Babysitting as an Adult: Training for parenthood

Back when I was in high school, I used to babysit all the time. Like many of my friends, I was more than willing to spend my Saturday nights sitting on someone else’s couch, watching TV as the kids slept soundly in their beds. And while the gigs weren’t always so easy, often requiring me to actually play with the kiddies I was watching or, worse yet, change diapers and wipe their tiny toddler tushies, I quickly got used to the routine and came to somewhat enjoy it.

Fast forward to adulthood, and tending to kids was a thing of the past by the time my husband and I got married and bought a house. Because I was the first of my friends and siblings to get married (and, subsequently, have babies), my opportunities to refresh my babysitting skills were limited. In fact, I often joked with my husband that if we were ever to have kids, I’d need some sort of training course.

The Training Begins

It was therefore rather nerve-racking, to say the least, when my neighbor one day found herself in an emergency situation and needed someone to watch her young kids out of the blue. I didn’t know much about caring for children, and suddenly there I was, tasked with watching three of them at once.

Her instructions were fairly simple: Feed the older kids (roughly ages five and three) when they get hungry, and change the baby when she smells. Both were challenging in different regards. The older kids got hungry within minutes of their mother’s departure, yet rejected every single item I offered resembling normal food. In the end, I caved, figuring my neighbor would forgive me for feeding her kids fruit roll-ups and cheese crackers for lunch.

Next was the baby who, naturally, dropped a massive stinker just as the older kids had settled down for lunch. I wasn’t worried about the grossness factor so much as changing the diaper correctly. I placed her on the dressing table and studied the position of her diaper, taking note which side went in the front versus the back. (If you’re a newbie, it’s really not as easy as it looks.) Then I dove right in, holding the poor baby up by the legs as I attempted to wipe her clean without getting poop all over everything.

Big mistake. See, now that I have kids, I know you’re supposed to stick a clean diaper underneath when changing a dirty one. But even though I’d changed diapers before, it turns out it’s nothing like riding a bike. You can forget how, and I did forget how. As a result, I had a lot of explaining to do when my neighbor came home and found her dressing table cover littered with unsavory stains. On the plus side, I did manage to not only put the diaper on the right way, but secure it snugly so it wouldn’t leak.

Ready (or Not)

At first I came away from that experience utterly terrified to ever have kids of my own, as clearly I was pretty clueless on how to handle them. But then I realized: Taking care of children isn’t rocket science. A lot of it is intuitive, and it’s okay to stumble along the way and learn as you go.

Now that I’m a mom and a self-proclaimed diaper-changing pro, I still have my fair share of mishaps. Some days in my house go pretty smoothly. Others, not so much. But I keep at it, and I do my best — and as I’ve learned, there comes a point where that’s unequivocally good enough.

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