Let me start by saying that I have the cutest nieces EVER. They are easily two of my favorite people on earth. I have a sister so I know how different sisters can be but to witness the differences in their personalities and to experience the differences in their ages is mind blowing. I go from having a complete in depth conversation with my 5 year old niece to listening to my 2 year old niece speak, knowing that only our family knows what she’s saying. At their tender ages, they amaze me with how much they already know (they could give their grandparents instructions on how to use an iPhone and iPad) but I also love to see what their innocent eyes see of the world. So to say that they are precious to me, is the understatement of the year. Spending time with them always leaves me exhausted because of running around after them and just the amount of sensory overload I receive. The sheer amount of energy I need with them has always made me question whether I have what it takes to be a mother.
I barely have the energy to be with my nieces when their parents are around to do the really heavy lifting. I babysit my nieces fairly regularly. Watching them for an evening once a week is not unusual. I get there after work and then we play, eat by 5:30 and then both are happily in bed by 8pm. So I’m usually asleep on the couch by 8:15, waiting for their parents to get back.
And then they left me alone with them.
My sister and brother-in-law have gone on a 15 day vacation to Europe. A vacation that they richly deserve but that means that their girls are being watched by the paternal grandmother, the nanny, and yours truly. I will quickly admit that because I’m working, I’m not taking the brunt of childcare but since this past Thursday, I have been with the girls four of the past five days. And the girls have behaved really well. The stress is coming from my own anxiety in keeping these two treasures safe. Thank God I have a hand for each when going through parking lots and sidewalks. Though frankly I’d rather have them tethered to me. Permanently. I know that children should be given small freedoms so that they can learn independence and learn from their mistakes. But not on my watch! My 5 year old niece has been hurt twice while under my care and the memories still cause my distress. Am I crazy? Probably.
Which is how I came to find myself crouched at the top of the stairs with the biggest hairbrush I could find raised above my head ready to strike at any intrude at 1:30 in the morning last night.
My 5 year old is going through a scaredy-cat phase. The moment I leave her alone to put the 2 year old down for bed, there she is waiting just outside the door. As preoccupied as I am with their safety, I don’t want them to be afraid of experiencing the world so I’m trying to help her get over her fear.
Me: “What are you afraid of?”
Her: “I don’t want to be by myself downstairs”
Me: “Why? What do you think is going to happen?”
Her: “What if a burglar breaks in?”
Me: “Seriously? No one is going to break in. All the doors are locked and I would NEVER let anything happen to you.”
And yet, the moment both girls are asleep, here I am lying awake in bed hearing every weird noise in this house. What IF a burglar breaks in?!? What if a child abductor is trying to get in?!? Why doesn’t my sister have a bat or some kind of weapon up here??? Large hairbrush it is.
After a sleepless night of waking at every noise, periodically peering over the balcony to see if I saw any movement downstairs and setting up the baby gates as booby-traps, I have a plan for the next time I spend the night. I’m definitely bringing a bat from home, buying motion detection lights, and setting up more booby-traps. And should the girls end up sleeping in bed with me, with chairs blocking the door, then so be it. That’ll teach their parents to leave the anxiety filled aunt in charge. But by God, they’ll get their children back safely.
So are children in my future? Probably not. I clearly do not have enough energy to survive my own paranoia.