I tell you about my love and passion for kids, share with you some of my experiences as a nanny and grieve with you over the loss of my own. Amidst all of this, have you ever wondered why I treat your kids the way I do? There are many wonderful people out there who have child adoring hearts, cuddle every little one they can get their hands on, engage in conversations about fairies, sports or whatever is on the mind of the child in front of them. These wonderful people quickly become best buds almost instantly with kids they see often enough. I am not this person. And to be quite honest, I have definitely wondered why. I have spent a considerable amount of time contemplating this lately.
I love to observe kids in general from a distance, watch behavior, ponder development, research stages, tools and resources, talk to parents about hurdles and triumphs in their child’s lives, teach just about anything I can and form meaningful relationships when there is a need. But I think the main difference between me and the cheek-squeezers mentioned above is that I am not particularly interested in being friends with kids. This probably sounds terrible, but let me explain- hopefully I can make some sense of it.
I’m still trying to make sense of this for myself, but for as long as I can remember- from the youngest ages I can recall- caring for kids has been about other things. (The list of things mentioned at the start of the last paragraph.) Getting the kids in my care and sphere of influence to like me has never been priority number one. (I actually think this is one of my strengths as a care giver.) If I don’t perceive the child having a need for a relationship with me, I tend not to pursue it. One might perhaps argue that even without the specific needs that there are benefits of showering all kids with affection and attention, but that discussion is for another day.
Even as I am writing this, I am stumbling over my words, deleting sentences and struggling to fully grasp what intrinsic things about me cause this dichotomy. Actually, there are likely many elements at work here. Perhaps I feel the need for a defined roll; ‘teacher,’ ‘nanny,’ even ‘babysitter’ each have a fairly well defined boundary for me and most children. I fit into their lives easily because everyone knows what to expect. I’ve never quite figured out what the boundaries are for ‘friend of my mom’s’ or ‘random-lady-who-loves-kids-but-doesn’t-have-any-of-her-own-to-pay-attention-to-so-she-pays-attention-to-me.’
I have wondered how much of my distance with some kids is caused by the pain in my heart due to my infertility. I dare say that I have assumed most people attribute my distance to this struggle. I do not at all discount this as a factor. It is hard for me to hold babies sometimes because of my baby-ache; more so now than ever. But I also rationalize that I have studied much research (that I am inclined to believe) encouraging moms not to pass babies around- its scary for the little tiny ones to helplessly rely on a stranger- they want mom and rightly so. Let alone my current thought that if/when I have a baby, at this point in time I can’t imagine sharing them, sitting and watching someone else hold them. You moms out there might think this is crazy, but I don’t want to have to share my baby so why would I ask you to! Perhaps I could get a baby fix but is it whats truly best for the baby? If not, then what am I doing? Jump into toddler hood and pre-school age and most kids are timid and shy even around adults they see often. They know me in passing. They have no desire for me to request entrance into their lives, or to be nudged to do so by well meaning parents. This stage of ‘stranger’ shyness is good and healthy and will pass (most of the time) when the child is more equipped to handle the situation in other ways. Then the kids are in school- they have teachers and care givers at every turn- school, church, home, babysitters, coaches, parents, relatives, their friends’ parents, etc… why would they possibly want or need another adult lurking around. Since I already know I’m not just looking for a pal (and they really aren’t seeking another adult pal either) then what am I doing? In short, perhaps incorrectly, I have assumed that to push myself into a child’s life at any of these stages would be more for my own self-medication than the child’s benefit. So I don’t do it.
Perhaps I am underestimating the need children have for any and every willing adult in their influence to engage purposefully.
Maybe I am shortchanging myself and others by not risking it any way and being more intentional in creating a roll for myself.
Or possibly this is actually respectful of kids and a good balance for me at this stage in my life.
Ask me to babysit once or often (and in my dreams be your nanny) and I will have meaningful encounters with your kids, attempt to challenge and encourage them, pour myself into them, and truly deeply enjoy the time with them. See me in passing at the store a couple weeks later or even in your home when I come for a chat and I will take my cues from the kids letting them set the pace for our encounter. It might seem to you that I’m ignoring them. You might wonder “Why doesn’t she act more like this person or that?” You might wonder quietly about my love for kids but my distance from yours. If you do, know I have wondered it too. And I hope this helped. 🙂