“Brenna, I like you,” said Dylan, my four-year-old former babysitting charge. “Thanks, Dylan,” I smiled. But he wasn’t done. “Ya, I like you, but I like my new babysitter better.”
Ouch. He wasn’t trying to be mean. It’s just that he’s four, and hasn’t quite grasped the silver and gold wisdom of making new friends. Before I graduated at the beginning of the summer, Dylan had never really had another babysitter. He was barely toddling around unassisted when I first started taking care of him. Now he speaks eloquently, using full sentences. In fact, he’s often pretentious, inserting the word “actually” liberally in conversation. “Actually, I would like another cracker.” There was also the phase where he took to calling me “sir.” It started when he asked for something in a way that failed to meet my rigorous politeness standards. “Try it again, please,” I said, holding the jug of milk poised above his cup. He folded his hands together, resting them on the counter, looked up at me with wide eyes, and said in a measured tone, “Sir, may I please have a glass of milk.” “Yes you may,” I replied, trying at first to stifle my laughter and quickly failing. After that, he realized that “sir” added power to his requests, and he utilized the word often.
“Dylan, there are some things that are okay to think in your head, but that might hurt someone’s feelings if you say them out loud*,” I said matter-of-factly, “It hurts my feelings when you say those things.” He nodded, “I’m sorry, Brenna.”
Really, it’s a sentiment we’ve all shared at some point. Most of us wouldn’t share our feelings aloud, but I can remember times that I’ve felt like a new friend is more exciting than an old one. Usually, this circumstance makes me feel guilty, like I’m being disloyal to the old friend because I’d rather spend time with the new one. So it’s understandable that Dylan would look to me for reassurance that it’s okay to like the new babysitter more. I mean, she plays “super crash” and apparently enjoys disassembling toy cars. My bag of tricks has long been empty. After three years, Dylan has depleted my store of fun, exciting babysitting material. The “sink or float” game. Making goop out of kitchen supplies. Running under the outdoor shower fully clothed. Monster truck videos on youtube. That’s pretty much the best I’ve got, kid. But I can learn.
“But, Brenna, do you like crashing cars?” Hmm, crashing them sounds like more fun than driving them around a race track for hours on end. “Yes, I think I do like crashing cars,” I answered. “Well, will you play ‘super crash’ with me?” He asked hopefully. “You’ll have to teach me how, but, sure.” And I believe that should be, “Will you play ‘super crash’ with me, sir.”
*Huh, now that I think of it, this a lesson that would have well served the guy my freshman year of college who told me, “I like you…kind of.” “You know, some things are okay to think in your head…”