Friday, August 21, 2009

Seeing What's Missing With Our Kids

Unlike most of my friends, I didn't do a lot of babysitting when I was a teenager. I didn't have younger siblings and I wasn't really comfortable taking care of kids. I babysat once for an infant when I was 14 or so, and it was so terrifying that I never did it again.

At 45 years of age, it has become a 'badge of honor' that I've never changed a diaper. At this point, it has become a life goal to NEVER change a diaper. :)

I did babysit one summer - ALL summer - 12 hours a day for a family 2 houses away from my family home. I was 12 years old. I cared for a 3 and 5 year old. They were two of the most spoiled, bratty children I've ever encountered. For my $5 a day (yes... for 12 hours) I was also expected to clean their house and do their laundry. Sometimes they would even have parties on Saturday night and leave all the clean up for me. It was exploitation at its worst. The kids were awful. I was not allowed to have friends over, nor was I allowed to speak on the phone to friends. If I did, they told their parents and I got in trouble. It was horrible. Sometimes I think that one horrible summer is the reason I've never had any children!!

At any rate, as I got older, I did babysit a little. I babysat for two families in my neighborhood. One family had a girl a few years younger than me and another girl almost my age (but I was such a little adult I seemed more mature). I enjoyed that. The older girl would sneak out of her room at night and we would hang out while her younger sister slept. That was fun.

The other family had twin girls who were lots younger than me, and one girl who was 5 years younger than me. I used to babysit for that family for free. I just liked the kids and I liked giving the parents time off to themselves. As I got into high school I would even babysit an occasional weekend to give them get-a-ways together.

When babysitting for the family with the three daughters back in the late 70's and early 80's I noticed that these kids had very little imagination. I had grown up inventing my own games, playing in cardboard boxes, writing stories and creating rich inner worlds. These kids needed toys and attention constantly to feel 'entertained.' (I shudder to think how things stack up now in our world of constant stimulation, fast moving everything and video games).

I decided to take on a project to instill in the two younger girls a sense of wonder and imagination. I started doing things like pretending I had miniature people help me in the kitchen when they weren't with me. I'd whip up all sorts of miniature snacks with the help of my 'little people' friends and serve them up to the girls. They were enchanted and mesmerized!

I wrote stories for them and helped them 'invent' their own activities without benefit of toys.

I got them busy creating their own stories and games. I nurtured a tiny flame of imagination and creativity inside them. They took to it like fish to water. They just needed a chance and some encouragement!

I am still proud of what I did for those girls. I hoped it took them away from needing to be 'entertained' and taught them that they could create their own interesting experiences in life.

When we are around kids, they are often missing things. Parents can't provide everything. Sometimes our culture robs kids of their childhood and their innocence. Peer pressure causes them to 'want' all kinds of things that aren't healthy or good for them.

I think all adults have a responsibility to really 'see' the kids around them and give them what they truly need. Not the latest fashions or the best of everything... but what they NEED. Parents, aunts, uncles, friends... it doesn't matter. We all share a responsibility for the future. Our kids are our future.

Look and see what is really 'needed' and do your best to give it to the kids around you. It matters - a great deal.