those kidlets’ lives! As a retired teacher who spent 37 years working with children, those 1950s activities still intrigue kids. Playgrounds, digging in the sandbox, painting, spending time with books and pencils, and interacting with people rather than a television screen stimulate creativity. I do have to admit though, as a child after an afternoon outside, I DID enjoy gathering in front of our old Setchell Carlson television with my brother and watching the Mickey Mouse Club! Ah, those were the days. http://outskirtspress.com/snowangels

    Reply
  • Stephanie January 29, 2013 at 9:06 am

    Wonderful, Roz!
    I never knew this about you! Sounds like you are the best influence these kids could have!!!

    Reply
  • Pam January 29, 2013 at 8:05 am

    This was a joy to read! You are so right about spending time with children, Roz, and with adults who have not lost a childlike approach to life, such as yourself. I hope it was winter when you and Suzi were following the garbage truck…
    Pam

    Reply
  • Fran Meyer January 29, 2013 at 7:34 am

    This is a lovely essay . I wish more empty nesters did babysit. Kids today desperately need to be out in the neighborhood rather than stuck in front of the TV!
    YOU go, ROZ!

    Reply
  • Joel Hecker January 29, 2013 at 7:26 am

    Roz,
    We hope to see you at Hanina’s bar mitzvah, but we’re worried that you’ll run off to play with a different 5-year old!
    You may not be family, but frankly, you’re a model for us on how to interact with him. jh

    Reply
  • Liza Kramer January 29, 2013 at 7:22 am

    What lucky kids to have you in their world! Fantastic essay. I love reading all of your essays!

    Reply
  • Just One Boomer (Suzanne) January 29, 2013 at 7:17 am

    My poor sons had a lawyer mother too, but theirs’ stayed on in the crash and burn lane of full time lawyering because she lacked Roz’ wisdom and patience and she’s not that much fun either. Fortunately, their maternal grandparents were Rozesque when they were growing up. I guess sometimes the apple does indeed fall far from the tree.

    Reply