Recently I had the privilege of babysitting our neighborís one-year-old daughter, Grace. I refer to it as a privilege because this is their first child and as first-time parents, leaving your baby in someone elseís care is the equivalent of entrusting them with a piece of your soul. Not that those of us with more than one child love ours any less, itís just that as they grow and you learn more, you worry more about the harm they may do to the babysitter, not vice-versa.
Up to this point, my relationship with Grace had been one of wary curiosity. Curious about her neighbors, but wary of anyone who picked her up besides Mommy and Daddy. This all changed when I unexpectedly swooped her up, sat down on a swing and began to go with her in my lap. Instant trust was born (Yes, I am aware that with a one-year-old, trust can be forged over something as trivial as a goldfish cracker).
Offering to watch Grace was a pleasure. Plus it helped knowing that my husband and three daughters would be in attendance. During the next couple hours, I was reminded of all kinds of things my mind had obviously blacked out since my daughters have grown...
Movement: Basically, Grace never stopped. Having recently evolved from Babius Crawlius to Homo Erectus, she explored every nook and cranny, and every nook of every cranny, in our house. Luckily, she was constantly shadowed by the Three Stooges (my daughters) who competed heavily for her attention.
Oral Exploration: At that age, it ALL goes in the mouth. Food, drink, toys, refrigerator magnets, dirt, dust, rocks -- heck, had I let the girls get our hamster out of its cage for Grace, Iím fairly certain Nugget would have been turned into a furry canapť (and my babysitting privileges would have been immediately revoked.)
Share and Share Alike: I had forgotten a toddlerís penchant for sharing every tidbit they are eating, and their desire to try everything you are eating. It did not matter that we were eating the same crackers, I was the recipient of many fistfuls of slobbered upon Ritz, to which I graciously thanked her and said (faked) in perfect Mommy fashion, "Mmmmmmmmm". In return, however, she expected bits of my slobber free crackers. Thatís fine; I had lost my appetite.
Constant Surveillance: I realized how much I take for granted simple things like going to the bathroom, answering the phone, blinking. The couple bathroom trips I made were all preceded by the phrase, "Do you have her?" to my husband.
Entertainment & Props: Now, I do not for two seconds profess to have an immaculate house 24/7 -- in fact, I have been known to tell visitors, "Pardon the mess, we live here." BUT, I had completely forgotten how many things it takes to entertain someone with the attention span of a flea. My daughters dragged out every stuffed animal, Barbie doll, baby doll, and other toy they owned for Grace. She would grant each item a cursory glance, then cast it aside to peruse the next candidate for her attention. The only item to keep her engaged was my mouth, into which she delighted in shoving one wooden building block after another. Anyone know how to get a splinter out of your tongue?
Acrobatics: Whoa. Changing her diaper was a humbling experience and reminded me that children that small are surely made out of rubber. Not a fan of the whole diaper-changing process, she twisted, she turned, she writhed. At one point while I had her legs aloft, she actually arched her back and stood on her head. I predict a bright future for her with the Cirque du Soleil.
Laughter: Nothing, I repeat NOTHING, compares to the genuine laugh emitted from a one-year-old. When an adult does something that is rewarded with this burst of vocal sunshine, it is like manna from heaven. Graceís was no exception and was granted often (then again, anyone who knows me would agree that I am something to be laughed at frequently.) My middle daughter has had such an infectious belly laugh since she was a baby, that I still tackle her and tickle her just to hear it and perk myself up.
When Graceís mommy came to pick her up, I felt good. She had had a great time, enjoyed our company, and had provided a welcome break in the routine of our lives. I was also exhausted. Closing the door, I scanned the wreckage, which included the equally exhausted bodies of my husband and daughters and remembered what my mother has always said, "Babies are wonderful, but it is nice to give them back."