Sunday, July 30, 2017

Mother's Little Helper

I think, years ago, I did a post about all the many and weird jobs I've had. I don't think I tapped out many words on my very first job. My first job, outside of doing chores for my weekly allowance, was as a "Mother's Little Helper."  That's what our neighbor across the street called me. Her mother's little helper. She may have been Rolling Stones fan. *snort* I was about 10 or 11. Wow. I was Max's age when I started working. I think that is TOO young, but I was a pretty mature and responsible 10 year old.

The lady across the street worked part time and had a lot of activities she enjoyed. The problem was, she had two very active and demanding boys. One was about a year and a half younger than me and one was about 5 or so. He was a handful. Mrs. H would invite me over to keep her boys entertained and out of her hair. She did housework, laundry, typed stuff, talked on the phone...I guess whatever she wanted to, and I kept the kids out of her hair. My salary? She paid me in homemade cookies. Usually oatmeal raisin. She was big on healthy stuff. Sometimes chocolate chip. 2 cookies, no matter how many hours I was there.

Not gonna lie, I felt a little ripped off. The cookies were delish, but it was WORK keeping those boys engaged. Thankfully, back then I had a vivid imagination and could make up stories or games at the snap of a finger. My brain is more foggy and sluggish these days. It takes longer to find the right words and string them together. Even when my boys were small, I'd find it hard to sit on the floor and think of things for the Little People to say and do. I found myself wishing for a mother's little helper of my own.

I often wonder what my mother was thinking, allowing me to go watch kids at such a young age. She knew Mrs. H wasn't leaving us home alone (at least, not at first.)  Later, Mrs. H started running quick errands and would leave us to play. Not for a long stretch. Maybe 30-40 minutes. But I remember feeling really stressed about it. What if one of the boys got hurt? Ran out of the house? Broke something? It was nerve-wracking but ultimately a great experience. In my last days as a mother's little helper, Mrs. H finally started paying me cash money and she would take all of us to her swim and tennis club. She'd go play tennis and the boys and I would swim. Her older son was a good swimmer and went off to do his own thing and I just stayed with "the baby." He wasn't really a baby. Like most mothers, I think she wasn't ready for him to grow up.

Leaving a 12 year old to watch your kids at a pool. Alone. Yes, I was a good swimmer too and the pool had lifeguards, but still... *shivers*  Times were sure different back then. Even my own mom would take my brother and I to the pool at Hanscom AFB and just drop us off. We'd be there most of the day with just a little pocket money to get a treat from the ice cream man. Crazy. Free-range childhood at its best.

No comments: