I started babysitting at the tender age of 12. I was in love with Kirk Cameron from Growing Pains and had pictures of him and Ralph Macchio plastered all over my bedroom walls. The latest issues of BOP and Tiger Beat littered my floor. I had a serious crush on a boy I met while vacationing in Florida with my parents. I stepped in a fire ant hill and he helped me swat the biting little beasts away. His name was Jason. It was love at first sight.
Babysitting took my mind off boys for a minute. Most families I worked for had infants and toddlers and the house bore the brunt of these tiny creatures. Grubby handprints could be found on every wall, old crumbs littered the kitchen floor, dark stains in strange shapes were on the carpets. “Filthy people,” I thought to myself. “How can they live like this? Gross.” Toys were strewn about and children were running amok, giving the home a general air of being unkempt and messy.
Their homes had the marks of childhood smeared on the refrigerator door and down the hallway. Often a child’s room carried the faint whiff of urine. Boogers were spattered on the wall near the bed like a tiny collection of trophies. I couldn’t fathom it. After hours of playing tag and working puzzles, I looked forward to their bedtime, so I could be alone, watch Saturday Night Live and try to stay awake until the parents came home. I left with a wad of cash, but a dwindling desire to ever have offspring of my own. When I became a mother, things would be different. I would have it all together.
Fast forward many years and here I am in my own house. My standards of housecleaning have laxed by necessity, not want. The muck and mire of childhood surrounds me. I do my best to contain it. Everywhere I look I am reminded my roommates are less than 4 feet tall. A faint hint of pee where the baby ran around with no diaper on. Chips in the paint where ride-on toys and blocks have hammered away at the once spotless canvas that was our home. Spaghetti sauce is splattered along our white kitchen cabinets, yogurt plasters the refrigerator door handles. The carpet often has a crunchy feeling underfoot. Unexplained blobs show up on the walls and no-one has any idea what they are or how they got there, ever. It disgusts me. I can’t fathom it.
So I would like to say to all those parents I harshly judged all those years ago, please accept my humble apologies. I stand corrected. My mother used to say to me as a child, “I can’t wait until you have children of your own!” I’ve never forgotten the sharpness of her words or the exasperated tone with which she delivered them. The truth was hidden there and now I understand. Karma is a bitch.