Monday, February 8, 2010


The summer after I graduated high school, I started working for a woman from church. She worked from home, and she and her husband had just had a baby. She wanted someone to be at the house with him for anywhere from three to seven hours a day, depending on the day, while she got some work done. He was two months old.

I fell in love with him that summer. He'd cry and cry and cry, and I'd read to him and sing to him and walk with him. He'd fall asleep on my chest and sleep for hours while I just read and drank the chai his mom made for me every day. I memorized "The Cat in the Hat" that summer.

Then I went to college. I nannied again the next summer, and babysat whenever I was around. But the next year, I went to England. Slowly but surely I saw my sweet darling boy less and less. When I did see him, I was surprised by things like his ability to run and talk in full sentences. Full sentences! After summers of endless crying and not knowing what he wanted, here was this amazing boy talking to me in sentences!

Then I got engaged. I'm the youngest cousin, on both sides of my family; D had little cousins, including a perfect little flower girl, but the boys were all either too old or terrors, or both. Who better to bear our rings, I thought, than my Charlie?

The first week of July, I spent some time emailing his mom. She was nervous that he'd be too silly, but I assured her that he is too adorable, and no matter what happened, he could not wreck the day. She said she would consult with him and his dad.

Apparently, she asked him if he wanted to be in Cindy's wedding, and without hesitation, he said yes. Then they practiced. His parents took off their rings, put them on a pillow, and Charlie, my sweet little Charlie, walked around the house with them. She told him, now, you have to be serious. You can't be silly, because who's the center of attention that day? "The bride," he told her.

A couple of days later, when she told him that things happen sometimes, and it's okay, but Cindy's not getting married anymore, he sat down and cried.

I didn't have much regular interaction with Charlie for a long time after those first two summers. When I got the invitation to his sixth birthday party, I was blown away. How could he be SIX already?! Impossible. But there he was, eating cake and blowing out candles, loving Star Wars and Legos, and still speaking in full sentences. And the words he used! I babysat sometime around then, and he told me his mom smells good and is very pretty, and his dad is hilarious. Hilarious!

One night at choir a few months ago, his mom announced that she and Charlie's dad were going on a long-overdue vacation, and they would need someone to stay at their house and look after Charlie. Pam and I volunteered immediately.

L and B, you see, hadn't taken a single vacation together since Charlie was born, and they never even went on a honeymoon. So for two weeks, they were going to escape to Italy.

From January 24 through February 5, Pam and I stayed at Charlie's house and acted as moms to him. It was an amazing adventure, and a rather eye-opening experience. Charlie is perhaps one of the most well-behaved six-year-olds in existence. He is sweet and mannerly and smart and very self-aware and introspective and overall awesome. And yet, the two weeks I recently spent with him made me unsure if I ever want kids. See, my favorite thing about babysitting has always been the ability to give the kids back at the end of the night.

I did have a great time with him, though. Pam and I make a pretty great child-rearing team, actually. We took to him to school, bathed him, fed him, helped him make his bed every morning, read him stories every night. We took him and his friend to Chuck E. Cheese. We cleaned up after him, and tried fruitlessly to get him to use his napkin instead of the blanket as he ate his bedtime snack. We kept track of his mittens, which are always in a different place and never together. We smothered him with hugs (which he loved) and kisses (which he always wiped off) and tried to comfort him when he missed his parents. We learned how strange it is to brush someone else's teeth and cut someone else's finger- and toenails.

Regardless of what I decide in the future about having kids of my own, one thing is certain. I still love that little boy.

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