As some of you might know, I am a manny or babysitter for a five year old and a 12 year old three days a week. It is quite an eye opening experience, and I am glad that I have had the opportunity to do so, most of the time anyway. I would have never guessed that older kids could be so much more of a hassle than watching my nine month old. Holy crap is it trying sometimes. Either the twelve year old is misbehaving or the five year old is. They can't ever be nice to each other, and they can't ever be well-behaved simultaneously. Watching them makes me almost dread the time when my son reaches their age. I can say to myself that my kid will never act like that, but I know that many parents have said the same thing and there kids all act similarly. There is just so much random noise and chaos when you deal with older kids that I am not prepared for. Who am I kidding? I really actually love it. The randomness is really right up my alley, but the tantrums and the constant whining is not. I am sure that if you have children you have seen the kind of tantrums that I am talking about. You know, the fist pounding and head slamming on the floor type of tantrums that we all did when we were little ones until our parents straightened us out. It is getting to the point that even my son doesn't seem thrilled to be there anymore. But, luckily, that only happens a few minutes of every day/hour. I am just glad that most days I only have them for four hours.
I know what you are thinking. Children need definite rules, boundaries, and limitations and there needs to be consistency. That must be my problem right? I don't think so. Honest to god, I do instate rules and I do have clear boundaries and limitations in place, but there are times when none of that matters. Kids are nuts. Not just these kids. All kids are insane. For instance, I told the five year old little girl she couldn't have candy yesterday until after she had dinner and her mom was home. Holy cow, you'd think I had told her that the world was going to end and she had only five minutes to live. She started screaming and kicking and flailing. That's enough to drive any one batty. My usual routine is to count backwards from three and once I hit one if she is not finished doing the tantrum thing I take her to her room and put her in her bed until she can calm down and apologize for acting like that. Otherwise she sits there all day, which has happened on multiple occasions. It is just too dangerous to have a flailing five year old little girl around an infant. Anyway, yesterday stopped almost immediately because I have recently instituted a three strike rule too. My rule goes like this. Every time she throws a tantrum or does something that I deem as bad as a tantrum she gets a strike. Once three strikes accumulate she has to stay in her room whenever I am there to watch her for the rest of that week. Every Monday the slate is wiped clean. Of course it is different when I have to watch her for the entire week and there is no school. That would be too harsh. During those times, if she gets three strikes she just has to stay in her room for a day, excluding story time, snack time, and lunch time. I am amazed at how well that is working for the moment. That little girl goes completely ape-shit insane over such random things, so I am surprised that she has the where-with-all to pull herself together so quickly. Here is a classic example, she is learning to ride her bike and the last time she got on it when I was there she started tossing and kicking it around everywhere because she feel off of it. That just doesn't make sense. I try to tell her to think it through but that never happens. She's five for christ's sake! The ability to reason just isn't strong enough yet.
As challenging as the five year old girl is, her older brother who is twelve is twice as challenging. His thing is telling me how much smarter he his then me. That doesn't bother me. All kids around that age think that they are some how smarter than every one else. What is difficult for me is how do you discipline a twelve year old boy? The kid is sneaky and deceitful. If I send him to his room he undoubtedly has a game boy hidden or something up there. So that really isn't a punishment at all. He obviously doesn't care if he pisses me off. After all, I am not his parent, so why should he care? At this point I think he is incapable of feeling guilt or shame, so that tactic won't work. For example, his little sister found fifty cents in their couch cushions one day. As soon as I turned around, he threw her to the floor and started pummeling her until she gave it to him. What the hell was that all about? He beat up a five year old over fifty cents! Who does that? It's pathetic right? Anyway, I took the fifty cents back from him, sent him up to his room, and gave the fifty cents back to the little girl. What else could I do? Truthfully, I wanted to tan his little hide, but I didn't. But boy did I want to.
I guess the major problem with the twelve year old is that I have to follow him around everywhere to make sure he isn't doing anything stupid that can get himself seriously hurt. That in itself is a seriously exhausting task. There is never any telling what enters that kids mind. One day he tied himself to a tree and tried to ride his back as fast as he could down his drive way. Luckily I stopped him before that little adventure came to fruition, which caused a little mini crying fit but oh well. Truthfully though, he has been getting a lot better to be around and watch these last few months. Of course there are relapses, a lot of relapses, but that is all right as long as overall he isn't too bad. At least I feel like we are making progress anyway.
I don't want you all to think that it is terrible to watch these kids all the time. On the contrary, most of the time I enjoy it immensely. I get to wrestle around with them and joke around. We read and tell stories, which is a lot of fun. I really like watching these brats. They just tire me out and boggle my mind at times. I would love to be able to get inside their minds and see what they see so I could know what they are thinking when they do some of the things that they do. They always get me wondering why. Like, why is she really crying and tantrumming, or why does the twelve year old feel the need to perform asinine stunts? It just doesn't make sense to me.
However, I am glad that I have the opportunity to witness it all before my boy gets that age. My wife and our close friends, the parents of the children of the damned, told me that it would be excellent practice for me when I first started. I laughed it off and said, "How hard could it possibly be?" Well, I was wrong once again. It is a major pain in the ass, but they were absolutely correct in that I am finding it to be extremely useful practice. I get to see what monsters kids really are, and I am learning different strategies to cope with that. I'll have a game plan all set for later on when little man gets a little older. Now, I might be a little more prepared for the devil incarnate that my baby is sure to become sooner or later.