Having a minivan can be a bit of a catch-22. We bought it for the long drive to southern California we do once or twice every year. It’s fun sometimes also to carpool with friends and their kids to the zoo or the science museum. When my kids have other kids to talk to in the car, they’re much less likely to bother me.
I still don’t understand why no one has come out with a minivan that includes a privacy screen like a limousine has. They’re strapped in, what possible need could they have to talk to me? There could be an intercom that’s active for one minute every twenty or thirty minutes.
But I digress.
The other consequence of having a minivan is that my friends sometimes ask me to watch their children. My friends are very gracious and respectful about this, they don’t abuse it. Today I will be watching two of my friends’ kids, both first-graders, because one of the kids’ fathers is having surgery, and the other child has an ice-skating lesson, and her sister is sick enough to need to stay home.
I’m honored of course that my friends trust me to watch their children. This goes above and beyond letting me come over when their homes are in various states of disarray and chaos.
Sometimes I wonder though, are they crazy? Trust me? I have told everyone I know that I suffer from depression and anxiety, and that I’ve been hospitalized for planning to commit suicide. Have they forgotten? Do they really not judge me for my mental illness?
I suppose it helps that I have watched their children before, and the worst I ever do is yell at them to cut out behavior that they already well know they should not be doing. I know that I benefit from being with other people, whether it’s other adults or children. There’s something in that connection that makes me behave better, makes me feel part of a community, and reminds me of my responsibility and the blessings in my life.
When my husband and I took our kids to Disneyland with my niece and her family, we noticed that when we took off on our own and left the kids with only one adult, they behaved better. They literally all lined up, just like they do at school.
My friends and I have joked about swapping kids now and then because they usually behave better for any adult other than their parents. It could be a way of keeping them on their toes and giving us a break. Of course, they already work so hard to behave well at school, they do need to be able to let off steam at home. Sometimes.
I have my children call my friends Aunt and Uncle So-and-so. It’s how I was raised. My children don’t know most of their friends’ last names, so calling people Mrs. Richardson and Mr. Harrington seems difficult. They often just use the typical “So-and-so’s Mom” to talk about their friends’ parents.
The danger of being friends for six years though is that their kids are beginning to consider me family and thus more comfortable behaving like their true selves. That’s alright. I’m comfortable being the mean, strict aunt. I still have a tattoo, a black belt in aikido, and I’m going to learn to ride a motorcycle. They might not think that’s cool now, but they will.
How comfortable are you watching other people’s kids?