And on Tuesday... I was deluged. Okay, not deluged, but at least four or five people called looking for babysitters, including one woman who actually woke me up a half hour ahead of the alarm on Wednesday morning. ("I saw your name on the Helping Heels list." "Um (yawn) - did this list by any chance just come out yesterday?" "Yes, just yesterday!") Anyway, the only one I was able to accommodate was named Amber; she was looking for two people to work for the next four Thursdays at a preschool-slash-day care center for a few hours in the afternoons/evenings while a workshop was held for the parents. $10 an hour plus free transportation; not too shabby. So that's what I spent yesterday afternoon and evening doing (before the premiere of Gray's Anatomy, that is). The other girl's name was Erica; she's a sophomore, and doesn't have as much experience as I do, but at least she's not afraid to interact and get down in the sandbox with the kids and stuff.
We ended up only having to corral 4 kids, the ones who were old enough to run around. The babies stayed inside with one of the center's employees, who was putting in some overtime. So we had two little black girls, about two years old (whom I could NOT keep straight), a toddler boy of about 18 months (with a nut allergy, to add to the fun), and a four-year-old Hispanic girl named, of all things, Genesis. I was sort of sorry that some of the kids who were there when we arrived didn't get to stay - there was a little black boy, three and a half or so, with a shaved head, who was the most talkative, athletic, and polite child of that age I have ever come across. He could throw a perfect spiral with the Nerf football and run like a wide receiver, which you would think might make him hyperactive and hard to control - yet he was constantly asking, "Will you play with me, please?" and saying thank you for every little thing. After about 20 minutes with him, his dad was ready to go, so I handed him over, saying, "This kid's going to quarterback for the Panthers when he grows up!", making him laugh.
Anyway, all the kids were sweet, but I bonded with Genesis the most. She was the oldest by a good two years, and a real firecracker - always testing the limits, to see how much she could get away with. Standing on the table? Spitting water onto other people? Pulling off the other kids' clothes? You name it, she tried it. But after the first hour or so (during which time she dealt principally with me, as Erica seemed a little intimidated by her), she settled down and became a lot of fun. I'd forgotten how nice it is to work with a child that you can, at least to some degree, reason with. When I explained why she couldn't do something, she almost always nodded her head and went along with it. Dealing with an eleven-month-old two days a week tends to make you forget about that possibility. (When one of the two-year-olds didn't want to get out of the sandbox to be given to her mother to go home, Erica sort of laughed helplessly and asked me, "Any suggestions?" I raised my eyebrows. "Honestly? Just pick her up and take her over there!")
The other cool thing about Genesis was that she spoke Spanish. I didn't realize that at first, because her English wasn't accented, but then her father came to the gate at one point and said something to her which didn't sound like English to me. When he walked off towards his logo-imprinted van, Erica asked, "Does your daddy drive that van to work?"
"Uh-huh. Genesis Carpet," she answered. (I wondered aloud whether she was named after the company or whether the company was named after her, but she didn't seem to know.) But she said 'Genesis' with an accent, tipping me off.
"Hablas espanol en casa?" I asked.
"Uh-huh," she replied, then looked at me curiously. "Como que tu sabes?!"
I laughed. "Porque tu papa habló en espanol contigo!"
That amused me. I know that bilingual kids often don't consciously realize they know two languages until they're a little older, but I still thought it was funny that she didn't make that connection - after all, her dad had been there less than a minute earlier. Ah, well, she's four.
(Forgive my lack of symbols on the Spanish; Blogger turns them into funny things when I try to use them. I tried it on 'hablo'-with-an-accent - past tense - because that could be misinterpreted as first person present if I left it off, but it still gives me a funny symbol instead of an accented O - what does it do for you guys?)
Anyway, the other thing was, working with Erica sort of made me realize how much I know. I liked her a lot - she was friendly and very willing to play and get involved - but there were things that caught my attention, too. For example, when one of the little girls was getting a little upset because she wanted to go see her mom (whom she knew was inside), Erica kept mentioning the mother. "Can you see your mama through the door? What's she doing in there?" That's just going to make it worse. The better course of action would have been to just distract her - which I did, picking her up and swinging her around and making her giggle. (Of course, then everyone else had to have a turn - and a second, and a third - but I didn't hear "Mama!" again for the rest of the evening.) Then, after eating (lasagna, no less), she let the kids go charging back down towards the play yard, covered in tomato sauce from head to foot. I had to catch them, get them turned around, and sluice them all off with baby wipes. And in the sandbox, when one of the little girls was dumping sand on her, she responded with a friendly 'Aaah! It's going down my pants! You're covering me up!' and stuff like that. Which, of course, drew both the other little girl and the toddler boy to join the fun and throw sand all over her. If she wanted them to stop (which she did - she wasn't really okay with it, she just didn't know how to discipline them), she should have either told them no or diverted them to something else - her feet, for instance, since she was wearing flipflops. After sand went in Genesis's hair one too many times, I said, "I bet you guys could cover up Erica's feet with that sand, look!" and sure enough, there was a new project, no throwing or sandy pants involved.
I don't know... maybe this is just a pointless, long-winded, arrogant post, but that sort of stuff just really doesn't seem that hard to me. I'm 22 and have been working with kids since I started being a mother's helper to my cousin Megan when I was eleven. It's instinctual. I know how to pick my battles with kids - when to say no, when to ignore, when to use a time-out, when to distract, and when to allow something because it isn't worth the effort of stopping it. I know never to fill a two-year-old's glass all the way, how high to push a toddler on a 'big kid' swing, and how to guess a child's age. I know what questions to ask a child, how to talk so they pay attention, and how to explain things in their terms. And you know what? I'm proud of knowing all those things. None of those skills are going to come in handy at all for my degree or in my future profession, I admit - but they'll help me out a lot when the time comes for me to be a mom. I've spent a lifetime learning this stuff, and the world needs people who have these instincts. Because the more people who know what they're doing during the formative years of the next generation, the better.
Anyway, I guess I started thinking about that today because I (finally) had that ultrasound on my arm, which took place in the women's hospital - meaning the first person I saw when I walked in was a woman in a wheelchair holding her newborn, and that during the multiple check-in processes I was constantly asked whether this was a pregnancy ultrasound. Lying there in the darkened room looking at the bands of gray swish around on the monitor, I thought about what it might be like a few years from now, when I might be lying there for a different reason, trying to decipher something else out of the swirling grayness on the screen. And it was sort of reassuring, because no matter how out of my depth I sometimes feel in my classes, I know that when it comes to the life stuff that 'really' matters, that I'll be okay.
They couldn't tell me anything, by the way - the tech just said, "I can see a tissue change, but what it is, I don't know," and said the doctor from the student health center should call me next week with the results. I'm not worried - the 'bad stuff' is usually painful and would keep getting bigger, not growing and shrinking every month - but I am curious.
Two more weeks until the triathlon, AAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!
This weekend: one swim practice,
Next week: the Gilmore Girls premiere, midterms in phonetics and syntax (which is why the week is going to SUCK), the second Thursday babysitting gig, paying rent, and our swim meet at UGA.