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What I Am.

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I’ve been babysitting a friend’s daughter for a week while their daycare is on vacation. I was happy to volunteer for the job since I’m home with Scarlet every day and I really love the kid – Charlotte (nickname, Ru). I also have selfish reasons for wanting to watch Charlotte – it’s helping Scarlet socialize better. She’s been letting go a bit of her bossiness and toy/game/everything possessiveness. She wants to do everything Charlotte does. Even when Charlotte is not around, we can use her name and use this to our advantage. “Ru eats bananas.” “I eat bananas too.” “No bath!” “No? Well Ru is taking a bath in her home.” “I take bath too!” Seriously, I know it won’t work forever but it’s been laugh-inducing and has gotten Scarlet to take a bath and eat a banana. Parent of the year over here. I really have to use this sparingly or it will backfire very fast.

I used to babysit regularly. I did it from age 11 (what the heck were those parents thinking?) up into my 20s. Really, until I had branched out in the world after college. I started babysitting a family with a nine-month-old and he is now a bright teenager. I like to think he owes some of his successes to me, as I witnessed a lot of his baby/toddler firsts, but I think he’s just a product of great parenting. Even so, I take babysitting duties very seriously. I’m more careful than I am with my own.

And before you call the authorities on me, I just mean that I know what Scarlet is or isn’t capable of and I’m much more relaxed with her. With other people’s kids, I treat them like the valuable possesions/rare gems that they are. Baby gates, food cut into tiny, tiny pieces, lots of affection, constant books, TV off and remote hidden, naps right on schedule..

It’s been a bit of a learning experience. Charlotte is eight months younger than Scarlet so there are a lot of developmental differences, but the character differences are more intriguing. Scarlet wakes up and she is all go. She is a nonstop chatterbox running around the house. Charlotte is so different. When she wakes up from a nap, she is quiet and thoughtful, at least in my house. Yesterday after she woke up, she sat on my lap while I was kneeling and she stayed that way. For 25 minutes. In silence. Eventually I stopped looking at the clock and I settled into the moment. Even though my legs fell asleep and then went numb and then got extreme pins and needles and then went numb again over and over, I wasn’t moving. I didn’t want to disturb her peace. I didn’t want to disturb my own peace. It was so very zen of us. Of Charlotte.

And it’s not always quiet. We have rowdy dance parties. Charlotte came over before Scarlet had woken up yesterday morning and I thought it would be funny to send her in alone when Scarlet woke up. I hid behind the door while Charlotte barreled into the room to where Scarlet was standing up in her crib. They greeted each other like two sisters who had been apart for 18 years. In reality, it had only been…18 hours. I was crying from laughter at how cute the whole thing was.

And we’ve been watching this amazing YouTube video together and dancing. It’s called “What I Am.”

Before writing this, I’d been lazing in a chair, half in the sun in our living room. The girls were sitting side by side, each enjoying their own toy. Scarlet was enjoying an Us Weekly magazine and Charlotte was enjoying our Playstation 3 controller. (seriously – parent/babysitter of the year over here) I’d been devouring Ann Brashare’s latest book, “Sisterhood Everlasting.” I’m near the end and a love scene about long-distance, reuniting lovers gave me intense chills. I looked up at the girls and saw Charlotte put down her Playstation 3 controller and put her arm affectionately around Scarlet’s shoulder. Scarlet looked up from Us Weekly (a Justin Bieber article) and gave Charlotte a half smile. They both looked back and grinned at me.

And it occurred to me that I was being present again. That I wasn’t thinking at all about my past or my uncertain future. I was just there, in the moment, learning so much about life from two very young girls.

What I am is…happy. I’m happy that Scarlet has friends, that she may or may not eventually alienate with her bossiness. I’m happy that I have friends who trust me enough to leave their most valuable possession, their rare gem in my care.

And yet another both selfless and selfish reason I love spending a whole day with the girls? Photos! Selfless because I am doing it for Charlotte’s parents to see the cuteness-overload that I’ve been subject to for a few days. Selfish because I always love a new photography subject. Seriously, though. Look at these photos and weep. These are un-staged and un-posed interactions. I did not tell them to do any of these things and I had to be really sneaky to capture the moments well. They’re silly but they’re real. I know people spend lots of money at portrait places to put their kids in ridiculous outfits in front of bright lights and sorta ugly backdrops. I get that. But if you ever want anything different…come find me. I’ll hook you up.

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