25 October 2012

Babysitting Will Be Provided

This past weekend a small miracle occurred: The entire family made it out of the house early enough on Sunday morning for the Senior Agents to attend Sunday school and all of us to attend the church service that followed. We even arrived in time to be social with pastries and coffee, because, well, that's what good Lutherans do.

Anyway, "church school" (as Agent E calls it) lasts about an hour, but is only for pre-K and up. So, that posed the dilemma: What to do with Agent A for that hour?

All dressed up and ready to go
A woman we were introduced to about five minutes prior offered to take Agent A to the nursery for us if we wanted to attend the adult Bible study class going on at the same time. We declined. Instead, all four of us (me, Hubby, Agent A, and Seemingly Nice Church Woman We Just Met) hung out in the nursery together for the hour. 

We chatted about life in Florida, our travels, the Agents, her (now grown) kids, the church. I only had to bite my tongue once, when she asked if A was getting a case of the "terrible twos" as he approached his birthday. (I just said "no" and changed the subject.) All the while Agent A perused the toys and books and entertained us with his toddler charm.

It would never have crossed my mind to actually leave him alone with this total stranger just so I could attend a class for an hour.

The truth is, I don't feel comfortable leaving the Agents (especially Agent A) in childcare situations like this. Yet I encounter groups and meetings all the time where "babysitting available" is a huge draw. I've passed on military spouses groups, MOPS, women's Bible studies, and other similar venues that offer such free childcare because I just can't get on board with leaving my children in a room with a random person to have an hour to participate in some activity. I especially feel this way while they are infants/toddlers, but I'm iffy on the Senior Agents, too.

I remember when we first moved to Italy and I begrudgingly agreed to put Agent E (almost 4) and Agent J (almost 2) into (free) temporary care at the Child Development Center on base so Hubby and I could attend a few days of area orientation. (Terms like "required" and "mandatory" were thrown around, and I totally fell for it.) They both hated it, I felt very uneasy with the whole set-up, and it was pretty much an all-around disaster. Months later, Agent E would point out "that building" when we would drive or walk past it. 

Now, you may be thinking what's the big deal? It's only a few hours and you'll all survive. But the truth is, it is a big deal, because it illustrates how we handle both long and short separations in the context of a securely attached relationship. It is important because it shows how we view trust in our everyday lives. It matters because my children know I would not force them into an uncomfortable situation just to have time to myself. I would not expect them to just "get used to it." I consider all our needs.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those women who claim they never need a break from their children. (Newsflash: They are lying.) I sometimes count down the hours until the end of the day  anticipate bedtime or the early morning hours as my chance to relax and recharge. Every once in a while I escape to Starbucks or Panera without them for a few hours, but only if Hubby is with them. (Notice I didn't say Hubby is "watching them" or worse—cringe—"babysitting them." Don't get me started.) I simply don't feel the need to regularly leave my children with other people for the sake of getting out. 

And then again . . . clearly I do feel okay with some temporary childcare situations.

On this same Sunday morning I wrote about in the intro to this post, I dropped off the Senior Agents in a classroom with two unknown teachers (one I met about 90 seconds before and one I never saw until after the fact) and walked away. Does it not bother me as much because they are older? 

We go to the YMCA a few times a week, and all three Agents go into the childcare room while I exercise. However, we've been going for months and so it is very familiar to all of them (including A) now. I knew this would be a long-term situation and they would get to know the caregivers over time. When we first joined, I would only leave for 20 minutes or so to help them (Agent A mostly) adjust as necessary. Now they "direct" me to stay at least an hour and complain if I come back "too soon" because they are having so much fun. 

Agent A and Ferb on a recent visit
We are also going on a cruise later this year, and yes, we will utilize the kids' areas, even for Agent A (although he will not spend nearly as much time there as I imagine his sisters will). This one pretty much violates all my "rules" . . . short-term, sitters we don't know personally, Agent A participating. Yet, I feel pretty comfortable with that because (a) it's Disney, and our experience with Disney is very positive, always top-notch and going above and beyond expectations; and (b) as a homeschooler I'm seeing all the educational opportunities, and considering it more of a "camp" type experience for the Agents.

So, the more I think about it, I'm not really sure how my Momma Radar decides these things. Maybe I just need more time to ease into childcare situations than these one-time "babysitting available" situations can provide? Maybe it's really just the infant/toddler stage that concerns me? Maybe I just feel wishy-washy about these gatherings in general and this provides a good "out"?

Of course there will always be someone who points out that if only I weren't a stay-at-home mom I'd feel differently. Or that I'm too attached to my children and should put my own needs first. 

18 October 2012


Today is the last day of my thirties. How did I get here so fast? Wasn't I just trying to figure out the roller coaster of a 17-year-old life yesterday?

(Now I understand how my parents feel. My mom will tell she just got back from her honeymoon and now her fifth child, her baby, is forty. It's not possible. I have no doubt someday I will feel exactly the same about the Agents.)

I'm certain my life so far is not what I imagined, but . . .

Does anyone really end up where they expect? (And if we did, how uninspiring would that be?)

I never dreamed I'd be capable of leading the stay-on-your-toes life of a military spouse (because, frankly, I'm kind of neurotic) and yet here I am.

I have been pregnant, breastfeeding, or both for over seven years now. My last baby will turn two in a few weeks. In the not-to-distant future there will be no more nursing, no more co-sleeping, no more diapers. As a family, we will enter a new season.

(Sometimes I can't even wrap my own brain around the fact that I'm forty and I have a two-year-old. Does that make me an "older mom"? Would other people see me that way?)

When I studied developmental and social psychology as a college student, I intended to have a career researching it, teaching it, writing about it. Instead, I'm living it.

When I first started working, I couldn't fathom being a stay-at-home-mom of three kids. Breastfeeding toddlers? Homeschooling?

None of that was on the agenda. 

And you know what?

I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be.