I started babysitting when I was about 12 or 13 years old. I did it then just to start making my own money. I was too young to work anywhere and I didn’t get paid for chores (more like I hated doing chores). But, I wanted to start being able to pay for whatever I wanted. I liked kids enough that I decided babysitting would be it.

I started out just watching neighborhood kids. It was typically really easy, the kid I watched in the neighborhood most often was usually asleep by the time I got there, so I just got to sit and watch TV and movies. Another girl I watched one summer loved when I blew bubbles or colored with her. But, that’s where it started out. Watching neighborhood kids for a few extra dollars.

I got my license the summer of 2014 and that’s when I knew I needed a job. I hadn’t done any babysitting in a while and didn’t have any other jobs either. During that summer though I had met a few younger girls in a group I was helping coach on my club team. They loved me and I really liked them as well. At the end of the summer swim season, I wound up talking to a girl’s parents and something awesome happened. She loved me that much and her parents could see that, so I picked up my first babysitting job in almost a year!

I started babysitting for them and did so consistently. Along with their daughter, they have a son who is about 3 years younger than her. They are awesome kids. But, they could also be difficult. Very difficult. I had never had to break up fights between siblings before, or even act like I was the parent. I had to uphold the parent’s rules, while also trying to stick to how I believed situations should be handled. Sometimes it was handled by sending them both their rooms for time out, but as they got older, it turned into simply taking the item away. Sure, they might hate me for five minutes for deciding they couldn’t watch TV anymore since they were fighting over what to watch; but the girl practiced piano instead and the boy went and found something else to play with. I grew close to these kids and watched them grow for about two years.

Along with babysitting them, I wound up getting two other families going into this past summer. A family from my church needed a babysitter and my youth group leader helped them out by posting to Twitter asking if anyone needed a summer job. I replied and got the extra family. The other family I got was because of my best friend. She was moving that summer with her boyfriend and asked me if I would like to take over that family for her for the summer until I left. I gladly agreed.

The kids from those families are also awesome! The children from the church were two boys who are nine and five. They are the politest boys I’ve ever met. They listened to me every time I told them to do something, I never had to stop them from fighting, never had to yell at them, and they always responded to me. They helped me if I didn’t know how to do something- like doing something with their TV. They are insanely funny, and I always got hear about how the youngest is convinced he’s going to be Power Ranger when he grows up.

The family I got from my best friend, I got really close to. I babysat for them a lot during the summer and their three girls are the best. The girls are eight, six, and three. While the oldest is definitely stubborn and hard-headed, she is also very caring. She wanted to get my number and Facetime me when I left for college. The six-year-old loves when I do her hair and talk about Disney movies with her. The youngest is obsessed with Minions, loves being tickled, and always said the weirdest, most random, funniest things. While I had to settle arguments here and there, they were some of the most fun kids to babysit.

On top of that I also wound up working in my church’s daycare, which was also some of the best times with children I ever had. I also got close with the kids in there- especially a two-year-old foster girl, who got attached to me and sometimes even called me ‘mama’. She was difficult, but so sweet. She gave me a hug and kiss on the cheek at the end of every day for the last month I was there. Some of the kids preferred me over the other people working- even the kids whose moms were working in the daycare.

Babysitting and being a childcare provider has been one of the greatest decisions I’ve made. I can see the impacts I make on the kids every time I’m with them and how they impact me. They force me to be patient and think more reasonably. They make me come up with solutions in just a few seconds- and creative ones at that. They taught me how to think and act kindly and explain things sensitively and think of others first. I thought that was something I had always done, but I really learned how to do it when I worked with kids and had to explain everything to them. Not only that, but I literally got trained to be a parent. I can feel confident in saying that I know how to change messy diapers, sooth a crying baby, handle a baby and a toddler on my own, and keep multiple children happy while maintaining my own sanity.

I know it’ll be different when I have my own, but at least for now, I don’t feel so overwhelmed or scared as to what to expect when that time comes. I miss these kids, but I’m happy knowing that I’m now in babysitting service along with a few other students from my school as well. I enjoy knowing that I can make a child smile and make them scream with happiness every time I go their house. I can’t wait to see my old kids, but I can’t wait to find new families to babysit and make smile as well.