Fear Factor: Babysitting Edition

by Ashley on April 23, 2012

I’m not a “kid person.” (Understatement of the year, no?)

Sure, I like babies. As long as they aren’t screaming or pooping. Drooling isn’t great, but I can handle that. Spitting up is a different story.

Despite knowing this, a couple of my dearest friends asked us to babysit this weekend while they went out to dinner for their anniversary.

These are people I would do anything for. Anything.

Except babysit.

And yet I found myself at their house around dinnertime, learning where the baby food was and which allergy medicines to give at bedtime. As my friends walked out the door, I was informed of my primary obligation: Don’t let them die.

Easy, right? How hard could it be to keep two people alive for a few hours?

OK, that part actually wasn’t too hard.

Even so, I was terrified. It’s been more than 15 years since I’ve done anything resembling babysitting. I must have been a braver soul when I was a teenager.

So we’re watching the kiddos. The wee one is crawling around, standing up as best he can, bracing himself on all the furniture. I’m hovering, even though Mom said it’s OK if he falls down. Just dust him off, give him a hug, and he’ll be fine.

So I try to relax. I sit down a few feet away and let him do his thing. Then it happens: He falls, conks his head and starts crying. And of course, I start freaking out.

Before you go calling CPS, I’ll have you know that I didn’t break their baby. He wasn’t even hurt, to my infinite relief. He was, however, terribly offended to find himself on the ground (how dare the couch move out from under his grasp!). When he got over his feelings being hurt, he started bebopping around again.

Which got me to thinking.

Besides being completely fearless, babies are pretty resilient little things. Maybe it’s due to having lots of padding (chubby cheeks and legs, anyone?), or maybe they’re made of elastic. That’s just speculation on my part, of course, but it makes total sense.

Think about it: As elastic gets older, it stops being stretchy. It starts getting dry and brittle. Like when you’re putting on a pair of socks that you’ve had for approximately forever and haven’t worn in a while. You pull them on and you hear that weird crunch and then they’re sagging around your ankles. (Don’t act like you don’t know what I’m talking about.)

Seems that’s kind of like us. The older we get, the saggy-er we get. We don’t bounce back as easily. When we fall down, it’s much harder to get back up. Probably because we have a lot farther to fall than a baby does, so the impact hurts a lot more.

But it’s because the baby is willing to give it another go that he eventually learns to walk. After I picked him up and comforted him for a minute or two, he was eager to get back on the floor and try again. He may have gotten discouraged for little while (I really don’t know; he didn’t say), but he certainly didn’t give up.

I suppose there are times that we, as adults, do need to give up on something. A job, a business idea, maybe even a friendship. If you’re absolutely certain it’s impossible to succeed, if you’ve tried absolutely everything, then moving on might be the difficult decision an adult has to make.

Even then, it doesn’t mean we’re failures. It just means we need to go another direction. Try another career. Find a new business partner. Start a new relationship. Just like a baby doesn’t stay down long, we can’t be afraid to get up and start again. He’s determined to walk, and he’ll find a way to accomplish the task, no matter how many times he falls. A disappointment simply means it’s necessary to try a new way.

Even when we’re scared to try again or to try something new, we may surprise ourselves if we can find the courage to give it a shot. Like me with this little adventure. Babysitting was so easy when I was 15 years old, but now, I’m less willing to try because of fear. Scared to fail. Worried I won’t know how to handle the problems that arise.

Not that babysitting a couple of kids was a major accomplishment, but it does give me a little courage to try other new things that I’m afraid of. If everyone is still alive at the end of the venture, it counts as a success, right?

Do you ever find it difficult to bounce back? What do you do?


What a terrific anecdotal antidote to overcoming fear and other challenges! Just a damn good post.

This new job of mine has conjured up a great deal of thoughts about starting over and facing fears, and I’ve had to admit that I’m not as flexible and as fearless as I previously imagined myself to be. I also had become terribly, embarrassingly complacent in too many areas of my life.

I’ve found, though, that broadcasting my desire to try new things (or to, ahem, re-design certain less-than-desireable habits) has resulted in a delightful trickling of energy and events. Putting myself on blast to friends, family and new co-workers has given weight to my accountability, and it’s forcing me to be present and mindful of my patterns and words. And even though I’ve failed at some things outright (Spanish lessons) and am struggling with others (Couch-to-5k, keeping in touch) I’ve gotten such a boost from knowing I’ve put myself out there.

by Danita on April 25, 2012 at 3:48 pm. Reply #

Danita, I love the way you put that, your desire to “redesign” certain habits! You are so right about the act of putting yourself out there tends to spur even more things, energy and excitement. I’ve done that too, and the results are awesome because they spur even more energy and excitement. Even failing is OK, because at least you tried, and you learn better where your talents and passions lie 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

by Ashley on April 25, 2012 at 4:20 pm. Reply #

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