My daughter Janey is eleven years old and has a weekly babysitting job. She hangs out with a sweet and precocious two and half year old named Enny for about 3 hours. It has been an amazing thing, as her mom, to watch my little girl grow up right before my eyes. While she's babysitting, she is patient and kind. She is creative and laughs easily. If Enny innocently dumps out a box of 150 puzzle pieces, Janey giggles and calmly explains that it's clean up time. She doesn't lose her temper and she seems to have an endless supply of fun ideas and games at her fingertips at all times.
I remember fondly what it was like to have that kind of responsibility. It made me feel important and special and capable. I was the oldest child in my family as well, and babysitting for other families always came easily to me. As I wander in and out of the room on her babysitting days, I am amazed at this girl, my little girl, being slowly and gently transformed into a young woman.
The other day I was in the kitchen listening to Janey explaining to Enny that it was time to clean up the four games that were spread out on the floor. Enny didn't want to, but Janey insisted. "I wanna listen. Listen to Pooh," Enny protested, pointing to the stereo.
"The stereo's broken Enny, "Janey responded gently.
"No, I think it works just..." I blurted out before Janey cut me off as she peered over the pass through window and winked at me. You know, the wink.
"The stereo is broken right now Enny," she turned and winked at me again, "It's time for us to clean up and then we're going to go play outside." My jaw dropped.
"Outside! Outside!" Enny cheered and began putting Tinker Toys back into the bin. As they finished cleaning up and marched outside, I was overcome with emotion. Janey had learned the wink. Okay, she'd also learned that a little white lie can sometimes help move things along, but she had crossed the line from dependent child to capable, confident pre-teen babysitter. When did this happen? I was amazed.
Now, to be fair, she hasn't completely crossed that line for good. Just this morning I had to break up a pinching fight between she and her 6 year old brother over who was hogging the covers. Yesterday she complained for 20 minutes straight about how far we had to ride on our bikes to get to an appointment (it wasn't that far). She is only eleven, after all. But what a joy to watch her navigating her world and growing up little by little along the way.