Children are the most fascinating creatures on Earth.
Let me back up. I haven't spent much time with kids. Since I come from a big family, when I hit babysitting age people kind of assumed that I was good with children. The fact that I am at the tail-end of my family and therefore had absolutely zero experience taking care of anyone younger than myself never seemed to click. When I was twelve years old, I got my first babysitting job. And I mean babysitting. My back-door neighbor asked me to watch her couple-month-old daughter for two hours. Since a $4/month allowance doesn't go far, and since in fourth grade I tried to get people to call me Kristy because I desperately wanted to live within the world of The Baby-Sitter's Club, I said yes. But I was terrified. I climbed over the fence separating our backyards, knocked on their screen door, and put on a brave face as the mom handed me the squirming little bundle. For two hours straight I paced around their house, holding tight to the baby in constant fear that something would go terribly wrong. Like it would cry. Or I would have to change a diaper.
I eventually recovered from this trauma and did a smattering of babysitting during high school where I picked up key skills like how to boil pasta and how to switch from TV to DVD on almost any remote. But I spent the last seven years living in a college town where I often went months without seeing anyone below the age of 18.
I'm a little out of touch.
Spending the last six days with my sister's three kids hurled me back into the world of tiny humans. This world is exciting, loud, and repetitive. And I desperately wanted to be accepted. For the most part, this world is really straight-forward. Let them boss you around, laugh at their jokes, have the patience to repeat something over and over and over, and occasionally give them a quarter or a piece of candy, and you will undoubtedly win them over. For example, my niece Jane was constantly telling me jokes. I guess the plural form of "joke" is probably inaccurate because it was always the same joke: "What did the elephant say to the hippo?" she would ask expectantly. I would thoughtfully pause and enthusiastically say, "What???" And she would squeal, "Be quiet, I'm trying to swim!" Obviously. And she would tell the same joke again and again, plugging in new animals or objects in the "elephant" and "hippo" slot. I listened and laughed and she loved me.
But sometimes the rules of this world are confusing. Most significantly, the rules surrounding a high five constantly baffle me. Sometimes when you hold up your hand and invite a high five, children enthusiastically giggle, slap your hand multiple times, and then want you to play patty cake for the next forty-five minutes. But sometimes, for no apparent reason, they coyly run away and, no matter the coaxing or bribing, will not bestow that high five.
Not that this happened to me. And if it did, I'm totally over it. And I'm definitely not lingering on the fact that my nieces and nephew always high five my sister Emily.