Is a 45 year age difference creepy?
Probably. But I don’t care. I’ve fallen in love with a one-year-old. I admit it.
I am a woman who has never really wanted kids (although I did have a brief period in my mid-thirties when I thought I wanted to be pregnant…which is completely different than wanting kids, I realized). I like quiet. I like a tidy house. I like my things just so. I am not really cut out for parenting. And that’s okay. Some of us aren’t. Between Bonnie and me, we have twelve nieces and nephews ranging from age 25 down to age 3. So we’ve got the child thing covered.
When we moved from New York to Florida and then up to North Carolina several years ago, I was home writing full-time, but needed to make a bit of supplemental income. A wonderful couple of moms were looking for a sitter for their two kids after school. It was perfect. A few hours a day, extra money for me, still left me time to write. Surprisingly (to me), I adored the two kids pretty quickly.
So babysitting on the side became my thing to earn a little extra cash. Kind of a weird career move for somebody who’s not a huge fan of kids. But when we returned home to Rochester, I did it again, and I sat for 4-year-old Addison until she started first grade. She was the perfect kid to watch: she liked quiet and she LOVED to color (as do I). We colored all the time, me and Addison. Good times.
Cut to last year. Our good friends Jennifer and David were pregnant and due in June. Jenn had maternity leave until early September, and they were actively looking for some day care (which is ridiculously expensive, FYI. Wow.). I am not even sure what brought it on, but I asked them one day if they’d found somebody. They had. They’d found a woman who lives about 20 minutes away. She would watch the baby, along with a couple others and not charge them a million dollars. (Side note: Jenn and Dave live about three and a half minutes from us.) I ran it by Bonnie, then sent a text to Jenn and said, “What if I did it?” They know me. They trust me. I live very close. I’m home alone all day. It was perfect. Jenn and Dave were ecstatic. And so it was: I told them I’d be happy to babysit Charlotte until she was a toddler (I was pretty sure after that, she’d be too much for me). So…at least the first nine months to a year.
First: let’s get to the silliness of my assumption that I’d just write while the baby slept. HA! Go ahead. Laugh. HA! Never happened. Lesson #1: when the baby sleeps, you either clean up your crap from when she was awake or you sleep, too. Luckily, I only have her an average of two and a half days a week, so I still have time to write.
Second, let’s discuss the sheer bliss of having a baby fall asleep on you. My house was unfamiliar to Charlotte at first, and she did not like being put down in her playpen for a nap. It didn’t take me long to learn the signs of, “I’m tired.” Squirming. Rubbing of the eyes. Rubbing her face against me. I learned when to start rocking her, and she would easily fall asleep in my arms. And then? I’d sit on the couch and watch TV while she took a two-hour nap. I know. I know. I should’ve put her down even though she would most likely have woken right back up. But I couldn’t. There was something so amazingly peaceful about having her sleep on me. Lesson #2: there is nothing quite so awesome as having an infant feel secure enough to fall asleep in your arms and stay there.
To all of you moms out there: I finally get the whole, “I don’t really care if my clothes don’t match because I’m tired, and I don’t have time to care” thing. That happened to me one day, and it was like a lightning bolt of understanding. Charlotte was fussy. She hadn’t napped, and we were both exhausted. I knew I could pop her in the stroller and go for a walk and life would be good. She loves her stroller. But I couldn’t really put her down anywhere to change my clothes because she’d be off like a shot (if speed crawling was an Olympic sport, she’d have a slew of gold medals). I was wearing black shorts and a bright fluorescent yellow shirt which had some kind of food on it from the baby’s lunch. The only shoes within reach were my pink Nikes. My hair was in a messy ponytail, so I threw on a blue hat. Yeah, what’s that? Four separate colors? Not necessarily complementary ones? Exactly. I got her into the stroller, and we were on our merry way as I hoped I wouldn’t run into anybody I knew. The whole time we walked, I pictured cars driving by, getting an eyeful of my mismatched and stained outfit, and thinking, “Oh, that poor mom is tired.” Lesson #3: I get it, moms. I get it. You wear whatever the hell is within reach. More power to you.
Then came the day when I lost my mind. The baby was approaching the 9-month-old mark. Jenn is a very organized woman, very much a planner. So she sent me a text saying it was time to have that dreaded talk because she needed to figure out where Charlotte would go next. The baby was very close to walking. She was becoming a much bigger handful than an infant who sits in my arms all day. She was moving around the house, touching everything, putting everything in her mouth (the dogs’ toys are her favorite). I thought about Jenn’s text. I thought about Charlotte and her little pudgy face and her tiny hands and her adorable feet. Then I thought about some other sitter blowing raspberries on her sweet little belly and smelling her baby head and kissing those cheeks. And you know what? I couldn’t stand it. I texted Jenn, “What if I can’t give her up? What if I just want to keep watching her?” WHAAAAAAAT? Needless to say, Jenn was ecstatic. Lesson #4: be careful. A baby can steal your heart when you’re not looking. Just like THAT. *insert finger snap here*
So here we are today. Charlotte turned 1 last week. Bonnie and I went to her birthday party. I can’t say it was awful when she bypassed both grandmas and an aunt and came right to me with her pudgy little arms up. No, that did not suck. It’s summer, and I keep thinking of things we can do together. My garage is full of baby toys. My downstairs closet contains a giant Rubbermaid container full of toys. There is a high chair in my kitchen and a car seat in my car. I have no idea how long Charlotte and I will be together. She’s growing so fast. I imagine pre-school isn’t that far around the corner, but until then, she’s mine. Well, she’s obviously not mine, but you know what I mean. I even bought her pink Nikes to match mine:
She’s hard work, don’t get me wrong. There are days when I am watching the clock, counting down the hours until Jenn picks her up so I can relax. Sometimes, my day looks like this:
But I love our time together. And if anybody hurt her, I would kill them. KILL THEM. I love our walks. I love how amazing my dogs are with her (they are like two extra babysitters, sticking close and keeping an eye on her with me). I love taking her places. I love how she sits up tall in the grocery cart and waves to everybody in Wegmans. I can only come to one conclusion.
I am in love with a one-year-old. And I’m okay with that.