Folks trusting me with their little humans is a privilege and my greatest responsibility to date.
Two things outside of myself that bring me an unmatched ease and comfort are little humans and little animals. I have an international cult clan following of furry animals and little people that light up when I come around. No matter where I go, a small person or four-legged animal is sure to find me or I them. My love for small things run deep.
I call all the kids I ever nannied “my kids” and all of my friend’s babies are my nieces and nephews. I am now at the place where I call all children “baby” by default. And if they say, “I’m not a baby.” I say, “But you’re my baby, you’re mommy’s baby. So, I’ma call you baby.”
Now days, as a retired nanny and auntie to many—I choose to be around children because they genuinely bring me joy. “Auntie” is one of my favorite accolades, like—legit up there next to my MFA in Creative Writing. Kids just bring so much happy. And when I say I love children I do not mean as a whole.
I find children en masse to be shriekingly loud and annoying. I do not have the patience or bandwidth to be a teacher or camp counselor or someone who is required to deal with large numbers of children on a daily basis. I can do children in pairs, small groups and always individually.
I let children run me ragged with their finicky wants and never-ending interruptions. I am the kid-genie and within my ability, most of their wishes are my command. I know when to set a boundary if they get too big for their britches but mostly, I don’t mind children’s behavior. I have more patience than a little to hop through their dietary hoops and ever-changing culinary displeasures. I like listening to their little stories and answering their limitless questions and letting them use my body as a human jungle gym to jump and climb over.
I love feeling the heavy weight of children once they’ve fallen asleep and let go of all responsibility of carrying the weight of their little bodies. Hell, if I’m carrying them, chances are they relinquished that responsibility when I picked them up off the ground. I carry big ass kids way past the pick-me-up stage because childhood is a small pocket of time where folks don't mind walking for you. Children should be able to relish in that.
I remember my big brother rarely letting my feet touch the ground when we were kids. He’d say I was light as a feather and pick me up or let me jump on his back for a piggyback ride. Then one day he said, “Carmalita you’re not as light as feather anymore, you gotta walk.” For me, if the kid isn’t as light as a feather, I ask for a little hop of assistance so I’m not blowing my lower back or knees out. I didn’t think my body was at the stage for such concerns but here I am.
I feel comfortable around children, at ease. They don't care what I'm wearing or how my hair looks. And if they do, it's more matter-of-fact and not malicious. I enjoy being in their little worlds and seeing how their brain works. They can definitely be little assholes but they are just sugar sweet in the best ways when it matters. Like my five-year-old niece Grae telling me, “Make sure you let me know if you need anything, okay?”
Or my niece Norah, yanking me by my floor length braids during a race in a trampoline park because I was beating her. I took flight a few inches and bounced on my back as she squealed with laughter, braids in hand. They definitely do first, and think later. I love (to an extent) the kind of impulsiveness and lack of refined filter that only a child can get away with until a certain age.
Kids are pure. I find their unbridled joy contagious. I think their little hands wrapped around my finger is a gift. They squeeze, innately finding comfort simply by holding onto you. Their tiny hugs around the neck, and wet cheek kisses--gross but love-filled. One thing they know how to do is show love. They all have their own ways from the clingiest of clingies to selective speakers. Grae saw me crying one morning during a difficult call. Later that day she handed me one of her Pop-It toys so I could feel better. My eyes watered with happy at her thoughtfulness.
I love feeding children, whether it’s giving a baby a bottle or cutting up a quesadilla. Even when they’re past the age of someone else holding their fork; I will on occasion grab the fork, jab into a few pieces of whatever it is on their plates and feed them. I find that some children eat more enthusiastically with a little assistance.
Most children delight in my company. It means they feel safe, and loved and comfortable. It brings me joy to make someone big or small feel safe or loved or comfortable in my presence. It is my gift to share.
The lock screen of my phone right now is a live picture of my niece Norah asking for me to pick her up. Her outstretched arms reach out to me with one hand holding a stuffed toy and the other hand free to rub on my ear while in my arms. Ear snuggles are my favorite love language of a child.
I retired as a nanny about three years ago, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss children being a major part of my daily life. I quit nannying to focus on my writing career but I still very much take pride in being someone both parents and children can depend on.
I recently spent the weekend with one of my nieces. We played with her dolls and I watched her navigate new friendships and playing alone at the park. I made her chicken nuggets she didn't want and bribed her into eating dinner for a chocolate milkshake. I brushed her hair and chased her around the house. As I swept, I gave her the, "Anything you don't want thrown away better be up off the floor," disclaimer and chased her with the broom as she picked up tiny toy pieces and a legit piece of cardboard trash SHE ABSOLUTELY HAD TO KEEP.
At the end of the night, she asked if she could sleep on the couch with me instead of in her bed alone. I obliged. She rubbed my ear and played in my hair until she fell asleep. I cried happy tears lying next to her because beautiful moments like that are healing for me.
I felt my heart making a new memory. A layer of my own childhood trauma melted away as I created a new memory rooted in the security and safety I have cultivated for children. I broke a long acrylic nail when I picked her up to carry her to the bathroom. A $10 hot pink sacrifice I was willing to make as long as she was comfortable and still sleeping when I put her to bed. When I went to check on her and place the tangled cover back over her body, I rubbed her back and whispered, "I love you kid." She mumbled sleepily, "I love you too."
Sometimes life is heavy.
But kids remind me life is also light and genuinely good. Their innocence and inquisitiveness remind me not to take things so seriously. Their sweetness reminds me of the beauty in being soft. Children will always have a home in my arms, to be swung around or listened to. Their rambling stories rooted in my attention alone. I will happily be their safe space. Their place of comfort and laughter and carrying around.
Water always finds its level, and I will always find a baby to love on.