Category Archives: Babysitting

With long skirts come great responsibility.

One of the best parts of being everyone’s babysitter below 14th Street is that I have insider access into lifestyles of the rich and the famous. And when you win over one rich and famous family, you are soon introduced to others. Take, for example, my babysitting gig with a certain music producer. That quickly translated into several sitting sessions with the musician himself.

And while I appreciate the referrals, it is always quite startling when I discover how one family pitched me to the other. In fact, last night I learned that one mother had written another saying, “She only wears skirts so I expect she is fairly religious. But that’s neither here nor there. I just mean I think she’s responsible.” Apparently skirt-wearing individuals are more trustworthy than those who show the division between their legs.

When I recounted the story to a friend (after seeing a hilarious production devoted to retelling the “Missed Connections” section of craigslist), she remarked, “Duh! That makes perfect sense. Religious girl= reliable, responsible, and experienced– at least in the baby department.”

I protested, “But I am an only child. I never had siblings to practice on.”

“Ah,” she said, “but you have plenty of peers with babies to gain experience from…”

I suppose she is right. Though I do not sport the skirt for the purposes of employment, I do exert a certain level of motherliness when I wear it. I appear to be a young woman who isn’t afraid to follow a few rules, abide by a strict code, and exert a little Mama B affection. Simply stated, I look like a [future] mom; the kind who packs a home-cooked lunch for her kid everyday. The kind who sticks a love note in her child’s lunchbox. The kind who cuts off the crusts of her kid’s peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Now before you roll your eyes at my 1950s housewife depiction of myself, consider the following visual: a woman in skinny jeans, a Rolling Stones t-shirt, and a pair of spiked stilettos. Would you happily leave your children in her care? Or, would you dial the closest available skirt-wearing 20something you know?

I’m just saying if you’re unemployed or just in need of a little extra cash, invest in a knee-length skirt. You’ll thank me thousands of untaxed dollars later.

The six year old reprimand.

“Yaffa, you can’t have a play date with that Yale boy.” Aldie, my favorite six year old, informed me that I– a young woman– could not have a casual foodie date with my best guy friend in the city. “It’s simply not natural,” he exclaimed.

“I can play with Isaac [a fellow kindergardener] because he and I are both boys. But you and that boy are not the same gender. And you can’t be platonic and play.” While I paused to contemplate if Aldie actually had used the word “platonic” in casual conversation, Aldie went on to explain that men and women are biologically engineered to procreate… not casually coffee.

And in that moment I was reminded of every high school rabbi I had, every one who informed me that there was no such thing as being “just friends” with a boy/man/not a boy, not yet a man. It went against every hormone in our bodies.

But unlike my high school rabbis who I simply disregarded, Aldie actually made me think perhaps there was some truth to his madness. Before I studied abroad, I can safely say I had no [straight] male friends. And even today I can count on one hand the number of gay and straight male friends I have.

Blame it on the years of women’s only education, but I am beginning to believe that subconsciously Aldie, my rabbis, and I are all aligned. Somewhere deep in my psyche is the belief that men and woman are lean, mean baby making machines.  They are meant to propagate, not be playmates.

And yet since returning to New York, I have made every effort to dissuade myself of such adolescent notions–to diversify my social circle, and to watch a basketball game or two with a guy and beer or two.  Does it feel natural? Certainly not. I must make a conscious effort to move beyond my sisterhood ways, but if the last eight months of my life are any indication, it is possible to be friends.

I say possible, not probable. Age, estrogen, the inevitable urban loneliness all pose challenges to this possibility, but over time I believe I will achieve a happy equilibrium. Or perhaps just arrive at a point where I can have a proper comeback on hand when Aldie challenges my fraternizing ways.

When your biggest fan is a five year old boy.

For those who wonder how I occupy my time when I’m not condemning criminal defendants to eternal damnation, I will now clarify: babysitting. Yes, from newborns to tweens, I cater to them all. But like any parent, I have my favorites.

Aldie, a five year old going on thirty, is first on my list. Aside from his intelligence (remember the IVF conversation?), Aldie has an uncanny way of making a very gray Wednesday infinitely better. He is living proof that age ain’t nothing but a number.

This morning, for example, I awoke to the sound of my phone crashing to the ground. Strike one. Then, in a mad dash for an early morning subway, I was the victim of some very aggressive train doors, which left me black and blue. Strike two. And when I finally emerged from the train, somewhat scathed, I discovered my umbrella had gone to heaven or hell or wherever inanimate objects go when they cease to be of human use. Strike three. Simply stated, I was in my dark and twisty place by the time I rung Aldie’s door bell.

But then he answered and we departed for his school uptown. We had a good forty minutes on the A and B trains to discuss life, liberty, and my inability to achieve happiness. And being the wise beyond his years sort of boy that he is, Aldie succeeded in temporarily assuaging all my doubts.

To begin, he noticed I was chewing gum. Wondering why I felt compelled to chew at such an ungodly early hour of the day, he questioned me. I responded that my stomach was a bottomless pit, but that frankly– given my ever expanding hips– I simply could not afford to consume calories at all hours of the day. In other words, I was using gum as a calorie free food replacement because I’m, well, not the tiniest of individuals.

Without batting an eyelash, Aldie replied, “You’re not fat at all. In fact, you are beautiful. I like your shape.” He then proceeded to rub my belly, an odd but somewhat uplifting action. Aldie concluded this brief conversation by offering a piece of his chocolate croissant. What a mensch.

But Aldie, being the perceptive one that he is, realized I was still considerably upset. When he inquired as to why, I replied that I was feeling like a B student these days. He was confused and said he was certain I got straight As in school. I explained that it was a metaphor; that I felt I was not the success story I had hoped to be at 22. Instead of climbing mountains, I was just sitting at the foot of them– partially out of fear of the climb, but largely because I doubted my abilities to climb the aforementioned mountains.

His response: “Yaffa, you’re being crazy. You juggle being my babysitter, putting bad guys in prison, and writing your heart out. And on top of it all, you’re a genuinely nice person. I kind of want to me the boy version of you when I grow up.” Somewhat flabbergasted, I stared in disbelief. When had my source of strength become a five year old child?

While his language was simple, his sentiment was spot on. I needed to stop being my biggest critic and just live in the moment– enjoy the here and now– and most importantly stop comparing myself to my friends, who quite frankly were traversing entirely different mountains than I was. I needed to learn to love me for me, an idea Aldie informed me would be the only means to find “someone special.”

“How can you expect someone to like you if you don’t like yourself?” And that, in a nutshell, is why I want to adopt a five year old named Aldie.

Wise beyond his years (and mine)

I knew the minute I met Alden that we would be best friends. I mean, what’s not to love about a blue-eyed, curly-haired blonde five year old boy with a heart of gold? And did I mention his wicked intelligence?

As a bit of an intellectual snob myself, I adore his defining characteristic: being wise beyond his years. Consequently, on our conversations uptown we often discuss subjects most twenty five year olds wouldn’t dare broach. For example, yesterday, while recounting my weekend of roommate birthday-related celebrations, Alden stopped and asked, “Have you ever considered in vitro fertilization?”

A bit shocked at his perfect pronunciation of a scientific term that I still struggle to say, I exclaimed, “Um, what?” Maintaining his usual calm, he explained that while I had celebrated my favorite financier’s birthday, he had celebrated his sperm donor’s birthday.

You see Alden is a textbook example of a petri dish baby. He doesn’t have a father and likely never will, but he grasps– at five– that storks don’t just drop children off at unsuspecting adults’ doors. There is a scientific mechanism driving the creation of babies, and he has an intimate insider understanding of this process.

He also is like a dog with a bone, and when I stared in complete silence, he repeated his question. “Yaffa, don’t feel bad if you never get married. My mommy didn’t, and she still had me. And you know what, that donor, he fathered another petri dish baby– a little girl– and she’s like a sister to me.”

“Well, Alden, she is technically your half sister; you share half the same DNA.”

“You mean deoxyribonucleic acid, don’t you?”

I responded that now he was just showing off, and well, he had already more than proven his intelligence. But I also knew he was searching for an answer, and so I told him that I would consider IVF if and when I found myself the proud owner of two furry filenes named Jack and Jill. However, in the interim I was still clinging onto the hope of finding a husband and doing it all natural.

It was at that moment that I realized I was discussing my non-existent sex life with a five year old boy, who though wise beyond his years, probably didn’t need to know about my future romantic liaisons. He apparently shared this sentiment and ended our conversation by stating, “Can we go to Starbucks now?” Seriously, best friend for life.

How not to win the attentions of 20something males.

Every weekend I choose to escape my 20something existence. I do this with the help of my infant boyfriend du jour, be he Webber, Nevo, Ari, or Alden. And I do it with a smile on my face because for the first time that week I have license to sing the ABCs at the top of my lungs and not be considered a stark raving lunatic for it.

Yes, rather than embrace the world of young urban professional Saturday night alcoholism, I watch episodes of the Magic School Bus on PBS Kids. And while many question my standards for entertainment, I politely choose to differ. Infants are delightful little beings who consistently shed light on my otherwise complicated and thoroughly disorderly existence.

One of the many lessons they– and particularly Nevo– have taught me is how to dissuade a male of comprable age to myself from approaching me in a public setting. Enter: the baby carriage. While I am in awe of how sophisticated these contraptions have become over the last twenty years– what with all their fancy cup holders and iPad holders and such– most young gentlemen fear the very site of them.

They associate baby carriages with babies. And where there are babies, there are familial responsibilities, which include sacrificing the yuppie Saturday alcoholism ritual for a rousing rendition of the ABCs.

But more importantly, they determine that they “lady,” as I am often referred to, pushing the baby carriage must, in fact, be the mother. And if she is the mother and this is a utopian 1950s nuclear family based society, there must be a father to whom I am married, thus making me entirely off limits.

So instead of winking or making absurdly misogynist comments as I pass by, they cross the street, turn the next corner, and all but flee from within my peripheral vision. I am the dreaded older woman without the seductive cougar appeal (perhaps because I am not actually of cougar status yet).

It’s kind of a welcome relief, but also a bit disturbing how easily I am mistaken for being a 30something instead of a 20something. I guess I should enjoy it; it’s not everyday you get paid to play in the sandbox with individuals all under the age of two.

How to engage in a rap off and lose.

In one notable seven year old journal entry, I wrote about  my desire to be Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez, the now deceased member of the group TLC. An excellent female rapper, Lisa inspired me to strive to achieve her level of linguistic genius. Instead of the usual male rapper reliance on sexual innuendo (think: “Candy Shop”) or outward vulgarity (think: “Candy Shop”), Lopez managed to rap about issues in a coherent, clean, and effective manner.

However, unlike Lisa, I led a sheltered Jewish upper middle class girl existence. Issues of drug abuse and gang rape were far removed from my reality. My biggest struggle was whether to order the latte with skim or whole milk. And while such caffeine-inspired struggles have merited youtube videos, they were certainly not the issues I thought or sought to rap about.

I subsequently gave up on my musical aspirations and moved onto bigger and better things, like blogging. But then I moved back to New York and began a babysitting business, which has provided me the opportunity to sit for some notable city toddlers.

One such toddler, the son of a Chicago rapper, reminded me of my childhood aspirations when he challenged me to a rap off. “Let’s see if Little Miss Pasty knows about life in the hood.”

Not one to pass on a lyrical challenge, I countered, “Well, Chocolate, my finances resemble more of the hood than yours ever will. Let’s do this.”

The toddler then suggested we see who could rap “Stronger” better. And before he could even say go, I began reciting the entire Britney Spears song by heart. He did not follow, and after uttering, “My loneliness ain’t killing me no more,” I paused.

“What the hell was that? That ain’t the song. That some pop ditty you just cooked up.” Some. Pop. Ditty. that just happened to encapsulate my middle school existence. But that also, on second thought, was pop, not rap, and therefore not the “Stronger” the toddler intended to employ in our little contest.

Yes, the toddler was referencing Kanye West’s “Stronger,” a song similar in sentiment to that of a Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez rap– a rap about overcoming obstacles, not tweenage heart break. The Pasty in me had just been revealed in all its white girl glory.

I tried to redeem myself in an R&B sing off, inspired by our film du jour: The Wiz (1978). If any white girl could channel Michael Jackson and Diana Ross, at the same time, it was your truly. I even added the requisite cinematic footwork:

Sadly all my little chocolate friend could do was laugh… and reply, “Honey, stick to your day job.”

Adventures in 20-something babysitting

I have a confession to make: I listen to Christmas music. And worse yet, I listen to Christmas music in July. While I generally play my iPod at a reasonable sound decibel, every so often I get lost in Jingle Bell Rock and find myself humming mistletoe melodies within earshot range of more traditional New Yorkers, who reserve said music for the December holiday season.

Well the other night, while embarking on my most lucrative babysitting venture yet, I let the music take control. After putting my child to bed and cleaning up the residue of his kale and tofu lasagna (welcome to SoHo parenting!), I turned on my iPod and began to rock out in the family’s penthouse apartment. My song of choice, “All Alone on Christmas,” and my microphone of choice, a golden spatula. And like Chris Parker in Adventures in Babysitting, I danced my little heart (read: hips) out:

However, there was a glitch in my less than spontaneous dance off. The father, a prominent music video director of sorts, returned earlier than expected and caught me standing on top of his very expensive leather couch, attempting to vocalize:

The cold wind is blowin’ and the streets are getting dark
I’m writing you a letter and I don’t know where to start
The bells will be ringing Saint John the Divine
I get a little lonely every year around this time

Aside from the obvious issue– I was standing on a couch likely worth more than my own life– I was also singing out of season. But like any artist with a shred of sarcasm, he remarked, “Aren’t you a little early, dear?” And like any babysitter without a shred of dignity, I responded, “In my world, every day is Christmas.”

Now while most parents would be content to end the conversation there, the director pressed on, “But aren’t you Jewish?” And, of course, my classic answer– which I gave all too enthusiastically– was, “So was Jesus.” He grinned. I appeared to have an answer for everything, and he appeared to have a sense of humor about it all.

“I have one more question, though, before I pay you. Do you identify with the thematic message in All Alone on Christmas?” My first thought: This man directs music videos for the biggest rappers in the country, perhaps even world. And if I could be content with an uncircumcised wealthy black entertainer, I should definitely say a wholehearted “Yes!”

But my grandmother’s disapproving face quickly appeared in my mind, and I reluctantly said, “Of course not.” His response, “Ah well, because I know a few eligible New Yorkers looking for ladies with your kind of pizzazz… and attitude.” Moses. Have. Mercy.

I consider my walk home a bit of a walk of shame. In place of admitting that yes I was single and no I was not entirely happy with the situation, I let my pride get in the way. And so instead of marrying into the Roc-A-Fella Records family and procuring for myself a more permanent and classy New York residence, I had opted to settle for a life in a cardboard box (likely constructed of used latte cups).

I subsequently hummed the words of “All Alone on Christmas,” which most resonated me:

I’m all grown up but I’m the same you’ll see
I’m writing this letter ’cause I still believe
Dear Santa I’ve been good this year
Can’t you stay a little while with me right here

Yes, to this little Jew, Santa is a friend,who regardless of holiday season, finds reason to visit and provide comfort. So here’s to St. Nick, the loyalest Christian of them all!

Achieving cougar status.

I used to have a cardinal rule of dating for which I would sacrifice my entire coffee supply before breaking: Never date younger men.

As a semi-responsible and highly ambitious young woman, I often come across as older than my age. In fact, when I was 12, my grandparents’ doorman offered to marry me– even in the absence of a dowry. He was convinced I was 18, and that an impending nuptial would be legal under state law.

When he discovered I was only recently bat-mitzvahed, he exclaimed, “Oh, honey, you better stick to older men. You come across as a full grown lady.” Now any woman with an ounce of street smarts would know that an elderly Bangladeshi man offering you his hand in marriage is probably not the best individual to seek advice from, let alone follow. However, I lack said smarts, and so I abided by his words until two weeks ago when I discovered this little boy:

A year old on Sunday, this infant exemplifies everything I want in a man: intelligent, emotional, and with a notable penchant for French stripes. If he were 20 years older, and I wasn’t his babysitter, I would wed him immediately.

Also, he obeys commands. When I say, “Sleep time,” he obligingly accepts his pacifier and lays down in his crib. When I hum Hebrew lullabies to him (because I know none in English), he feigns interest and nestles himself in the area surrounding my cleavage. And when I challenge him to eat unusual adult food, like pumpkin spiced ravioli from the local Amish market (welcome to New York), he accepts the culinary challenge.

While by cougar reference is only in jest, I believe my time with this adorable baby has helped me clarify what I need to sustain a long term relationship: patience and personality. I need an individual who will wait as I sort out my professional aspirations, as well as a companion who has a larger than life persona– and will subsequently tolerate my proclivity for sarcasm and dramatic storytelling.

And ideally, I need to find him before I turn 23, or else I will have Grandma Blumenthal to contend with.