Transitional Objects

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Transition.

That’s where I am right now…I’ve just quit my job….a job that I have a love/hate relationship with…to go forward with another.  It’s a complete career change, if you could call it that. After twenty plus years in the child care business I am moving on.  No longer will I have moms and dads relying on me to keep their babies safe and loved while they are away.  No longer will I change dirty diapers and wipe snotty noses for pay.  No longer will I have my tiny co-workers. 

Driving down the highway, I see a familiar sight in my review mirror.  I’ve had a child’s car seat in the back seat of every single car I have owned. The first one I was bribed into carrying. It was my little brother’s.  The agreement with my dad and step mom was that they would provide me with a cute little VW Bug so long as I picked up my baby brother from daycare. I loved it.  Fast forward a few years. As a very young adult I opened up a childcare business in my house.  This made it possible for me to be able to stay home with my own babies.  At one point I had four…yes, four car seats in my van. The seats remained well after my boys  outgrew the need for them.  The business continued to blossom for many years after. When the time came to end that chapter in my life I became a personal nanny…in their home rather than mine. 

For many years I have attempted to leave this business.  Diapers, snot, poop, spit up, bottles, crying, biting, messes, utter chaos, low pay and sometimes disregard wore on me.  Disrespect and being looked down upon…like the “help” is a rough part of the childcare business.  Just one set of parents who show such contempt is one set enough to send the weak running.  I’m not tough. I’m lucky.  I can honestly say that at least 90% of the families I worked for have been absolutely fantastically wonderful. Because of this, every time I attempted to leave the biz I managed to get sucked right back in.

Childcare has always been a very comfortable place for me. I’m a natural. When I about three years old my mom said I would surround myself with all of my baby dolls and proudly state, “All my children…” like the soap opera with the same title.  Everything I “played” as a wee little girl was “house” or “school”.  I had a regular babysitting gig at twelve. It funded the terrible donut habit that I developed in junior high.

Now, just two days left with the “nanny family” as I’ve nicknamed them, I’m sad.  Next week the seats will be gone.  My new line of work will take me on a very different path.  No more afternoons of snacks, and puzzles.  I will miss the constant interaction and silly conversations I have with my kiddos that make me come back for more over and over. I will miss the smiles, the love notes, the innocence. Not only am I comfortable in this line of work….it is my comfort.

*****

Anyone who has anything to do with children has most likely heard the term transitional object. Things such as blankies, teddy bears, pacifiers, bottles, a thumb or…if you have a quirky kids like I do…ears, are all are considered one of these.

Transitional: In between. Midway.  Middle. Halfway.

Object: Thing. Article. Item.

transitional object

  1. A comfort object, transitional object, or security blanket is an item used to provide psychological comfort, especially in unusual or unique situations, or at bedtime for small children. …

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transitional_object

 

Over the last two decades my life has had its ups and downs. Lots of each.  Some of my downs were pretty low.  But I was beyond blessed to have a handful of transitional objects…my little comforts to soothe and console me.  To calm me. To keep me going on day after day even when I didn’t want too. Throughout the years I must have had at least 50 or more kids in my care.  Each and every one have a unique place in my heart…but these five…my little handful….I wish I could shrink them down and carry them around in my pocket forever like my little brother once did with his funky piece of blanket he called his  “cowie”…or “corner”.  {Our dad refused to let him drag the whole thing around so he cut off the corner and shoved it into his pocket. The boy was quickly addicted.} 

Claire….When I began watching her she still had her umbilical cord.  It was yet to have dried up and fallen off. Anyone who knows anything about babies knows this means she was brand spankin new. A “tiny little flea” I called her. She was so miniature. And ornery.  She would refuse the bottle for hours trying hold out for her mama. Poor little cry baby. Oh I loved her so. She would fuss and fuss and finally get so sleepy she would take the bottle just enough to satisfy her hunger and pass out from sheer exhaustion in my arms. Some days I didn’t want to put her down. As she was learning how to make it through her early days with me while he mommy was at work, I was learning how to recover from the loss of my first baby.  A miscarriage. I only had known for six days that I was pregnant.  It broke my heart. Never in my life had I felt so absolutely empty and lost.  I would hold Claire as she cried and weep myself.   As I carried her…she carried me. It’s hard to believe that little peanut is nineteen already. A woman now. Just two years younger than I was then.  Nothing comforted me like her beautiful face…pointy little nose…big hazel eyes.….sometimes smiling…sometimes not…looking up at me reminding me that life does go on. 

Ava….When my youngest son went into kindergarten I attempted to close my daycare doors.  That lasted ohhhh….not too long. Soon I was found lurking around his kindergarten classroom offering to help with the usual parent helper stuff. With all three of my boys finally in school my house was completely empty of children for a whopping three and a half hours a day. The quiet drove me batty.  I gravitated towards the school like a cop to a donut shop. I needed my fix.  By the time he was in first grade I was back in business. When school began his teacher was 8 months pregnant. She was looking for child care.  I was still suffering from my empty nest. Before I even was pregnant with my oldest son I had a houseful of children. Now, my house was kid free and clean and calm. It made me nuts. I cried as my youngest trudged off to school with his oversized backpack and oversized feet. When I was asked to watch Little Miss Ava I didn’t hesitate. Please, I thought to myself…I need some noise in this place. She provided it. Ava had a small satin trimmed pink blanket she would drag around with her everywhere…I called it “Crybaby” because without it she would, well, cry. My empty nest didn’t seem so empty with my little girlfriend toddling around. I felt useful again.

Gavin: He was born on my thirty-sixth birthday.  The same day my dad went into the hospital and never came out. During those two weeks my dad was disappearing from my life I would gently rub baby lotion on his dry hands and feet.  He smelled like a newborn.  August that year was horrific and heartbreaking. My dad vanished from my world in what sometimes feels like a blink of an eye and other times feels like a long painful torture session.  I wasn’t planning on taking another child on.  Summer was coming to an end and I would be caring for Ava again at the start of the school year. Gavin was like a little gift sent special from heaven right to me.  Infants require lots and lots of time and energy…especially coupled with a blossoming toddler. There was not much time to dwell on things when there was a baby in the house. Gavin kept me hopping, and healing. Losing my dad was, and still is, the hardest thing I’ve ever had to endure. Gavin represented new life….like the one my dad had in heaven. Gavin’s fresh little life helped mend my broken heart….and he smelled like baby lotion.

Jack & Maddie: My last crew. The last to ride in those seats strapped into my backseat.  The ones I will miss so terribly much each day when I see the empty spots in the rearview mirror. These two whom I have nannied in their home for the last eighteen months may be my last.  These two. Oh my little co-workers. I think in all of the years of interacting with small people these two have giving me more funny stories to share than the whole lot of them combined.  Such conversationalists. I suppose it had a lot to do with their ages…three and six.  This round was different from the others though.  I was in their home. My home had pretty much fallen apart in the year prior. Divorce. Such an ugly word and time in my life. Many changes paved the road that led me to Jack and Maddie.  Suddenly I found myself in a new town, pretty much alone.   I moved to take on a different job (I do actually have other skills other than child rearing) but it didn’t quite pay the rent so I added a bit of nannying on the side. Moving south meant I would leave bits of my life behind. Bits. My boys. They stayed with their father….I wasn’t in the position to provide for them at the time and he could. I also didn’t want to take them away from their school, friends and hockey.  Painful and lonely doesn’t even begin to explain how my insides felt.  In walks Jack and Miss Maddie. Jack…familiar…a little boy.  The greatest age…..three. He calls me “Cute”.  It melts my heart.  And Maddie….over the years I’ve taken care of my share of little girls. But never on this level….ALONE FOR HOURS AT A TIME WITH ONE. While her little brother slept in the afternoons, Maddie and I had one on one time like never before. Girl time. When I was just a kid myself, my mom told me that she was sure I would only have boys.  And she was correct.  Girls=glitter encrusted aliens to me. I think the first month or two I just stared at her with an open mouth as she chattered on and on and on and on and on and on and on about butterflies and ponies and glitter.  Before long we were besties. Oh, her sense of humor and mature understanding sucked me right in. And also the glitter. I love glitter.  She asked me questions. Lots of them. Hard ones at times. Ones I had to be careful how I answered. Some things kids just don’t need to understand…and well, adults don’t either.  “Where is your husband?” “Your boys don’t live with you?” “I bet you miss them huh?”  And then there were these….“Tell me about your boys?” “Who’s the oldest?” “What’s he like?” “Does your little one like hockey?” “Tell me a funny story about the one in the middle…”

Nothing more does a mother love than talking about her children.

Maddie helped me feel like a mom again.  I had days that I didn’t.  I struggle daily with choices I’ve made.  Hard ones.  Ones I wish I never had to make…but that’s a story for another time. This little girl kept me strong.  She shook me up and reminded me that no matter what, I will always always always be their mama…near or far.  I will miss this wise little woman with every cell of my broken, bruised, lonely heart.   I will miss the nonstop chatter and the poor attempts I made to get her massive head of hair into a bun for ballet. I will miss Jack’s little boyishness quirks, like never wearing pants.  I will miss his flirty name calling and ping pong ball-like movements. 

All my children.

My blankies. My pacifiers. My teddy bears.

A big job for such little people.A job well done. 

 

 

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