Being the oldest sister of five has come with many responsibilities — for example, babysitting and bottle-making. Then there are bigger, heavier aspects, like being there to help them navigate their first break-up and holding back the “I told you so’s,” but also knowing when it is better to let them figure out life on their own. Having your younger siblings watch your every move and attempt to emulate you can also be a little suffocating. But, I have also found this to be encouraging at times. Then there are the minor, frivolous things like borrowing each other’s clothes without permission or the silly arguments about who drank the last purple Powerade.My experiences as the eldest sibling have shaped the career I want to pursue as a secondary English teacher in the weirdest but most beautiful ways. Yet, somehow, amid us almost being grown-ups, I have buried some crucial lessons in the pits of my adulting brain.
This semester, though, I took up babysitting a pair of lively four- and six-year-olds — Clara and James. Here are a few lessons I am reminded of but have forgotten in the whirlwind of adulting:
During an intense first round of hide-and-seek, I hid in a spot that was clearly visible to Clara as she counted way too fast. Standing there, I could only think about how I played this game multiple times as a child. Once she reached the 20-second mark, she ran right past me. I laughed, and eventually, I was caught. But that didn’t stop her from declaring that SHE was the one to find me. This hide-and-seek game lasted way longer than anticipated, with painting and a scavenger hunt that soon followed. At this moment, however, I was too worried about getting caught by someone else than simply having fun over games like hide and seek. That said, children teach us so much about making the most out of the present.
As children, we sing, dance and ask question after question, no matter how we look or sound. For James, this means bestowing a singing performance of his favorite Star Wars song in the library. This also means getting creative with select Legos to create different ships. As he does, I recall a recent moment in my drawing class where I folded up my paper of illustrations to pass down to the teacher so my classmates couldn’t see what I believed to be awful illustrations. Why do adults then walk through the world holding so much of what others think of us?
Children will also almost always let you know how they feel, no matter the emotion. When I went to pick up Clara, she started grabbing her things and rummaging through them to find her sweater. After talking with her, she was upset and crossed her arms as she remembered and let me know that her sweater was at home. She eventually forgot about the sweater and didn’t even mention it for the rest of the day. The point is to feel your emotions. Sometimes I want to bottle up my feelings in hopes of them going away, but that does not always work and, in the end, does more harm than good. Maybe Clara is onto something, and the only way to get past a bad emotion is by allowing yourself to feel.
Don’t get me wrong, being an adult has its perks, but it’s also loaded with tough decisions and responsibilities like paying bills. Sometimes adulting can also get pretty dull, so slowly, many adults keep pieces of their inner child in a confined box. Instead, we stop playing or asking questions and become more structured. It makes sense; life is more complicated now that we are older, but what if we are letting go of more than we should? What happens if we carry some of these truths on as we get older?
Although they are at the age where they think fart jokes are the funniest thing to grace our earth, and I just started this babysitting gig, I wonder what else I will be reminded of. I hope to remind my siblings and future students of these lessons as they keep traveling through the chaotic grounds of adulthood. As for myself, within time, I hope to escape the adult-like box we often trap ourselves in.