There really is something to be said for watching kids grow up. As a sort-of kid myself and a younger sibling, I rarely feel that warm sense of pride that so many adults seem to get from watching their children or little sisters and brothers grow into young adults. I actually didn’t think this would be a feeling I would get to experience until I one day would have children of my own.
When I first arrived in New York as a college freshman I quickly found myself spending hundreds more than I had anticipated, and looking for jobs in every direction. I e-mailed everyone I knew asking if they knew any families in New York who might need a babysitter, and lucked out when my uncle (my mom’s brother-in-law) replied, telling me that he would put me in touch with his brother who lived with his wife and two kids in Tribeca. One thing led to another and I soon ended up “babysitting” every couple of weeks for this brother and sister who I hadn’t little connection to beyond the distant family relation. The reason I say “babysitting” instead of capital-b Babysitting is because these “kids,” I’ll call them Mike and Jenna, were already 11 and 13 at the time, too old be “put to bed” but too young to be at home late at night alone. Their two parents both worked in theater and weren’t home most nights, so my responsibilities were mostly making sure they got their homework done, ordering them pizza, and telling them to go to bed around 10:30pm.
What began as an awkward babysitter-to-teenager situation has developed into a relationship that I consider more bonded that most of my relationships to even my cousins. I have seen these kids through a lot. Since that first night in 2009, I have helped Jenna and Mike both enter high school, cooked them dinners and breakfasts, counseled them through tumultuous teenage romances, gone to multiple school performances, and have even felt my heart break for them as their parents went through a divorce. And throughout these four years, though they may have little clue, Jenna and Mike have helped me get through eight stressful rounds of final exams, heal the wounds of doomed relationships, and navigate my professional goals.
Now Jenna is a senior in high school and Mike a sophomore. Sometimes their problems actually seem too big for me to handle. What do I know about meeting your dad’s new girlfriend? How can I possibly help Jenna get into those colleges I never considered myself? I really can’t answer many of their questions anymore, so instead I give to them where I can. I now teach them how to bake brownies from scratch and how to start their homework ahead of time. I can’t tell them when to go to bed, but I can show them how to research a paper.
I don’t really “babysit” Jenna and Mike anymore. They don’t need me for that. So recently I’ve been coming downtown to help them with their essays for school. I don’t do it so much for the money or to help their parents anymore. It’s kind of for me now. I love the relationship I have with these guys and am going to have a very hard time giving it up as Jenna goes off to college and Mike gets too old to hang out with me. I only hope they keep coming back to me when they need advice.