Monday, June 20, 2011

When Is It My Turn?

I babysat for my boys the other night, while their parents went out for a birthday celebration.  Once the baby was asleep, and after baths, teeth brushing, pajamas, four stories, evening prayers, a "pocket tuck" for LM, a "burrito wrap" for Bee, (yes, young children are very particular about how they are tucked into bed), and two kisses for each, I turned out the light, whispered good-night, and closed the door.  I sat on the couch, waiting calmly.  Creak...the door opens.  "Caywin?  I'm thirsty.  And I have to do a pee."  So, I patiently helped LM do his second pee in ten minutes, pointed out the sippy cup of water that I had placed next to his bed and re-tucked him (pocket, NOT burrito) into bed. 

Once they were all asleep, I finished cleaning the kitchen and folded the fresh laundry while I ran another wash load.  An hour later, all the chores done, I relaxed on the couch with my book and contemplated dozing off.  Forty-five minutes later, I sat up with a start.  A tiny noise had awoken me from my doze.  There it was again, louder this time.  Bee was crying, a squeak at first, but now escalating to a wail, "Cayyyywwiiinnnnn!!!" in between choked sobs.  In his room, I found him slumped over his crib rail, crying unintelligibly, most likely due to a bad dream.  I scooped his warm toddler body up into my arms and rocked, standing in their dark bedroom, whispering past his sweaty curls, "Hush, Bee, it's okay now.  Everything is okay now.  I'm here.  Nothing's going to get you.  Let's get you a dry diaper, okay?"  Deftly, in the dark, I swapped his wet diaper for a dry one and replaced his pajama bottoms.  As I hoisted him off the changing table to put him back into his crib, he latched his arms around my neck and sank into my arms under his bottom.  I paused before putting him back to bed.  Just for a minute, I thought.  We stood by his crib, listening to the fan, and I rocked him slowly, ever so slowly, back and forth, before settling him back into bed.  "Here's Pooh Bear," I whispered, tucking the tattered bear into his arms as he rolled over, already asleep.  I tiptoed out and quietly closed the door.

My heart cracked.  Again.  And again, and again, and again.  I sat back down on the couch and cried.  When, when is it my turn?  When is it my turn to be the sun around which some child orbits instead of the babysitter or the nanny who rocks them in the middle of the night, teaches them words, changes their diapers, and loves them up and down and all around until inevitably, my heart breaks again and I have to leave?

It's summer in New York, which means every woman of child-bearing age is strutting around with an ever-growing belly under her sundress or tunic top.  I look down at my own flat torso and long for the day when I will be something other than a passing figure in a child's life.  This job is wearing me down.  It's not the specifics - the hours or the tantrums or the diapers - it's the whole idea.  I want to be more to someone.  I want to be someone to anyone.  Anything beyond the monotony, the anonymity, that I am now.

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