When I was younger, the gang and I largely judged our athleticism by our ability to clear the six-foot fence in arial dives from the neighbors tree-house or our all-metal jungle gym onto our backyard trampoline. Not that this was always entirely successful...I think most of my memories are not of the dives themselves, but more of the taste of gravel and the feeling of cold metal springs smacked up against my thighs. Come to think of it, I loved jumping off things growing up... In one particularly dangerous, ultimately successful endeavor, I tied one end of a string to a loose tooth and the other to the railing of our bunk-bed and then....well, you get the picture.
My parents were awesome like that though, letting us kids play as only the pre-millenial generation knew how. When my dad wasn't planning a scouting jamboree or practicing his taekwondo/board breaking in the garage for some motivational seminar, he was taking us kids up to Estas for elk bugling competitions or letting us practice archery on bulls-eye targets in the backyard. Later in the night, we'd snuggle up in my parent's bed while mom read us "Little House on the Prairie" beneath dad's photo-realistic ink portrait of a Jaguar and her various toll-painted handicrafts. I think back on these times fondly and with amazement at the beautiful childhood my parents gave me, with a subtle suspicion that I myself will never be half the parent to my own (future) children that they were to me.
While this may very well be the case, I have picked up a thing or two in my year of nannying while we were in Seattle. I worked for a family in Green Lake who had a little four-year-old (T) and two-year-old (B) boy, and it was the best job for me at that time in my life. While reliving many of my childhood memories, I got to explore the city and learn a little of what my "parenting" style is like.
|Stacking blocks: a particular favorite activity of ours|
|Here's B at the zoo in a cage I think...?|
|Hard at work|
|B and I loved to go to the park and watch the ducks while T was at preschool|
|For Halloween, I was one of T's favorite things: A Stoplight|
|We would often go to little coffee shops just to play with the other kids and the train tables|
|It's the little things I'll miss the most...|
|The after effects of one of our adventures|
|Love these books!|
|Sweating is a good thing|
|T is very brilliant and much ahead of his class in some areas. I would draw him diagrams to explain how the world works in storyboard sequence...the story of Little Red Riding Hood or how to make toilet paper|
|We invented indoor block bowling for rainy day fun at home|
|Their favorite adventure was going downtown to the Seattle City Center to see the Space Needle, International Fountain, and go to the Pacific Science Center|
|This arena was perfect for smashing cars into one another|
|So many favorite toys in this picture|
|Museum of Flight|
|Another one of my creations was called "water table" and involved some fine sensory-motor tasks. B would suck up water from one container and transfer it to another for hours if I let him|
|The International Fountain we loved to watch|
|Bandaid moustache so he could match his injured brother|
|This is my favorite photo from out at the Ballard Locks with the kiddos. Did I mention T's fascination with stoplights.|
|The Ballard Locks|
|Just baking cookies like we do|
|Being Seattle, there were always mud puddles to jump in|
|I love all the tiny finger foods from mealtimes|
|On our way to our daily adventures! Probably cranking the tunes|
|A toddler's paradise|
|Another sensorimotor sorting activity (sorting colored erasers in muffin tins). We also played with bubbles, play doh, stringing noodles, fingerpaints, and shaving cream among other things.|
|Who needs the petting zoo when you have Petco?|
|T sleepin in a box|
|We loved music! The dad would often let me break out his guitar and we'd have impromptu concerts with singing nursery rhymes into the microphone. B also loved sing-and-play along toddler story time at the Library every week|
|Believe it or not, B was the one who always wanted to take Selfies.|
About myself, I learned that I actually like kids after all (surprising, no?). I had always been a good babysitter until this position, but after a 40-hour-a-week responsibility, I realized I actually was comfortable spending inordinate amounts of time with little people and involving them in all sorts of daily activities and routines. It was fun to play with them, invent crafts and sensory activities, watch them learn and grow, and I felt like I could and can still be very fulfilled while caring for their needs (which is an essential realization to aid future family planning). Life doesn't stop when you have kids, it can still be exciting and busy and rewarding, and you can incorporate things you like into their routines to keep your sanity. Occasionally, I would nix things that gave me a headache or made me go a different version of crazy than I normally am. If there was a song or TV program I couldn't stand, I would redirect them to other songs or videos to avoid listening to it. If I was really feeling exhausted, we'd stay in and play. It may sound a little selfish, but I realized that you have to keep yourself happy and entertained if you want fulfillment and longevity on top of your sanity. And my mom friends back me up on this.
I also discovered my caregiver style is quite active, and there was rarely a day when we weren't off on an adventure from collecting sticks and leaves on a nature walk to 'indulging in cultural enlightenment' at the Seattle Art Museum or local Library. I became familiar with their favorite things and got good at mentally mapping routes and planning diaper-bag packing and car trips so we would be on time to everything (the trick is to leave 15 minutes ahead of when you think you should). I knew exactly which play gyms were best (and we visited them all) and what hours community activities were open or free. I planned ahead and always brought changes of clothes and snacks, and learned to develop activities for the days we stayed home and played.
There were aspects of the job I didn't enjoy and have probably repressed somewhat since June to be honest (many of them involve bodily functions or weeks out of the year when I was sick with a cold). But even with all of the liquids from both ends, potty training, and temper tantrums, I'll really love and miss these kiddos and the times I spent learning how to be a "mom".