Monday, July 4, 2011

Using My College Degree

After the long trip to Sweden (I swear, the last time this country will be mentioned for awhile) we had one day at home before packing our bags again and heading off into Chianti for a short job. I would be babysitting while Leif would be taking the adults off to wine tastings. Sounds a little unfair at this point, doesn’t it?

I was nervous about this. First and foremost, I seriously question my own parenting skills. I got my children to the age of eighteen alive, they are responsible for the amazing people that they are. Second, I haven’t babysat much since I was quite young. Not that anything has changed much except the toys. Now, though, parents expect even an “occasional babysitter” to have all sorts of qualifications like CPR and life guarding and references. I suppose I can get a CPR certification and I can avoid jobs with pools, but how do I get references? Ask my kids to write a letter stating that they don’t feel scarred for life by my parenting skills?

Thankfully no one asked for any of those things on this job. I watched two great American kids, seven and ten, for three days. I wasn’t sure what it would be like, especially when the first morning the seven-year-old came slowly down the stairs with his eyes glued to his Nintendo DS (honestly, I don’t know what that is, but he told me that’s what it was). I was sure that I would spend most of my time watching two children immerse themselves in a fantasy world instead of enjoying Italy. The ten-year-old was in charge of the iPad and the Blackberry so that they could stay in touch with their parents the entire time they were gone.

What happened after the adults left was amazing. The kids put away the games, used the Blackberry sparingly and used the iPad to make a journal of our days for their parents. Wow.

They have a pool at home so they were comfortable in the water and we rotated in and out of the pool and the strong sunshine to the shade of an umbrella covered patio. We played endless games of Uno. We must have played over a hundred games in the three days I was there and I only won three. So I suppose that proves the saying “lucky in cards, unlucky in love”. Because if I am unlucky in cards, then I must be lucky in love, which I am. It was great for the kids…like a football player has a touchdown dance, these guys had their own “I won” dances (with songs too) that they videoed for the adults to watch later. I refused to dance when I won, so they did one for me.

A couple of hours into the first day they started to get restless and I said “Do you guys want to draw with me?” fully expecting them to look at me like I had suggested cleaning the oven or something. Instead they said sure and got out their papers and crayons and I took out my drawing kit. From the second they saw my pens and some of my drawings they couldn’t get enough of drawing. They drew pictures of the landscape for their parents and the others. I let them use everything in my kit and they had the best time learning about color and line and how water works with my watercolor pens to make something different from what they are used to.

The second day I was there we were in the middle of one of our drawing sessions and having a conversation about the importance of drinking water (even when drawing), when the seven-year-old turned to me and asked “Were you made for babysitting?” with this completely serious look on his face. He really wanted to know if this was true. At that moment I felt like Mary Poppins or Maria von Trapp, without the great singing voice. I didn't know how to answer that. It's possible that I was. Maybe I should get him to write me a reference.

We spent those three days going on adventure walks (to discover new bugs for the seven-year-old boy), we swam, we played Uno and when they got bored they would ask to draw with a very hopeful look in their eyes. By the time I left, they were asking for specific lessons in color and shading. Well, what she said is “How do I make it not look flat?“ which is achieved through shadow and light. They are each going home with a portrait  of themselves I made while they were drawing and a stack of their own drawings that will help them to remember this trip as they saw it on those days. And I hope the enthusiasm to continue drawing during the trip and when they get home.

So I would just like to say now, for all those people who thought my degree in art would never find a use in this life…ha! It may be an unconventional way, but I am using my college degree to mold little minds and open their eyes up to see the world in a different way. Feels pretty good, I have to say. I think I can offer babysitting services with the option to add drawing/painting lessons, piano/music lessons, cooking/baking lessons...who knows? Sorry Dad, it looks like I may end up being some kind of a teacher after all.

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