Photo by Picsea from Unsplash
Babysitting can be a tedious task, even when it’s your own niece or nephew. Infants and toddlers demand so much attention and affection even for the smallest things. It requires skills, discipline, and management. It’s not easy to feed one and make sure the other doesn’t fall from the bed while there’s something cooking something in the stove. Children get super playful when being surrounded by other kids their age, and things can get out of hand in a second. If only you could cut your body in halves.
You have to prepare, improvise, and entertain simultaneously. When emergencies arise, you must know whom to call, what to do, and where to go. Keep the children always within your sight. For you to go well with kids, you have to learn how to speak in their language, so don’t lose that inner child in yourself. Also, by looking after kids, you’ll develop your reflexes and intuitions. Regardless, through the hectic journey, you will find moments when you wished you could capture with a photo by your eyes. They’re too precious to witness; your phones wouldn’t be able to give it justice. There is something about children that make your heart shine its brightest. That’s one of the many things I look forward to babysitting.
Growing up as an only child, I’ve always wanted a sibling. It doesn’t matter if it’s someone older or younger, a boy or a girl; I couldn’t care less. I just wanted to have someone to talk to inside my room at night or someone to quarrel with at the dining table even if I dread hearing siblings fight over the pettiest things. I still wanted it.
You can’t deny the love-hate bond of a sibling. It’s one of a kind. That’s something I will never have. But instead of sulking about it, I divert my energy and love towards my nieces and nephews which, as of now, there are four of them. The eldest is a six-year-old. To put it plainly, I love kids. I love being called “ate,” a term used in the Philippines to refer to an older female (may it be a relative or a stranger) as a sign of respect. Maybe my love for taking care of kids, it’s built within me or maybe it’s just my longing for a sibling since I’m an only child.
In my home, we live with our extended families and we are growing as the years go by. They call me “yaya” which can mean a housemaid or a caretaker or a nanny. I’m not actually a yaya (because they don’t regularly pay me with money) but they like to tease me as such because I take care of the kids (4) at home when parents and grandparents are occupied with prior commitments. Most of the time, I only look after two. Occasionally, I take care of all four of them at the same time, especially on weekends when we gather as one big family and dine together.
For about six years of being the babysitter in the family, I’ve picked up quite a few things that I learned on my own the hard way. Of course, at first, I didn’t know exactly how to take care of a toddler, let alone an infant. But since my eldest nephew was born, my eagerness to learn grew fonder, and my interest to know the basic things to do to a baby (bathing, feeding, changing diapers, etc.) was piqued when he was born.
Since then, I gradually learned those basic skills from watching my cousins do it, and from my mother, aunts, and grandmother’s advice collated. It wasn’t something I was forced into learning immediately (though I know I should learn to do it at one point especially when the time comes that I will have a family of my own). Nevertheless, I was willing and patient because I believe that it’s an essential skill that anyone should learn whether or not you’re planning to start a family soon.
5 THINGS YOU SHOULDN’T FORGET AS AN AUNT-BABYSITTER:
INFORM, ASK, AND VERIFY EVERYTHING FROM THE PARENTS
Even if they are your family, remember that you don’t know your nieces and nephews as much as their parents do. It’s vital to consult your siblings or cousins and ask them about their recent interests, favorites, food allergies, etc. If you notice the kids are looking quite unwell, inform their parents about their kids’ present condition and ask if they have any medicine prepared for them.
Your questions and concerns can range from which tv show is his favorite to he isn’t eating lunch and he spits whatever little food I try to feed him with. Although you and your nephew already have a stable relationship since you spend so much time together as a family, never think you know better. It’s good to be prepared and flexible, but most of the time, it’s better to inform the parent and ask for advice about the best way to approach their child about a problem.
Have them tell you anything that needs clarification. This ranges from food restrictions, favorable sleeping schedule, etc. You can never be too confident nor too complacent. Put in mind that you’re looking after your nieces and nephews, your own blood. But first and foremost, they’re kids. They can be rowdy, dirty, clumsy, noisy and all other sorts of needy. They can push you to your limits and manipulate you with crocodile tears and the old-fashioned telling on grandmothers. Don’t let them get to you because you know what’s best for them. They’ll thank you when they’re older.
BE ALERT AND RESPONSIBLE AT ALL TIMES
Set strict boundaries so they will see you as an authoritarian figure they can trust and not plainly as a best friend they can use to gain leverage against their parents. Although it feels good that they see you as a cool and fun aunt, remember that they are still your sibling or cousin’s children who need to learn respect. You can cut them some slack every once in a while like allowing them to eat sweets (unless strictly prohibited due to health reasons) or letting them sleep late.
It’s better to keep your nieces and nephews safe while under your care than in trouble because of your negligence and irresponsibility. It’s imperative to set rules for them to follow so they won’t learn to abuse you and get on your soft side all the time. This will help them obey and respect you as an aunt. Learn to say no during times when they’re being a brat. Think about the long-term effects of their actions if you do not correct them earlier.
It’s important to show that you have a listening ear to their pleas but it’s also as important not to condone bad behavior in any way. Teach them the proper values, etiquette, and ethics when eating at the dining table, talking to other people, approaching the elderly, and many more scenarios. It’s better for them to get used to practicing behavior in their formative years instead of only pampering them with their short-term lures.
PLAY WITH THEM
As an aunt, don’t forget to be playful and fun-loving at times. Think of creative ways to get them involved physically, socially, and mentally so they will grow up interactive with their bodies and to others. Give quality time to your nieces and nephews and play with them. Whether it’s making forts inside the room, baking healthy desserts, painting, watching good movies, or playing ball games outdoors, show them the child in you (responsibly). Moreover, it’s always better to let them experience the outdoors. Survey the situation outside your homes if it’s safe and clean to keep them company (especially when your house is near the highway). Don’t be too complacent and lenient to them; their safety must always be your priority.
Introduce them to the outdoor games you played when you were kids. In the Philippines, we played many physical games outside with the other neighbors’ kids. Some of these are dakop-dakop (tag), tubig-tubig, buwan-buwan, luksong baka, luksong tinik, siatong, bato-lata, lupa-langit, and so many more. You can introduce them to exercising, sports, planting, kite flying, and a lot more activities that get them engaged and enthusiastic.
Never leave them especially with strangers and always keep an eye on them. Be ready with water, a few snacks, face towels, extra shirts, and your emergency medicine kit at all times. It’s sad that kids these days don’t even go outside anymore because they’re too busy playing games on their electronic devices. Let them experience the raw joys of childhood, even if it means getting a few sores and scratches on their knees and arms.
GIVE THEM TIME TO WATCH NURSERY RHYMES ON YOUTUBE AND NETFLIX
After a few good minutes of playing and running around in Halloween costumes, allot some time for them to rest with a good movie or nursery rhymes on the internet. You can put them to bed or on the couch, away from the screen as possible (whether you’re watching on a mobile phone, a desktop, or a television). Limit their time on electronics because we don’t want them to have vision impairments at such a young age.
Be wary of the videos they’re watching. It’s better if you’re watching it with them. You can sing along if you want to. I have familiarized, even memorized most of the songs myself. Make sure the videos you’re letting your nieces and nephews watch are child-appropriate, educational, and safe. Beware of child porn and scary images inserted by pedophiles and hackers on the internet.
Here is a list of the best childhood videos (not ranked):
- Dave and Ava
- Chuchu TV
- Super JoJo
BE VOCAL ABOUT YOUR CONDITIONS
This tip is for your relationship with your siblings or cousins. Sure, you love your nieces and nephews so much that you’d do anything for them. But remember that you have commitments are priorities as well, so you should be vocal when telling them which time suits you and your needs and which do not. It’s important to set boundaries for them and be as specific as possible.
Most of the time, it’s difficult to say no to their requests especially when you can see they really are in need of your help. Sometimes, out of the kindness of your heart, you make time for them or even tell them you have the day off even when you don’t (because you want to give them at least a little time to rest). As they say, that’s what family is for and you want to help in any way you can. But remember that you have to consider yourself in the equation as well.
An open healthy communication is key to respect each other’s routines without resentment for the family. If you’re too exhausted to even talk to your nieces and nephews, then don’t force it. Don’t be too overconfident at saying you can handle it. You might cause more problems than what you intended.
Children need guardians who can attentively cater to their needs, and their parents need guardians whom they can trust. If your current circumstances do not permit you, then say no and give yourself a break. Don’t allow them or yourself to make you feel obligated because you’re not (unless you have prior family arrangements whatsoever).
“It’s a good thing babies don’t give you a lot of time to think. You fall in love with them and when you realize how much they love you back, life is very simple.”Anita Diamant