Something revolutionary has happened in my house; something I’ve been eagerly anticipating for a long time.
My oldest daughter has reached the age where she can babysit for us! Has there ever been a more glorious moment in a parent’s parenthood?
OK, maybe there are more important things than being able to sneak away from the house for a few hours by myself, but it feels great to have a live-in sitter who is obligated to be at my beck and call.
Not that I abuse the privilege...but at almost 12 years old, she’s the kind of wonderful child that loves the freedom and responsibility required to manage her siblings while I run to the grocery store or my husband and I grab a happy hour bite to eat.
Before we suggested she try babysitting, she had never stayed home alone or in any scenario that didn’t require a babysitter. She simply had no interest in it and neither my husband nor I ever pushed the issue.
But then her friends started staying home alone. And she reached the age where she could babysit, which meant she also reached the age where she started to want some autonomy.
Zach and I weighed our options with introducing this new freedom, deciding whether to let her do it by herself first or with the responsibility of watching her siblings. In the end, we decided she could handle her brothers and sister because that would mean she wouldn’t be totally alone when we left her.
Since that first opportunity to stay home alone, she’s grown into the role of babysitter and middle-schooler with ease. She’s smart and educated in how to take care of herself and her siblings and it’s been a joy as a parent to watch her grow up in this way.
We don’t leave her for long and we often playfully suffer through ridiculous texts and “emoji bombs” while we’re gone, but it’s changed our lives in a big way. Having a child who can babysit means I can run out to do simple errands without dragging everyone along. My time has been amplified because I don’t need to find five pairs of shoes and make sure five people have used the bathroom while trying to get five kids out the door. I can stop by the store and grab that one gallon of milk we need instead of making do at home because dragging all of the children into the grocery store at the end of the day is a battle I don’t have the energy to fight.
But best of all, Zach and I get to sneak away more often. We get to connect at random times and at happy hour times...and sometimes even just at the grocery store. It means we don’t have to set up a sitter and organize our calendars and make sure we have everything lined up. It means we can get out sporadically and turn Sunday afternoon, Thursday after school or next Monday evening into a lovely date where we can connect and continue to fall in love.
This isn’t a power we will abuse; we love and appreciate our daughter too much. But it is a new hobby of hers I’m happy to invest money into via babysitting paychecks. And it’s a new stage of life I am happily welcoming into our lives with gratitude.
Rachel Higginson is a married mom to five kids. She is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has received a Utopia Award for Best Contemporary Romance and Penned Con Award for Best Novella Series. She lives in Omaha.