I believe in the innocent. Thinking that the ripe old age of 20 was as grown up as I needed to be to get a dog in college I begged my mother to let me adopt a cute puppy by the name of Barney.
Staring at me with those glacial blue eyes that have seen my soul more times than I have, my mother reminded me of my babysitting job and how much animals are like children. So I sat down and thought about it.
After years of baby-hating and believing that I would never want to be a mother, I found a family that changed my mind. I regard them in no other way than a blessing.
My second year into college I was broke. Needing money and a job with flexibility I decided to do the unthinkable, baby-sit. I replied to an email from a woman who needed help with her three self-sufficient children.
I arrived at their house expecting chaos and that is what I got. I found three crazy, creative kids and their dog. But more than chaos I found a home away from home.
Mason, Anna-Grace and Caitlin have become my family. On weekday afternoons when their dad is out of town for work, their mom and I split up the driving for their different after-school activities. In between soccer, tennis and golf, we trade children, find time for piano, drama and swimming and then race home to make dinner, finish homework and take showers so everyone is in bed by 8:30. Instead of running marathons we try to beat the clock each week, coming home with disheveled, tired, hungry children.
For a weekend when their parents were out of town I was a chef, a chauffeur, a mediator, an artist, a storyteller, a team player, a dog walker and a soccer mom. At the end of each night, after the kisses and I love you’s, I would sneak back in for a peak at their sleeping faces. So peaceful and calm, they slept with the sound knowledge that I would be there to provide whatever they desired.
These children and their dog have taught me the power of patience, the gift of laughter, the truth in tears and the simple feeling of love. That weekend I realized the unconditional power of love and how willing I was to give my entire being to someone else and their needs. I believe in their laughter, their naïve questions, their unrelentless love and forgiveness and Chrissy’s sloppy tongue. I believe in their power to change people and the need to protect their innocence so they are able to grow up and see what I see.
So for now, I really don’t need Barney because I have four of my own three days a week. Maybe someday when they are grown and don’t need me anymore I will find a new Barney and protect his innocence and indulge in his heart felt kisses and unconditional love.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.