Yesterday I babysat for yet another new set of parents and children. This time on my side of the river and even on my side of the train station. Practically in the neighborhood, except that their neighborhood is slightly more upscale than mine.
Naturally it's still uphill to get there but this time it was really only about halfway up the mountain. Still some rather awesome views but with slightly less sweat and lighter heavy breathing, if such a thing exists. And when I got to the house I realized I was stepping into another reality. Bright white stucco walls covered (I do mean covered) in decades old ivy topped with a loggia supported by tall Doric columns. OK, that was the house geek in me coming out, I'll try to keep her reined in for the rest of the post. Although the state of the house brings much to the story. Maybe it's just enough to say that it's a beautiful house, the kind of house you might see in a magazine and say to yourself "Yeah, I'd have that too if I had a kajillion dollars laying around. And someone to clean it."
It was an interesting day. I was going to say I don't know a better word for it but that's not true. "It was an interesting day" is the Minnesota euphemism for other words that are stronger and more descriptive but potentially more offensive. In Minnesota we don't do offensive unless threatened with bodily harm. I believe the term political correctness was coined when someone heard a Minnesotan say "That's different!" and thought "What a delightfully bland and inoffensive way to avoid saying it's (ugly, crazy, insert the appropriate highly colorful description here). If they get offended it's their interpretation, not my words." It's a tough habit to break, this habit of speaking words that offend no one, but I'm working on it.
You should know that these kids have had an English speaking nanny since forever and so speak and understand it almost as well as American kids their age. Maybe better. Quite a treat for me, I must say.
First the parents said to take them outside to play, but then told me they shouldn't get hot and keep them out of the sun. It was a beautiful and sunny Mediterranean morning. We went in soon after we went out.
It was while playing with Playdoh that I got my first view of how their relationship works. A fight over one item ended up in a grabbing, hitting, wrestling match that fizzled as quickly as it started but still left me breathless and afraid. I didn't grow up resolving issues like that.
She got tired of Playdoh and while I was cleaning things up she went into her room and suddenly she was screaming. I went in and somehow she had managed to get a metal sand bucket stuck on her head. I'm sure her screams echoing inside the bucket only made it worse but she was fine once I got her unstuck. While I was getting her unstuck her brother disappeared. Holding her tightly I walked around calling his name and finally his mom told me he was with her. Yes, she was home but apparently doing other more important things.
For awhile they played nicely together but separately with blocks. He built a low to the ground ship and she built a tower. You can already see this coming, can't you? This was followed by a discussion of why it's important to apologize for certain behaviors. Which he grudgingly agreed with...eventually.
He took a toy away from her and after wrestling for a few seconds she bit him. Pretty sure I yelled at her then and grabbed the toy. So she bit me. I almost walked out right there. But I was raised to admit defeat only when it's staring you in the face and I wasn't quite there yet. And after my short but firm "never bite me again" lecture they settled down and we had fun.
Glad I stuck around. There's something about seeing the lives of people who live so differently yet the same as I do that's fascinating. It had an almost National Geographic feel to me. Men in white pants and navy blue jackets silently carried clothes up from the laundry and reverently placed them into closets that looked more like retail displays than kids closets. A woman was packing their bags for their coming trip to the mountains. She carefully laid bright white tissue paper between the single layers of minimally folded clothing. Not even kidding here, folks.
Now I have to decide if I'll sit again if they call...and the deciding factor won't be the ride up the hill.