I like to think I’m good with children. Or maybe they’re good with me, maybe that’s a better way of saying it. I like talking to kids. I like cuddling and reading and giving piggyback rides. I’ve been like this since I can remember; in fact, we have home movies of me at about age 4, lugging around my toddler cousins. I have 25 cousins; they are all younger than I am. It’s good to be queen. At one point or another, all my aunts and uncles have considered me rather saint-like (right on the money, as far as I’m concerned).
When I meet a kid, I like to ask them questions I think they’ll really like to answer, rather than the standard adult Q&A. Rather than, “Do you like school?” I ask, “Are you a Jedi?” or “Do you like sparkles?” Sometimes, I ask a kid an absurd question, completely deadpan. “What kind of car do you drive?” I recently asked a five-year-old.
“I can’t drive!” the little guy said. “I’m only five!”
“So next year, then?” I asked. “I can picture you in a Mustang convertible. Are you saving yet?”
I love to ask a kid if he or she is married. “No!” they’ll sputter, utterly delighted. “Of course not!”
“No!” The giggles begin.
“Don’t tell me you’re divorced,” I’ll say. They get quite a charge out of that.
I keep an eye out for children in need of distraction. Fussy toddlers at the supermarket are a specialty of mine. I can imitate bird song quite well, one of my underrated life skills. The kid will freeze in delight, whining forgotten, and the parent will shoot me a grateful look as I go through my repetoire. Granted, smart phones have replaced me to some extent in recent years, which pains me. I rather liked being that mysterious adult who could hypnotize kiddies. Sort of a Mary Poppins/Willy Wonka vibe.
As a person who babysat dozens of children over a 15-year span, who nannied for a few summers and potty-trained a now-published author (you’re still welcome, Freddie), I once considered becoming a professional nanny when I lived in Manhattan. I figured I’d clean up, being a licensed driver/college educated person who really did enjoy spending time with ankle-biters. But I opted not to. I wanted to save fulltime child care for the time when I’d be the parent. Already, I couldn’t bear the thought of parting with my little ward when the mom and dad deemed me no longer necessary.
So, if we’re ever together some place and you need me to watch your kid for a little while, know that I’d love nothing more.