Babysitting is usually a pretty easy occupation…until you add the ‘baby’ to it. Today it was Molly, 3 year old from hell. I’ve babysat her a few times before, but it’s always hard work.
Tonight was no different. She was doing her usual running through the rooms pretending to be a runaway bride, when all of a sudden her wailing siren went off.
“What happened?” I immediately looked her over to make sure she wasn’t hurt. There was a small red mark on her thigh.
“It waz the stoopid tabwo!” Molly cried through her tears.
“There, there sweetheart.” I gave her a cuddle, but Molly was too furious to be comforted and pulled away.
“Stoopid tabwo!” Molly’s accusing finger pointed at the coffee table. “Bad tabwo! It hurt me!”
“Yes bad table!” I said, playing along. “Why don’t we leave the bad table alone and we go find something else to play with?”
But Molly didn’t want to play. She wanted to see what hurt her hurt too.
She pulled out her cooking utensils from the Master Chef toy series, and started to attack the table with all her might, a fury raging in her eyes.
The plastic bounced off the table and nearly hit her in the eye.
“Okay Molly sweetie, time to go.” I tried to steer her away.
“No!” She wasn’t giving up. She found a big ball, and held it above her, ready to be thrown. I grabbed it off her, knowing exactly where the ball was going to end up.
Unsurprisingly, she started crying, but this time her anger was directed at me. She started screaming, punching and kicking me. I tried to hold her without hurting her. Then she bit me.
I let go of her and raised my hand ready to give her a hiding. She screeched and then ran to her room, slamming the door behind her.
What was I doing? Was I also going to give in to my temper at a three year old kid who didn’t know better?
I went to her room and saw her crying into her pillow.
“Hey.” I said softly. I was lost for words.
She didn’t respond for a while, but slowly turned around and said to me, “I hate you.”
She then pulled the covers over her, shutting me out.
I turned off the lights and closed the door, just as her parents’ car pulled into the driveway.
They were surprised, but pleased, to see their little girl was in bed so early.
“Seems like she’s had a pretty fun time with you.” The parents were looking at the state of the lounge room.
“Sorry about that,” I replied. “I guess we got carried away. I’ll tidy it now.”
“No don’t be silly. I’ll get Molly to clean up her own mess tomorrow morning.” Molly’s mum was so sweet it was hard to imagine Molly is her daughter.
Molly’s dad sees me to the door and pays me for the night. I was hesitant in receiving it and wanted to tell him what happened that night with Molly. But just as I turned around to tell him, I saw Molly’s mum on her hands and knees cleaning up the mess Molly had made in the lounge room. I smiled at him, and for the first time I didn’t see him as Molly’s dad who pays me to babysit his annoying daughter, but for the first time, I saw him as a father.
As I drove home, I started to think about the tantrum Molly threw earlier on. As much as I’d like to think I’ve grown up and grown out of tantrums, I hadn’t. I still get upset and annoyed when I am hurt, and seek redress from what I perceive had caused my pain, sometimes seeking it in things that are as innocent as a stupid table. Often, it was because of my own stupidity in running into it that had caused the pain in the first place, and yet it was so much easier to place the blame on the object of my anger to ease my own responsibility and guilt. I started to remember the times when I got upset over getting a speeding ticket (police’s fault), or doing unwell at school (teacher’s fault), or being unhappy in a relationship (boyfriend’s fault), or even blaming the economy for why my pay is so low! Getting upset at these things is like getting angry at the stupid table that Molly bumped into. Trying to take revenge on them is like throwing a ball at a table – we’re the ones who get hurt in the end.
Then the shame of my reaction towards Molly; to think that I had raised my hand and was ready to lay it on a little girl who simply didn’t know better, out of anger! In a way, there are many Mollys who walk amongst us. They may be 3 or 13 or 30 or even 60 years old. But if they have no insight into their own problematic behaviours and ways of thinking, if they are drowned by immaturity and negativity, if they are unaware of the delusions they hold, if they are – in summary – acting like a 3 year old, then what use is there to blame and get upset at them?
In a way, I felt hurt that Molly would turn around and hate me when I had just been trying to protect her from harm. That’s similar to when I get upset at people who are ungrateful for what I have done from them, but on second thought that tells me that what I have given them wasn’t unconditional, but conditional upon them showing their appreciation and boosting my ego. Holding such a self-centred view, no wonder the suffering came back to bite me.
Finally, the kindness the parents treated me, and more importantly, their unconditional love towards Molly despite how difficult no doubt she would be to them every day, reminded me of the power of unconditional love, which quells the fires of anger and shames the darkness of hatred.
Even the thought of loving kindness was enough to bring a smile to my face, and I started to laugh heartily as I remembered again Molly’s cries, “stoopid tabwo!”
23 Sept 2010