When I’m not writing, I babysit three young kids. I pick them up from school, help them with homework, make sure they shower, and cook dinner, but my job is so much more than that.
My dear readers, today I’m going to tell you about an experience I had with the youngest child, Sibyl.
She’s all of five years old, a little over three feet tall, has long brown hair and chestnut brown eyes. She loves jumping off swings at their highest point and dancing to the tune of Chris Brown. She’s super smart, free-spirited, and independent and when she runs over to hug me, it melts my heart.
Nevertheless, Sibyl can be difficult. One day Sibyl refused to shower and I said, “Sibyl, you have to shower today.” She wailed, “IT’S TOO HARD!”. Her nine-year-old brother rushed to her side and tried to comfort her as I awkwardly stood by. Now that it was two against one, I had a potential crisis on my hands and I said “Ok, Sibyl. Shower tomorrow.”
The next day, Sibyl again refused to shower. When I said, “Why?”, she ran away and screamed, “It’s too hard! Mama, Mama…I need Mama…”
“I know,” I murmured. “I miss my Mom, too.”
Sibyl’s Mom died 5 months ago, mine died 5 years ago. We were two motherless girls trying to figure it out.
After my Mom died, people said: “You’ll think of her every day,” but that’s not true for me. My life is so busy and engaging that I don’t think of her every single day and I know that’s how she’d want it to be. But when things get tough or complicated, I miss my Mom a lot.
Mom always pushed me to keep going.
Even when a bouncer in Boston confiscated my fake ID, I was never allowed to back down. After it happened, I wanted to let it go, but my Mom made me face the situation head on. The morning after it happened she insisted we go to the bar to get it back. I said, “But, Mom, fake ID’s are illegal!” To which she said, “If they don’t give it back, then I’ll call the police!”
I went back.
Today, I can say for certain that I’m a braver person for being pushed to do these things.
Sibyl couldn’t possibly understand how showering regularly was as if not more important than a fake ID, or saving the police from your Mom.
Even so, I would do as my Mom did for me and help her in any way I could, but Sibyl couldn’t quit.
I sat her down and said, “Sibyl, I’m going to help you every step of the way, but you must shower today. Cleanliness is so important.”
Like the day before, Sibyl started wailing and her brother rushed over again and said, “Kristen, let it go!”
But, I turned him away because I wasn’t going to let Sibyl quit this time. And it was so hard. Sibyl was sobbing and backing away from me like I was evil. I hoped for the best and helped Sibyl get ready to shower.
I gently pulled her shirt over her head and helped her remove the rest of her clothing. Then, I got down on one knee so she could wrap her arms around my neck. I carried her to the shower.
All the while, Sibyl howled and cried.
As I shampooed her hair, Sibyl screamed, “I don’t care if I’m dirty. Showers don’t matter!”
Finally, when she was reduced to sniffles, I said, “Actually, showers do matter. And so do putting your toys away and brushing your teeth. Since Mama is gone, Dad has to work a lot more. The more you can take care of yourself, the more you help Dad, and I’m gonna help you. Okay?”
I dried her off. I reached for pajamas. But then she stopped me:
“I can do it,” she said.
Since that happened a few months ago, Sibyl’s been pretty great about showering. She’s even putting her toys away and brushing her teeth more often.
And when I’m no longer working with her family, I hope that the lesson, “Don’t quit!” carries into other aspects of her life because, in life, there are so many reasons not to do something.
But if it’s important and good for you, push forward and go for it no matter how scary, inconvenient, or “too hard” it may seem.
Believe me when I say that like me and Sibyl, you’ll be braver for it, too.
Kindly note that the names and identities of the kids have been changed to protect this family’s privacy.