Babysitting used to be my thing. I did it in middle school, through high school and straight through college. While I sat for a couple of different families on a more regular basis, there were some kids I watched just for date nights or occasional times when their parents needed me. Needless to say, I have worked with a LOT of kids and a lot of different families.
I've always been the motherly type. Some of my sisters friends in high school even called me "Mama Jenn" because that was just my personality. So babysitting was quite the fitting job for me.
But each and every time I babysat for a family I didn't really think of it as a learning experience. Whether I was helping a first grader with homework or getting peed on by a three month old baby boy, I knew that in just a couple of hours I would be back home, safe and sound. This wasn't permanent so it wasn't a big deal if the kids were crying or screaming or misbehaving. I wasn't their parent and I could erase every stressful situation that occurred from my memory as soon as I left their house.
Just to get this straight, I LOVED every child I ever babysat for, difficult or not. I adore kids and loved babysitting. Yeah of course it was cool making some money but I just adored playing with kids.
But in all of those years, I never really looked at my jobs as a learning experience. I never thought to the future on the day that one day I would have kids of my own and may be able to learn a thing or two of these little munchkins. Nope, it didn't even occur to me.
Looking back, though, there is one thing that absolutely positively stood out in mind when I think back to all of the little kiddos I watched over the years.
The sick kids and the healthy kids.
There is one family in particular whose kids were always sick. There was always a sniffle or a cold and their mom was constantly cancelling because she didn't want to exposure me to their sick germs. And so many doctor trips!
At that time I thought nothing of it -- I guess they just get sick a lot.
But then I remembered the first day I babysat for this family and their mom's specific instructions for me:
She asked me to wipe down every toy each time before they used them and after they were finished using them. I was asked to wipe down the floor after they crawled across it and before I was going to put them back down on the floor to play again.
Cleanliness is KEY in this family.
Okay, sure. No problem. That's nothing I can't easily handle.
But looking back it seems that that may have been one of the keys to their always getting sick.
If you're never exposed to germs, you can never build up an immunity for germs.
And that has carried me into parenting Ava. Okay, I didn't let strangers kiss all over her face when she was just two weeks old to get her exposed to lots of germs and if she drops a teething necklace on the bathroom floor of course I am not going to give it back to her to chew on. Everything within reason. I'm not crazy. But I sure do allow her to be exposed to germs more than most first time parents. In fact, I get it all the time - "You totally act like a second time parent" or "You're way too laid back to be a first time parent." But anyhow, if Ava drops a puff on the ground at home, I'll let her pick it up and eat it. And if she drops her Boxer stuffed animal while we are in Target, I am going to pick it right back up and give it to her to continue holding.
While I have no scientific backing to this, it totally makes sense after connecting all of the dots.
Germs are bad but germs are also good, to some extent. And that is why I am not a germaphobe.