Our theme for the month of March is “monsters.”
As someone who spent most of her teenage years and even some adult years babysitting, I’m no stranger to the wide-eyed innocence of children—or the universal fascination with the scariest concept their brains can possibly imagine: monsters.
I’ve checked for monsters under the bed or in the closet time and time again. I’ve been the one to censor movies or TV shows with creatures that might be too scary. Once I even portrayed a monster in a game of make-believe, as requested by my cousin’s three-year-old daughter. I guess my performance was a little too convincing, because she was done with the game about two minutes later. “Okay, no more monster,” she said. Noted.
I’m not entirely sure where the whole monster thing comes from, but I didn’t mind it. For me, getting lost in make-believe games helped me feel a little more at ease while I was personally responsible for another human life (or two, or three, or four…). While the kids I babysat were only concerned about what was for dinner or helping me finagle the smart TV remote, I had far greater concerns. What if one of them chokes on their macaroni and cheese? What if someone breaks into the house and I only have this princess wand as a weapon? What if the whole house burns down??
In all the time I spent babysitting, it never really got any easier. The responsibility always came with some innate anxiety, escalated by lists of emergency phone numbers and any random noise in the house. I’m fortunate in that the monstrous fears that loomed inside my brain never manifested in real life while I was babysitting. The relief I felt once the parents came home didn’t happen because I was sick of spending time with the kids—I was just overwhelmed with joy that nothing bad happened on my watch.
In some ways, I miss being a child. I miss the days when I had fewer responsibilities. The days when I didn’t worry so much. I look at the eager faces of the kids I babysit, and my heart aches for so many things they have yet to experience. Middle school tends to be somewhat of a monster, and someone should definitely warn them about that. Also that night-before-I-take-my-driver’s-test anxiety. Oh, and college decisions. If imaginary monsters are scary, I can only imagine how they’ll feel about student loans someday.
Even when I was tired or lacking motivation while babysitting, I knew I had to play along. I had to wear the bedazzled tiaras, race Hot Wheels cars across the dining room floor, and listen for muffled giggles as I counted to ten and said, “Ready or not, here I come!” Before they know it, life will utter that same sentiment, and I hope they’ll look back on those games with fondness and nostalgia. Until that happens, I’ll always be glad I played along and helped them cling to that innocence just a little bit longer.
Kayleigh (Fongers) Van Wyk (’18) graduated with a degree in writing and resides in West Michigan. She works as a reporter for the Grand Rapids Business Journal and Grand Rapids Magazine while also making time for freelance writing. When she’s not behind a screen, she enjoys going for walks, eating ice cream, and buying more books than she’ll ever read.