When I was sixteen, I babysat little kids. By that time, the money made a difference. It didn’t go to bills but it was what let me continue to enjoy the luxuries I’d been accustomed to.
The kids I babysat didn’t have the kind of childhood I’d had – those children had nannies. No, these were the kind of kids who lived solidly middle-class lives. They were loved, doted on, even indulged – but even more often, they were told no.
I remember the very first time I witnessed a child being scolded for whining over something, some kind of game that he desperately wanted, and which would have made him the envy of everyone in his class if he’d gotten it (which, at eleven, is the kind of thing you care about).
His parents had been about to leave, and he’d taken a gamble on the off-chance that their lateness would make them give in. Things didn’t work out in his favour, of course, and the child was yelled at.
I remember being so confused – it was just a little game. It cost less than what I was charging the family for the night (I had never been cheap and I wasn’t going to start then). But he didn’t get the game. Not that night and never in the two-year period during which I babysat him. I know, because I asked.
In my head, it would have made a heck of a lot more sense to just get the kid the game and make him arrange to stay at a friend’s during one of the nights I usually babysat if they were short of the money. It’d make the kid happy, it’d keep him sulk-free, and it would give him a way to entertain himself so that his parents could have yet more private time.
I didn’t know the family’s finances or if they’d ever planned to give their son his beloved game at all, but what I did see was that every time he asked, they got madder. Every time he mentioned how much he loved that precious game, he strengthened his parents’ resolve to not get it for him.
Why? Well, I’m not a mind reader, but I assume for the following reasons:
- He was annoying.
- It was unnecessary.
- His parents had drawn a line in the sand. To cross it would be to admit defeat and lose control over their kid.
I took away a few lessons from that family, but this incident taught me the main one: don’t badger and don’t let on how important anything is. Just in case.
It’s for those two reasons that I haven’t once reminded The Boss about that remark he made a week and a half ago about us going to Paris so he can attend some meetings and do other important, boring, Boss-type things.
I’ve been to Paris a handful of times before, and I was meant to go again for my sixteenth. Mom had promised me that we’d go together, just the two of us, and she’d let me go fashion crazy.
I spent weeks planning out an itinerary for that trip in my head (and my school books). I was insanely excited. Cancelling it made me ugly-cry which made Sabira lose her patience with me and call me a self-centred brat which I am, but it still hurt to hear in the moment. Many things which are just simple fact can hurt if they’re said with enough venom. A thousand sisterly arguments and we’d both figured that one out.
Going to Paris would be incredible. It would be impossible to salvage the trip that I was so desperate to go on but this… It has the potential to be amazing.
It’s making my stomach clench.
Opportunities come with baggage. Strings, debt, lectures… They come with baggage.
I don’t for a second believe that this thing doesn’t have a figurative ton of baggage attached to it. But it’s the perfect thing to trap me.
When I was miserable, I would dream about running to Paris and never coming back. I’d change my name and colour my hair and live with no paper trail so no one could ever find me and force me to go back and face what I’d left behind.
As time went by and the money dwindled, that dream began to shrivel. But it never really died. Not truly.
A very large part of me wants to pack up everything precious I possess so that it’s all ready for when I make my escape. But even though I’ve been daydreaming it for such a long time, I could never actually do it.
S needs me. Dad needs me. Mom… if she’s there still, she needs me.
They don’t need me for the practical stuff – S handles the bills and Dad handles Mom. Mom can’t handle anything.
I… I handle emotion. I handle the family. I remind them to be people and to take breaks. I give them an outlet to the silly stuff. And I’m a hell of a lot more shallow than they are. It lets them feel better about themselves.
Or maybe that’s just me grasping at straws trying to figure out a purpose for myself. Maybe they’d be perfectly fine without me. Maybe they’d even be better off.
I’m kinda scared to ask.
Whatever. I don’t have the money to secret myself away anymore. It’s a dumb idea, too. S would call it cowardice. Dad would probably call it short-sighted if he could pull himself together enough to pay attention to what’s going on with me these days.
It’s just an idle daydream. Flighty. I’m good at that, the insubstantial stuff. No substance, no staying power.
He said so. He yelled it, actually.
But I don’t think about that anymore. I refuse. It’s in the past, where it belongs.
And I… I’m going to go make some coffee for my boss. Might as well try to earn my paycheque for today.