That’s how old the boys are that I provide child care for occasionally, and spent my day with at a lake yesterday. I used to watch them regularly but changed jobs last year. The older boy was just two months old when I started the job.
My son was in full-blown adolescence then so it was perfect work for me to watch a child who needed and wanted me as my child was pulling away. The difference between my son as a baby and the baby I was caring for was so stark. I didn’t know a child could be so easy to care for. My son’s pediatrician told me that my son was a ‘high need’ baby as I sat in his office back then, crying from lack of sleep and feeling so inadequate as a parent, and indeed, I was nursing him every two hours, which continued for seven months before he stopped nursing so voraciously, and he was colicky as well. My mother came to help me during that time, while my son’s father was two states away at his job, coming back on weekends. My son’s father and I weren’t happy as it was, and having a child only put more stress on our relationship. We broke up and I moved out when our son turned a year old.
When my friend’s second boy was born, I began watching him at two weeks old, and he was an easy baby as well. I loved caring for those boys. It was so good for me because I wasn’t watching a whole group of children as I did when I worked at a daycare center, and I didn’t have twenty-four hour responsibility for them.
I still had parenting duties with my son, even though it wasn’t very joyful anymore, but I had enough positive experiences that dealing with my son’s adolescent angst and unpredictability was more manageable than it might have been.
I would give my son hugs and tell him that I loved him every day, as he stood there, arms by his side, at least allowing me to hug him briefly. I would say that although he was rapidly changing, I was not, so it was going to take me far longer to adjust. It was so painful for me to go from living with a boy who wanted to be with me, who called out to me several times a day that he loved me, who enjoyed spending time with me, to the stranger who I now occupied the same physical space with, but could hardly be further from emotionally. Oh, and did I mention I was living with treatment-resistant depression, and I was a single parent?
I might have screwed up far more than I did with my son if it hadn’t been for my childcare job. As the boys got older, they were somewhat in awe of my son, especially the older boy I watched. When my son was there the older boy wanted to follow him around and it was sometimes a challenge to help my son have private space when the boys were with me. I would usually see if my son could spend time with one of his friends during school vacations or days when I had the boys and my son was around.
I took those boys on many adventures during our days together, but our favorite pastime was finding cows. I’d drive them to farms and we’d visit with cows and read books about cows, and while other animals were included, cows ruled.
I don’t think I could love those kids anymore if they were my own, and I’m so grateful when I get to watch them now. The last few times I spent with them, the older boy has been questioning me about why they don’t see me that much. I explained that I had another job, and they have school now, and days that I could see them their schedule and mine didn’t work that often. He looked at me and said, “Well, we just don’t see you enough.”
So, I can’t get adult relationships right in my life, but I have a six year-old who knows how to work a room! Yesterday before I left he hugged me and said “I just don’t want to let go.” I said, “I know, me either!” The younger boy and I have a happy, loving, and super fun connection too, but the older boy knows how to articulate what he’s feeling, and isn’t shy about telling me.
I have to figure out how to spend more time with them because they’re going to be seven and five in a few months, and the opportunities to spend significant time with them grows slimmer with each year. While I so enjoy working with children, it can also be heart-wrenching.
I’ll be bringing my son back to college in a week, and he’ll be back home for Thanksgiving and his winter vacation, but he won’t be back next summer. We know we love one another, and our bond is solid, but he’s a man now – no matter how much I wished to keep him a boy – and I feel the grief about losing him rising up all over again. I don’t need to be consoled through platitudes or pity – not that anyone is trying to – but I do need a new purpose and I don’t know where to go or what to do yet.
© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.