adventures in babysitting

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See those lovely kids pictured about? They are now 19, 18, 15, and 12 -- big kids for sure. I still peruse the mommy blogs on a semi-regular basis, and when I do so -- I'm not going to lie . . . I miss my babies something fierce. During my own kids' baby days I don't think I was near as self-actualized as the mommy bloggers of today. I loved my kids for sure. I delighted in every stage and accomplishment. I crafted with them and for them. I planned elaborate birthday parties and big Christmas surprises. But I don't think I gloried in the day-to-day that I see broadcast around the Web these days. I didn't glory so much as survive. There was joy interspersed with some incredible vistas of vomit and sleepless nights and an intense amount of whining (much of that whining coming from me). But now? As my teenagers' lives race towards adulthood I find myself more apt to savor these days. And you know what? It's so much easier to savor on a full night's sleep. Just sayin'.

I’m going to inaugurate this blog with one of my best-ever big-kid-parenting memories – leaving my oldest to babysit. You might find this memory, occurring as it did away from my children, to be rather self-serving or cold. To which I say . . . guilty. Except I wasn’t feeling selfish or cold at the time. I felt like I was meeting my Old Self for a Diet Coke and a plate of nachos. “OMG Old Self! Where in tarnation have you been??? How I’ve missed you,” I said. Old Self didn’t stay around for long. But just knowing she existed made me relieved. And happy.

The first time I ever left the kids by themselves was in 2005. My kids were 11, 10, 7 and 4. Sterling and I and some friends went to see a Star Wars movie, (the one where Darth Vader’s legs get burnt off, if you must know). Our youngest was sleeping and we somehow talked ourselves into not getting a sitter. All I can remember is sitting in a dark theater with my cell phone clutched tightly in my hand. And then I’d open it (flip style) every 5-10 minutes to make sure I hadn’t missed a call (that would have vibrated right in my hand). And then, because I have anxiety to the umpteenth degree, I actually ran out into the hallway a few times to call and hear their real life voices. I’m not sure if they were ready to be on their own or not at that point. I am sure I was NOT ready. I needed a valium and a fifth of whiskey to get to sleep that night. (Except I’m Mormon and don’t even know what a fifth of whiskey really means.)

Shortly after the Star Wars incident, we moved. And because our house wasn’t ready, we moved into a 900 square foot, third floor apartment for about three months. Good times. While there I was certain I couldn’t leave the children unattended because we had some special happenings, like that time when our neighbor fell asleep with a lit cigarette and caught his apartment on FIRE. So, when I needed a gallon of milk? I schlepped those four kids down three flights of stairs and into the car and clear back to the dairy department of the supermarket and then home again. When their dad got home from work? Well, I felt like screaming at him. But mostly I just cried and curled up in the corner of our mattress. There was just entirely too much schlepping.

But then. THEN! We finally moved into our house, and our oldest daughter was four days shy of TWELVE. For some reason, for me, twelve meant authentic BABYSITTERHOOD. And she was a good babysitter – responsible, take charge, resilient to little sister trickery. So, we started, in small increments, to leave her at home a bit with the other kiddies. First, just trips to the market or the cleaners. Then maybe lunch out on a Saturday. And then finally . . . Dinner on the weekend. Sterling and I ordered pizza, produced a Netflix dvd (back when we used their dvds), and drove off into the proverbial sunset. No babysitter, no last minute cleaning frenzy, no making sure we had just the right amount of cash. But really? Those inconveniences were nothing. NOTHING. The feeling of getting into my car alone, to listen to my thoughts, to play something other than Radio Disney, to bask in the utter convenience of the small shopping cart – those were moments when my mind expanded beyond my house and Chick-Fil-A and Target. When I remembered how much I loved solitude. When I looked in the rearview mirror and caught a glimpse of pre-mother Sarah. And those times, when just Sarah and momma-Sarah met up? Those are the times I felt like flying.