A few years ago, I was a nanny; which is really just a fancy way of saying I was a babysitter. Nanny's have a bit more responisibility than a babysitter, but the task at hand is all about watching out for, protecting and loving a child who is not your own because its parents can not be there at the time.
After raising my own children, I took a child-free sabattical.That's not exactly the truth because I was kind-of, sort of, taking care of my own inner child who was wanting, and needing, some serious attention. Like a newborn baby with constant needs or an adolescent who is testing life's every limit, my little girl made it clear that she wanted some of my time.
But eventually we got things straightened out between us; at least we got to a place where we were working in tandem, not fighting each other, so I could go on to other things. This is when I came home to take care of my mother and as a side job, took on the care and responsibility of a baby. Both were jobs I kind of fell into, but turned out to be just about the best assignments I could have gotten.
I helped to raise "Robert" for five years. I learned a lot about life that I never picked up on when I had kids of my own. I'm not sure why, but I think it was knowing that the ultimate responsibility of how he "turned out" lay on his parent's shoulders not mine. All I had to do, really, was love him, give him some boundaries, splash in puddles, chase garbage trucks, play castle, take his picture, jump on the trampoline, read him stories, bake him cookies and love him some more.
The child that used to be my surrogate grandchild, is now on the verge of adolescence. My goodness gracious, he's just been signed up for middle school. I'm not sure where the time goes. Even though I try to stay abreast of the things that are going on in his life, I'm not really a part of it anymore. I feel sad about that, but I know part of a nanny's job description, like that of the parent she's standing in for, is letting go, especially when you feel like holding on tight.
I heard today that there has been a discussion in his family about what kind of musical instrument he should play in the school band next year. Like most things that involve an only child there are three opinions that count and it's not always the child's point of view that is considered when making a serious decision.
I'm not saying that picking a clarinet over a trumpet is a major life descision, but little things have a way of escalating into big things - especially where pre-teens and hormones and personalities and parents are concerned. Without being asked, I'm going to throw in my 2 cents. The key thing to point out, is I'm going to do it here, on my blog, not in the midst of the family dynamics.
If I could sit down with Robert this is what I might say: "So you want to play the clarinet. How cool is that? What made you decide on that instrument? Do you like the way it sounds? Do you know anyone else who plays the same instrument? Have you ever heard a famour clarinetist play?"
Once we got comfortable I might add something like this: "You know, Robert, being in a band, is like being on a basketball team. A team is made up of individuals all working for a common goal. Even though you play just one clarinet, when all the instruments play together they make a whole different sound. What makes the music so beautiful is that each player is playing his very best. When one person, or instrument, is having a bad day, all the notes might sound a little sour. But when every note is played to perfection, oo la la - now that's music!"
"You already know that's true of playing on a sport's team. And it's true of just about everything you do in life. One needs to do the very best to get the very best. Certainly that is true of school work, and being in the band, but it's also true of just being an every day Joe, or Robert, as the case may be."
And because I won't be able to help myself, I'll add a little tiny bit of: "I think it's very neat that you have chosen to be in the band. Now what you have to do is follow through on the decision and be the best member of the band you can be. That means practicing when you don't really feel like it, and it means doing your very best, and it means not quitting when it gets hard. Remember, everything new is a little hard at first and you have to work through the newness of something before you are really comfortable with it. And also, don't forget, the other members of the band are counting on you, just like you are counting on them."
Noticing that I've just about lost his full attention, finally I'd add this: "What's really important is not which instrument you pick - which one is more manly or less nerdy than the other. Let's face it, in life, some people are going to be macho and cool, and some are going to be a little squirrelly. Chances are each of us, on any given day will be one or the other. What's important to remember is this - nerds are people too and have feelings that can get hurt. Believe it or not, so do the big tough guys. People are people and at the end of the day we are all the same inside. Try not to make decisions about people - or instruments - by what they look like on the outside. Find out what they are like on inside before you make fun of, or shy away from, them. Listen to their "inner" music and you might find something you never expected.
When picking an instrument (or a friend) pick the instrument that best suits you. Follow your heart, because in the end, that's where you'll feel the most comfortable. Once you are comfortable it'll be easier to be the best you can be."
Then, just for the fun of it, eveni f he's already gone, I'll wax poetic: "I can still remember the day you went to pre-school. I think your mom and I were more scared than you were. But what did we have to be scared of? Nothing more than you taking the steps you needed to take to grow up. I was very proud of you that day and I continue to be proud of the person you are becoming.
I can't wait to go to Carnegie Hall to hear your clarinet solo. I'll be the lady down front, cheering and clapping and taking your picture! (Even though there will be no trampoline involved, I'll probably be jumping up and down and you know what that means!)
Before I sign off, I've just realized, that even though I'm hypothetically talking to Robert, I think I had something to say to the feisty little girl who dwells inside me. I hope she was listening!