I was a terrible babysitter. Have I said this before? Well, I'll say it again, just in case: I was a terrible babysitter.
I hated it. Hated every moment of it. I hated spending every Friday and Saturday on the job. I hated trying to figure out something fun to do that didn't involve leaving the house. I hated watching The Little Mermaid 50 times in a row. I hated making lousy dinners in a strange kitchen. I hated putting screaming kids to bed (but hated even more having screaming kids awake). I hated falling asleep on someone else's couch, waiting hours past their expected arrival time. I hated being woken up at midnight and dragged home. I hated being told OVER and OVER that "I don't have any cash on me, kiddo - I'll pay you next time, ok?" And I hated, since I nearly always babysat for family, that I had to suck it up and take it. (Maybe if I ask my uncle to make good on all those unpaid hours when I see him next month we'll have enough cash for IVF #2.)
And so I constantly ask myself, over and over again, why I think I want kids so badly.
This weekend, while watching my nephews (aged 10 and 2) I asked myself that yet again...but for once, while still in the presence of a snot-faced, whining baby and videogame obsessed preteen, I think I found an answer.
Driving home from the Children's Museum, all of us positively exhausted, I plugged in my iPod and stuck on Regina Spektor. I didn't think my nephews would particuarly like Ms. Spektor's odd phrasing and poignant lyrics, but I didn't think they'd mind her either. What I never predicted was that the elder boy not only liked, but knew the songs. Together we sang along to On The Radio while he drummed the rhythm on his lap.
It was a moment so reminiscent of my own childhood: driving in my dad's Plymouth Reliant as I ask him to see "what's on the rad-i-o, daddy-o" (him always jokingly correcting me: "what's on the radio, day-dee-o"). Or sitting at the dining room table, wearing his enormous green headphones, listening to his copy of Harry Belafonte's "Live at Carnegie Hall", knowing the record so well that the skips became as familiar as the songs themselves. Or standing on the bleachers in the pouring rain, my dad by my side, as we dance to Paul Simon and Ladysmith Black Mambazo at my first ever concert. My dad shared so many enormous things with me. He gave me life, he gave me lodging, he gave me the strength to be who I am. And although his love of music might not be the most precious gift I received from him, it's one I hold so dear to my heart (and ears). It's one of the countless ways he helped make me who I am; imperfect and strange and joyous and loved.
So as my nephew tapped along to that sweet little song, a song his mom had shared with him, I knew in part why I want to be a mother. I want kids so I can repay the debts I owe my own parents. Debts that can only be paid by someday helping to give my own children to themselves.