2021 Writing Contest 3rd Place Submission, Level B
Building Trust through Babysitting by Nina S.
A piercing cry cut through the air as Mommy disappeared. Desperately, I scooped up the one-year-old that I was to babysit, bounced her up and down, and offered her what I intended to be comforting words: “You’ll be okay. Mommy will be back soon.” At the mention of the word “Mommy,” another penetrating scream ensued. Meanwhile the protesting child’s brother energetically flung himself off the couch in a successful attempt to gain some of my attention. Reaching towards him with one hand while stabilizing his sister on my hip with the other, I thought, “I’m not sure I can handle this.” I had always loved young children and had been gifted at helping with my friend’s younger siblings, but my first moments of babysitting were surprisingly different. I had never had to deal with a child who faced separation anxiety while simultaneously managing another who craved attention and knew few safety boundaries. When I entered the house for my first babysitting job, my trust in myself had already been low, but as I wrangled the children, it plummeted to a non-existent level. Thankfully, since then I have been able to prove myself true to my word, safe in my choices, and consistently dependable when caring for these children, and thereby have come to trust myself.
Since I was a young child, my mother has repeatedly drilled into my head the words, “Mommy always keeps her word. For good or for bad, she keeps her word.” After my desperate fight for survival on the first day I babysat, a slightly modified version of my mother’s motto became one of my babysitting mindsets and a dependable way of being trustworthy. I decided that I would consistently be true to my word for the children I cared for. As such, whenever the siblings I babysit for begin to brawl or have yelling competitions over a toy, a chicken, a swing, a goat, or any of the innumerable things which they fight over, I inform them that if they do not stop fighting over the thing, it will go away. Sadly, they rarely stop arguing at that moment. However, once I follow through on my word, one of the children typically repents, or both of them become happily distracted by something else. Of course, I do not just implement negative consequences; I also entice the children with welcome rewards. For example, sometimes as I face the true struggle of encouraging them to finish their lunches, I offer them a donut, a pop, or a show to motivate a few more bites. Usually it works. The children have come to understand that if I say something, I will do it, and I have shown myself how true to my word I can be.
As a babysitter I have also had to come to rely on myself to maintain a safe atmosphere. It is not always easy. For example, one icy winter day when I arrived at babysitting, the older child raced up to me excitedly holding an ice skate in each hand while calling my name. “Come ice skate with me!” he begged, which made me extraordinarily concerned and confused. I had no idea where we might skate or how we could safely do so until the child’s mother told me that they have a small, shallow pond on the edge of their property in the backwoods. Unfortunately, when the boy, his sister, and I reached the pond, I noticed that its far side did not look solid. Worrying that the children might fall through if they went too far out on the pond, I drew a line in the snow that had accumulated on the pond’s surface. That two-feet-from-the-edge line became our visual boundary. On that day and on subsequent days, the children and I played, jumped, sledded, and overall had an exciting and enjoyable time on the pond. No one got hurt because I always observed the conditions of the ice, set safe boundaries, and communicated with the children. Because they know I wish to keep them safe and will follow through on my word, we were able to trust one another as we enjoyed adventurous yet harmless time on the pond.
In fact, as the seasons passed on the small homestead that I babysit on, and spring rolled back around, the children came to realize that they could always depend on me to safely explore their little corner of the world with them. Likewise, I grew in trust for myself, confident that I could take on whatever adventure they set before me. One day, that adventure revolved around goats. When I arrived at work, the little girl, who once screamed upon seeing me, came running, grabbed my hand, and gestured for me to follow her. Her brother soon joined her in tugging me through their entryway while impatiently bubbling over about how we had to go outside to see their new baby goats. Such an experience may not sound that daring, but believe me, it was, for when we arrived at the goat pen, the little boy pulled at the metal chain to try to open the gate. Meanwhile, I held his laughing little sister in my arms and fumbled to help undo the chain. Then as the children ran into the enclosure, I was once again confused because I did not see any baby goats. Following the children, I discovered that the newborn kids were attempting to walk and run in a mini-enclosure of their own, which was separated from the main enclosure with baby gates. Thus, I had to lift my two eager and squirming young companions over the barrier while trying not to accidentally drop them on the heads of the wee little goats. As soon as the children’s feet hit the ground, they began chasing the poor little creatures. They stumbled over poop-peppered pine shavings as they attempted to grasp the kids by any body part that they could get ahold of. Repeating the words, “Gentle. Be kind. Be kind to them,” I quickly stepped over the baby gate and proceeded to care not only for the children and their safety but also for that of the baby goats. Those kids sure had to depend on me and my judgement! Fortunately, throughout the months of babysitting, I had learned to trust my growing wisdom in order to handle crazy situations.
Since I began babysitting, I have learned that I can be dependable, safe, and true to my word when caring for others. These days, each time I walk through the children’s front door and they come rushing happily to greet me, I remember how far we have come since our first ear-splitting, trust-depleting first day. Throughout the seasons the children have come to trust me, and I have learned to trust myself as well. Who knew that babysitting could increase one’s trustworthiness so much?
Wonderfully written, Nina! “With realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world.” – The Dalai Lama