|Derby girl Sew Evil playing with her tot.|
I used to babysit a lot. And I was damn good at it. Sometimes people look at me like I’m crazy when I offer to babysit for them. A lot of adults think I would be bad with their kids because I am loud and rash and because I say what I think. But those are exactly the reasons why I am great with kids. I listen to them and I treat them like adults, while also realizing it is my job as the elder to lay the groundwork and remind them where the boundaries lie. Kids respect me, because I respect them. In turn, they want to do what I say. It’s the power of cool.
When I was about 17 I had actually started to look old enough to be confused as a parent. In upper class, ritzy, wealthy Pleasanton, young parents are looked down upon, and this would often result in me being snubbed by other parents when I would take kids to the playground. What they didn’t get, is I took that as a compliment. If my babysitting was so good that I could be confused as the child’s parent, I must have been doing something right. Plus, by making assumptions, they were probably missing out on getting a really great babysitter’s number.
I would never take kids to the playground and just watch them play. I’d play with them. And if I wasn’t playing WITH them, I was running around the playground sliding down slides, and climbing up ropes by myself, because it was fun. I guess in my younger years I had assumed that maybe I was still just very young at heart and once I aged I would be one of the watch-from-the-side-lines parents too. But the older I get and the more I can see myself as a parent myself some day, the more I realize those people are just out of shape and unadventurous. After all, MY parents always played on the playground with me. Heck, my dad STILL plays on the playground with my nieces, and he’s 65.
So last night at the roller rink there was a troop of boy scouts enjoying their Friday night skating. As I was taking a break I observed the parents who had come to watch and chaperone, but had chosen not to participate in skating. (After all, there were other parents who had laced up). I realized that those were the people who viewed roller skates as “toys”. They actually probably thought they COULDN’T roller skate because of their age, or worse yet, that they weren’t supposed to or something.
The earlier session came to an end and I watched as the boy scouts exited the rink. One of the pack moms immediately started unlacing kids and gathering belongings. She was SO prepared to LEAVE. One boy sat dazed and sweaty, staring ahead blankly on a chair as the pack mom violently tore the rented rollerblades off his feet like they were ski boots. She almost pulled the kid clear off the chair. He said through glazed eyes while grabbing at his legs, “NOO! I want to keep them on and roll around a little!” She muttered something about leaving and he resigned himself to the truth and said sadly, “Okay…”
After he had the skates off he removed the helmet he was wearing to reveal an incredible mop of soaking wet hair. “Whoa!” a bunch of parents exclaimed. He was still dazed and smiling, clearly spent from the laps and laps of skating. It seemed the parents were visibly taken by his unkemptness. As if to say, “get with it man!”
One parent asked the kid if he skated a lot, remarking, “you were really good out there!” The kid said that no he didn’t skate a lot, but he did say, sounding very exhausted, “I want to stay for the next session!”. All the parents just wanted to talk about this sweaty mess of a kid. I couldn’t stop beaming. Other parents were watching me smile at him. The kid just truly loved the feel of skating. It was authentic. It was pure. He didn’t care about sweating. He didn’t care about anything. He wanted to keep doing it.
The by-the-side-of-the-rink parents’ questions and enthusiasm had been faked. They didn’t want him to become a pro skater, even though how much he loved it was so obviously evident. After all, these people thought skates were just toys. Even though the joy was so clear to see, right there on his face. It was INFECTIOUS. I wished I could encourage the little tyke. All I could do was smile from ear to ear. I think one dad did sense the same thing I was feeling, which was the love for skating. But you see, he too was unlacing a pair himself. (=
All I know is, I want to be a parent who plays tag. (My friend Deanna wrote a blog similar to this topic recently). I felt sorry for those pack moms who couldn’t even begin to relate to the joy that boy was feeling. And I hoped with all hopes that they would never and could never influence that child’s love for skating.