I am the oldest of four.
My three siblings are… an interesting little bunch. I’ve babysat them for the past couple of years while my (recently widowed) mother works a part-time job. As much as I’ve come to appreciate their individual personalities and how they’ve come to help me mature, I’ve struggled to care for them.
The thirteen year old is especially nosey when I’m trying to work on any of my writing. I have no idea if she does this on purpose, but it just happens. The five year old is very attached to me, and while I love it and wouldn’t trade it for the world, it gets exhausting real quick when she wants ice cream and I have to be the one to make it and no the others cannot get it for her because I make it perfectly.
And then there’s my brother.
My brother’s always had a strong-willed personality. It made the first year or two of babysitting him (along with the other two siblings) quite difficult at times. He would constantly ignore my attempts to uphold the rules my mother had previously set up. After a few too many discussions and emotional breakdowns, we decided that he’d have free reign (short of burning down the house or hurting people). Whatever he didn’t do that he was supposed to? That was “taken care of” when Mom got back.
Most of the time, he just gets off with a warning. He rarely get punished like my thirteen year old sister and I do. He can slack for a couple of days (not do jobs and schoolwork), when I get upset over him not being held to the same standards, he perceives it as an attack against him. He was always the victim. Of course, I never know any better. When Mom gets home, it’s hard for me to switch from the “mommy” role to “sister” role. Part of me still needs to make sure that everyone is being obedient. He’s become my focus because he’s the one who slacks off the most, and yes, it eats at me that he’s Mom’s favorite. Hey, have favorites all day long, just don’t let them get away with shitty behavior and admonish the older ones for being upset with it!
Keep in mind that I started this whole “babysitting while she went to work” thing at age thirteen or fourteen.
My dad was still alive then, but he couldn’t do much to help out because he suffered from a physical disability which led him to staying in bed a lot, and he was a really gentle man so he couldn’t really discipline my siblings like my mother did. Then, when he passed away a couple of months ago to a gruesome, debilitating cancer, the role of second parent was placed on me.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t “hate” babysitting my siblings. Despite their conflicting personalities, they can be a hilarious group to be around. (Just as long as they’re not sorely pissed off at each other. They have their mother’s temper for sure.) But even when my dad was around, I struggled (and still sometimes do) with taking care of them “properly.” Being placed in the role of “mother” at fourteen years old for up to eight hours was not the most pleasant of experiences. At that age, my brain wasn’t equipped to deal with the mother-like duties of being the sole caregiver of three children under thirteen.
Even though I was placed in the role of “mother,” I still had to obey and enforce my mom’s rules. Her “don’t answer the door to anyone” rule isn’t the main problem here, nor is the “lock the door behind me” rule.
My problem is that I’m pretty much isolated with three kids (thirteen, ten, and five) inside an 800 square foot house for anywhere from 8-10 hours.
No sunlight, no fresh air unless we turn off the A/C or heater and open the windows. And people get grumpy when they’re kept isolated in such close quarters. We all get the cabin fever from hell. It might not be so bad if I was allowed outside to go get the mail. Being the oldest at sixteen, I figured my mom might extend some privileges to me and allow me to go outside. If not to the mailbox, then at least on the front porch. It’s not like I’m going to go and make out with some boy on the front porch or in my yard, for God’s sakes. I barely have any real life contact with boys as it is, asides from going to youth group once a week and my occasional trip to the store. Heck, I don’t even have any male friends in my life asides from the married Christian adult men. I mean, what she could be worried about? What could I possibly accomplish being outside in my front yard where all the neighbors can see me?
I’m mature enough to babysit three kids for hours on end, but not enough to go outside for a few minutes. Or she’s just paranoid of kidnappers.
It was 2:15 yesterday that everything finally exploded in my poor little brain. Mom had called earlier and said something had come up and she needed to stay a few extra hours at the office if that was okay with me. And of course, I’m gonna say “Yeah, it’s okay with me!” Because what else can I say? It’s not like the kids were misbehaving at that time. Sure, they had the occasional argument, but I expect that. They’re siblings. They’re not going to get along 24/7. Hell, I still fight with them.
But she’d been doing this for a few days now, working until 5:00 and not getting back home until 6:00. It sucked, because staying inside all day was taking its toll on me. I try my best to pay attention to the kids when they need it, but it’s hard to keep my cool when the two younger ones are constantly arguing and the thirteen year old is going through one of her moods again. It’s overwhelming to try and solve the problems of three children, or at least calm them down.
And if I actually manage to do any of that? I’m too brain-fried to even do any of my schoolwork.
I know the moment I sit down, the drama will start again. So I don’t even try any more. Hell, I don’t even try to get the others to do their schoolwork. It’s not like I can force them to do it. And if on the rare occasion they actually do their schoolwork? The five year old will probably need them while I’m in the middle of explaining a math problem.
Mom doesn’t always ask about the school work situation when she gets back home, but when she does, it ticks me off. I just spent eight freaking hours with your kids. I haven’t had the time nor the energy. And wait…what? Now you want to tell me to go do it? Great! So I spent 10-5 with the kids, and now I have to spend 5-9 doing my schoolwork and whoops, would you lookie there? It’s time for bed! Yay, my whole day is gone. Now to go to bed and repeat the exact same thing in the morning.
The fact is, I’m a teenager. Yes, I need to be responsible and help watch the kids while she works, but I want a life. A life where I can have some fun before I go full-blown adult in a couple of years. I don’t want to spent the rest of my teenage years babysitting and doing schoolwork all day.
I want to go out and have fun. I want to meet people. I want to make friends.
I just want a semi-normal life.
I have friends both from the public school and homeschool environments, so I’m able to see how our lifestyles vary. Being in the public school system doesn’t always make life better, and it doesn’t always mean the parents are less controlling. I’ve seen homeschooled teens with parents who have proper boundaries, but aren’t over-emphatic with them. I’ve seen public-schooled teens with parents who…well, to put it nicely, don’t understand that there’s a difference between a sixteen year old and a two year old.
I just want to be normal. I just want to be a good sister, and when I need to, a good mother to my siblings.
I just want to do things right, for once.