Adventures in Babysitting

Originally published in May 2009 issue of Military Spouse Magazine

Like most military wives, I had trouble finding a job when we PSCed to a new duty station. Being a military wife means moving every few years, dealing with stressful deployments, and often having your thoughts focused elsewhere if you are at work. All these issues are not always very appealing to employers. I knew this and kept my expectations realistic, but I was absolutely shocked when I landed a career in only two months living on base! How did I do it? Well, I have to admit, I had all the desired attributes of the candidate they were seeking. My first day on the job I was delegating responsibilities, inspiring new ideas, and motivating personnel. I had no idea babysitting could be so rewarding! Ok, so it was not the career most women dream of, but in truth, it was really fun. Face it, when you are the only newlywed on your block of base housing and everyone else has 2.5 kids, you are going to be busy helping out the moms. I knew with my husband’s upcoming deployment I would be useless in an office, plus with his work up schedule he would not be working 9 to 5.  I wanted to be around if he had a random Tuesday off after five days in the field. I decided to stick around base and help with the community. I tell military moms when I perform my stand up for them that they have the toughest job in the Corps. Many times they are raising these children like a single parent. I tell them not to get bummed about it but to take the opportunity to instill core values into their children. Such as, “Mommy is always right, and if something goes wrong its daddy’s fault.  Most importantly when daddy does come home from deployment any boo boo or wipe that needs to be taken car of, go to daddy, he wants to make up for all he has missed”.

When living on base you better get used to having kids in your home whether you have them or not. I can’t tell you how many times we came from church and there was a random child in our house sitting on the sofa eating our food. We would say, “Hi there.” The child would respond, “Can your son play with me?” I would respond, “We don’t have any children.” The child would then shrug and say, “Well, can I play your Xbox?” Only when the child found out we did not have an Xbox or wii could we be rest assured he would venture home. On base housing there is no need for a “NO Trespassing” or “Beware of Dog” sign. Just put a sign in the yard that says, “We have no kids and no wii”

My husband Jon and I are like big kids ourselves. One of the first purchases we made as a married couple was a huge trampoline that we put up in the back yard. Word spread fast in our neighborhood. Kids would ride their bikes by our house and see our heads popping up over the fence then disappearing.  Every bounce was followed by giggles. Once they saw me flip threw the air they figured it out.  Next thing I knew every afternoon I had about a dozen kids and moms hanging out in my back yard. Thank goodness for the Schwann’s man for keeping us stocked with push-up pops and fudge cycles. I had a ready supply of kid MREs of fruit roll ups, kid’s drinks, cookies and diet cokes for the moms. Our back yard and patio had turned into a romper room. The neighborhood kids liked being around me as I was always talking in silly voices and acting hyper and wild with them. Once in a while I would get out my fart machine and we would really have a good time. I could give moms a break as I entertained the little ones.

I did have one rule during play time on the trampoline: no eating or drinking while jumping. One day my neighbors three year old David  was bouncing happily when I saw chocolate milk all over the trampoline. When ever another child bounced, the milk went flying. I shouted to the moms, “Hey which of you gave David the Yoo-hoo? No jumping and drinking.” All the moms looked at me blankly. So I followed the source of the mess and low and behold, it was not a dripping ice cream or yoo hoo…but it was coming from one of the children; David’s super soaked swim diaper to be exact. He looked at me and giggled.  He ran when I tried to catch him, his seeping diaper leaving a trail behind him.  That day, my husband was greeted at the top of the driveway by a group of neighborhood wives spraying down a slew of nude toddlers. The trampoline was officially closed for the rest of the week.

Many children were perplexed by the fact that we had no children. They did not understand how we had a trampoline and endless amounts of ice cream and juice boxes with no kids. So they assumed I was the child and Jon was my dad. I am sure my rather immature nature and the fact that I am only five feet tall had no influence on their reasoning. Not too many mommies were cutting flips on trampoline and rolling around on roller skates in the driveway. We know Marines all look alike with their high and tights and utilities so to children, my husband Jon looked like their daddies. I was about their size, so I must be the child. Sometimes when playing with my neighbor’s children in the driveway when Jon would come home a few of them would run up and say, “Is yours daddy gonna make you go inside now?”

With Jon gone more than he was home, my neighbor and her two boys quickly became my best friends. It was natural for me to take the boys on a Friday night so the parents could have a night out. One night I had the three year old David and his five year old brother Jacob over for some fun. I loved their rambunctious nature. I set up my old Nintendo, (yes, Mario Brothers circa 1990). In ten minutes the five year old had mastered the game. He was enthralled but the three year old wasn’t looking so hot. I asked him, “David, are you ok buddy?” He quickly responded, “My tummy hurts.” Before I could lean over to hug him, my legs and feet were covered in strawberry yogurt throw up.  I completely freaked out! I literally froze as the tiny boy started to cry. This was not fun! The next thing I know I had us both in the tub spraying our feet with the shower nozzle, while he continued to spew yogurt against the sides of the shower. All I cared about was cleaning it up FAST! I had no idea what to do first. My thoughts raced; get him to the toilet, you are going to go to jail if you stay in the shower with this child whom you are NOT related to! Get a cool wash cloth for his head, don’t let him track it all over the house, are my dogs stepping in this?

Finally my brain said STOP! I had to think like a mom, not like an immature babysitter. I had to get this child comfortable. I changed my thinking and grew up. I had to realize the most important issue is not my feet or my floors, it’s this little boy condition; time to change perspective and get serious.  It’s not always “fun” with kids. He is sick, and I had to imagine how I would feel if I was at someone else’s house, wanting my mommy and not feeling good. I had to get this boy comfortable and calm. My frantic activity was not soothing his tummy at all. Focused now, I soon had little David in one of Jon’s PT shirts and laying still on the bean bag with a cool wash cloth and a soft blanket sipping on pedialite. Once I was sure he was settled I then I got back to cleaning up tiny pink foot prints which were spread all over the hall. All though I wondered if this child had some kind of fetish to leek bodily fluids all over property, I knew as the boy laid still and smiled up at me that I was good for other things than just fun and silliness. I realized then that I offered moms and their kids something beyond laughs. I knew then that I was capable of comforting the kids as well as entertaining them. Even though being serious is not my strength I knew then kids and moms could rely on me if there was a challenge. I was surprised to find out that this part of baby sitting was just as fulfilling as the fun stuff.