The time to leave Lady Bug in gym babysitting was nigh. She had had her first round of shots, she was three whole weeks over the minimum age the gym allowed, and she was already weighing in at nearly 12 lbs. Pretty soon, she’ll be begging me for her own iphone. Her big sister took the gym babysitting plunge at roughly the same age, in the hands of ladies that spoke very limited English (or at least they spoke very little English to me) and, come to think of it, were not too big on gestures, facial expressions, or any type of communication. It wasn’t ideal, but it was cheap childcare that allowed me to get my sweat on. Some might call this negligent parenting. I call it optimism.
I arrived at the gym just in time for the 8:45 spin class. Lady Bug had just been fed and diapered, my water bottle was full, and I had five dollars in cash for gym babysitting. Also? Bike shorts are basically industrial strength Spanx, perfect for my postpartum look. The day was off to an auspicious start.
I strolled Lady Bug into the kid’s area at 8:44, ready to drop her with a diaper and some wipes and dash to class. I scoped out the room. There sat two girls who were about five or six years old at a mini-table. An older girl greeted me. She must have been at least 5’8″ with a sweet baby face and I’m pretty sure I spied braces when she introduced herself. I looked around and didn’t see anyone beside her and the two children. Where was the adult in charge?
I processed the situation while I tried to act normal. Wait, what? A kid is in charge of… a bunch of kids? What the what? Be cool. Be casual.
“It’s nice to meet you.” I told her. Where is your mommy?
“How old are you?” I asked her, in the most “just curious” tone I could muster. The question was moot, though. My heart already knew this could never work. My head wasn’t quite there yet.
I paused. Act normal. Be casual. Go to spin class? Don’t go to spin class? Go and worry the whole time? Don’t go and risk hurting this girl’s feelings?
I thought I was en route to spin class, when really, I had just taken the bullet train to Awkward Town.
“Is there anyone else beside you to watch the kids?” Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I thought.
“Nope just me. But I’ve watched babies before.” Watched babies!? You ARE a baby! You’re a very, very tall baby!
“The baby has actually had a really fussy morning.” I hated lying but maybe it would soften the edges of this ragged situation. I glanced at Lady Bug, as if to say, “See what I mean?” but she just stared up at us from her carseat, her face as placid as ever.
“I just… I would..” I could hardly make words. I just would hate myself if anything happened. I would deserve anything horrible that might ensue if I were to let my baby be in the care of this child. I would be surprised if this was even legal. I would be shocked if this thirteen year old could handle an infant plus the two kids who were already there plus any others who might arrive later, (which incidentally three did, one of whom could not have been more than two years old). I would have been secretly playing Barbies in my room when I was thirteen. I am a grown woman and at least once a day I am barely managing my own two children. How can this possibly work?
“I’ve never actually left her with any non-family before.” This was true. “Usually, when I drop off my older child, there are no other kids here, so I wasn’t expecting…” This was untrue.
Finally, I spat out the words that needed to be said.
“I’m sorry I’m just really uncomfortable with this. It’s not you. I just.. I’m really sorry.”
I thought I saw a change in her face at that moment. The face you make as you pray to anything you ever did or didn’t believe in that your lip won’t quiver, your chin won’t tremble, and your voice won’t break, that you can hold in your tears until you are somewhere else. I know that face well. I might have invented that face. I felt like a jerk, but I just couldn’t leave my baby with this girl.
I apologized again, got my five bucks back at the front desk, and got the heck out of Dodge, knowing I might have made a 13 year old cry. And I was ok with that.