Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Mother's Little Helper

When I was in junior high, a friend of my mom’s who lived on the next street from us asked if I would be interested in being a mother’s helper for her a few times a week. I had no idea what that meant until she explained to me that it was like babysitting, except that she’d be home. She’d started doing some work from home and was finding it difficult to do with her (then) three kids underfoot. At the time, the only experience I’d had with kids was helping my parents out in the church nursery, but I liked kids and knew that babysitting could be pretty lucrative, so I agreed. She taught me how to change a cloth diaper, including the invaluable tip of sliding the pin through your hair to pick up a bit of oil so it’ll slide through the fabric more easily (a tip I’ve used over the years in many circumstances other than babysitting), how to distract a crabby child, what little ones can and can’t eat, and the art of spelling out certain words. It turned out to be some of the best training I ever had for babysitting - and for parenthood.

Because of that, I’m looking forward to having a mother’s helper myself in the near future. We made a connection with this young lady in a very unusual way. We were out to dinner with the kids at the local Chinese buffet and, as usual, my daughter was flirting with and waving to everyone in sight. A teenage girl and her mom in the next booth were obviously charmed by her, and when we waved goodbye as we left, she jokingly asked, “Do you need a babysitter?” She was a bit surprised but also very excited when we stopped and told her, yeah, we did. We quickly discovered that we knew several families in common from my stepdaughter’s school years, so references were easy to check on both sides. We exchanged information, and in the next few weeks she’ll hopefully be coming by after school to give me a few hours of respite from the kids.

It’s funny to think back to thirty years ago when I was in her shoes, and I wonder if thirty years from now, she and I will be chatting on the future equivalent of Facebook as I now do with my mentor, reminiscing as her children go through the stages that my children are going through now. Maybe I’ll be sharing pictures of my daughter’s wedding with her, recalling some funny story or tidbit from today. Maybe I’ll be sending her a recording of my son’s band, or a video of his first professional football game, or a news article about his graduation from medical school. Maybe I'll even be sending her photos of my grandchildren.

But whether I keep in touch with her for years or not, I will be proud to know that I have become another link in the endless chain of mothers teaching other mothers.

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