I just wrapped up my last day as a full-time summer nanny before I leave to go back to school. And I’ll be honest with you, I’ve been counting down the days [and the hours, and the minutes…]. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told myself over the past few months that this is it. No more cleaning dog puke off of white carpet because someone left a bowl of Spaghetti-O’s on the floor [???]. No more organizing every nook and cranny of the playroom only for it to look like a tornado hit five minutes later.
If you’re a babysitter, I have no doubt you’ve also felt this way at some point.
It’s easy to feel unappreciated when you take time to fix a good, [semi] healthy lunch but he won’t let anything come near his mouth unless it’s a Cheeto. It’s easy to feel frustrated when you bake her brownies and let her watch an extra half-hour of TV but the moment you utter the word “no” in response to one of her million requests, you’re public enemy #1. It’s easy to feel exhausted and burnt-out after so many hours of corralling a toddler into the time-out corner and listening to them scream until you let them out, only to have to send them right back.
But listen- you are loved and you are appreciated even when it doesn’t feel like it. You don’t think about these things when you’re in the midst of the chaos and frustration and exhaustion, but…
It takes a lot for parents to trust someone with their children. A few days ago I ran into the grandpa of a little girl I’ve been babysitting for a few years and one of the first things he did was thank me like four times. And I’m wondering does he think I did something I didn’t actually do? But later in our conversation I realized he was thanking me simply for being someone he and his wife could trust with their granddaughter.
You mean something huge to this family. You are the person these parents are entrusting to take care of the most important part of their lives. They see something really good in you. They are grateful for you. They have enough faith in your wisdom and your capabilities to put their kids under your protection. They understand how blessed they are to have you.
Parents worry about their kids…a lot. And to be able to leave them with someone like you and have no doubts whatsoever about their safety and wellbeing is something I can assure you is not taken for granted.
Kids remember more than you think. When I went to meet the family I’d nanny for this summer, the youngest girl looked at me and said “hey! You babysat me a long time ago!” I had no idea what she was talking about. As far as I remembered, this was my first time stepping foot in their home. But she ran to her room and brought back a little rainbow bracelet that, sure enough, had once been mine. “You gave this to me!” she said. “I’ve kept it ever since!”
Their attention spans may seem [impossibly] short but they remember the things you do for them. Even though they pouted for an hour when you told them they couldn’t wash the dog in the pool, they’ll tell their friends the next day how cool you are for knowing how to make rainbow tie-dye cupcakes.
It is without a doubt exhausting to dream up and execute and supervise a seemingly endless stream of entertaining activities. But they’ll remember how fun you made their summer days and they’ll beg their parents to go out to dinner so you can come over and play. They’ll ask about you when they haven’t seen you in a while and even as they get older, you will always be an important and influential part of their lives.
[They may also remember more than you’d like them to…a little girl I babysit once said to me while sitting in my lap, “your legs are so pokey!” I received a text from her mom the next week saying that she told another babysitter her legs were “pokey just like Alle’s.” So that’s fun.]
You are helping to mold and shape them. You are someone they look up to. You are an influential force in their lives. Your role as leader and caretaker is so, so important. Children view you not only as their babysitter, but as their friend, and your consistent presence shows that you genuinely love and care about them. This place you hold in their hearts gives you such a huge opportunity to impact their lives.
You have the power and the means to help strengthen their faith at an early age. This is a divine job given to you by the Lord and its importance cannot be overstated. Something as small as praying with them at bedtime plants little seeds of faith that will only grow. Your patience, kindness and gentleness reflects the character of Jesus. Investing in the lives of children is one of the most productive things you can do for the Kingdom of God, and you do it all the time.
“Train a child in the way of the Lord, and even when he grows old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Growing up in an environment where they are reassured of their identity in Christ sets children up to thrive in their relationship with God as they grow. Your presence in their lives now will positively affect them [literally] for eternity.
Let yourself be encouraged and energized by these words. Your job is important. It may not feel like it when you’re knee deep in spit-up and dirty diapers, but you are a paramount part of these families’ lives. You play a meaningful role in these kids’ childhoods. They love you, and they will grow to truly appreciate you and all you’ve done for them. Keep up the great work.
“Jesus said ‘let all the little children come to me. Do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them.” Matthew 19:14