I was a nanny to twins in my early twenties. At the time most of my friends were going to college and doing all sorts of worldly and risky things. No one was particularly interested in hearing how Alex squealed when I held onto his overall straps and made him fly “like an airplane” or how Beth made this seriously funny face where she squinted her eyes, wrinkled her nose, and whistled through her teeth and how we called that “pig-snake.”
I found it impossible to explain how completely they mesmerized me, how totally and utterly fascinated by them I was. Now that my friends are twenty years older and have children themselves they get it. They’ve fallen in love with their children and every little thing they do is a miracle. I’m so glad I can have those conversations with my friends now. It’s still my favorite conversation.
Watching someone learn to walk and talk is just about the coolest thing I’ve ever experienced. There’s nothing else like it. Here you’ve got this tiny little creature whose character is so pronounced that when I met Alex and Beth I knew immediately they would be the children I nannied, even though they were only five and a half months old. I just knew them, the connection was that strong.
Of course that bond is perfectly described by our chart synastry. The most obvious thing is the Moon connections the three of us share. My Moon at 20 degrees Libra conjuncts Beth’s ascendant with an orb of 3 degrees and Alex’s by 7. Then their little Moons at 11 and 12 degrees Cancer oppose my Sun at 10 degrees Capricorn. Add to that the fact that they were born when Uranus was transiting my Sun at 11 degrees, (relative to the hard square I have with it natally). They spark and electrify me – I feel most myself when I’m with them – and I fancy I ground them a bit when they start to feel unraveled by such a strong Uranian opposition to their sensitive Cancer Moons (except maybe when I exacerbate it – oops!).
But no matter how well I felt I knew them at our first meeting, the strangest thing about bonding with a young child is that they are, by nature, completely open books, with most of the pages unwritten as yet. The reason people call children pure isn’t because they’re good, it’s because their souls are so undiluted by experience that who they are is just essence. Formless, bottomless, absolute essence.
Watching someone that small begin to take shape, to take form, to create his or herself is like crack to me. I mean, watching someone, anyone transform themselves is mind-blowingly awesome, but the thing about watching someone tiny do it is that their power is so strong and unselfconscious. Rather than exerting great will power to transform, the way an adult must, in a child it’s reflexive, it’s necessary, it’s assumed. They don’t even know they’re doing it, it’s just what they do. Every day brings a new transformation and a new skill set and a new understanding and a new experience. It’s just one long rush after another.
I’m so incredibly, unbelievably fortunate because Alex and Beth are still in my life. This is mostly due to their totally awesome mothers who, unlike a lot of parents who hire nannies, very early on vocally and repeatedly identified me as being a part of the family and made an effort to keep in touch even after I’d left the job and the city. Fortunately nowadays I don’t live too far from them, just a few hours south in Los Angeles, so we’ve been able to see each other over the years.
They’ve both been to stay with me, Beth in particular stayed with me almost every summer from the time she was thirteen. I’ve watched her go through one of the worst experiences any human can endure: female adolescence. I’ve watched her go from being an oddly calm and poised infant to being an exuberant, gawky teenager. From being a sensitive, gentle little mite who I could calm just by picking her up and cuddling her to being a sensitive, anxious little minx capable of slamming doors three times per second. There were ways in which I’d forgotten how horrible it was being a girl between the ages of 13 through 18 until I had to watch Beth go through it. There is something about the biological struggle to exert one’s independence and sense of self in adolescence that is fraught with terror for girls. The more sensitive you are the worse it gets. And Beth is pretty sensitive.
Anyway, I know I started this piece talking about how mind-blowingly awesome it is watching infants and toddlers reflexively transform in every moment, and how relatively tame and slow it is watching adults attempt the same feat, but this post is actually about the totally opposite phenomenon.
When Beth and Alex were tiny and their futures unwritten I spent a lot of time wondering, hoping, and imagining who they’d be and what they’d do. With everything unwritten it seems our biggest impulse is to try to write! But nothing I’d imagined is anywhere near so good as what actually is.
Cut to almost twenty years later and Alex is taller than I am, has finished training to be a firefighter and just spent a month exploring Calcutta on his own. He came to stay with me for a few days last year and just about broke my heart in two with his direct way of expressing affection and appreciation. I’ve been blessed to have a lot of strong, emotionally giving men in my life and it’s an honor and a privilege watching Alex join their ranks, going from boy to man.
And here is Beth over breakfast last September, telling me about her trip backpacking through Europe on her own for eleven months. Here is this grown up adult woman with a heart the size of Texas sitting across from me and she’d just trekked the Camino de Santiago for the previous two months – the last three days of which she did with a broken foot! (Scorpio Sun conjunct Pluto = STUBBORN STUBBORN STUBBORN) I don’t think she’s ever amazed me more. I don’t think anyone has ever amazed me more. Honestly, who told her she could do that?! SHE did.
And now I want to tell all my friends with young children who will get stolen by adolescence that their children will come back tenfold. They will come back but they will never ever ever be yours again. And you will be so achingly, heart-breakingly glad. If you are truly lucky, they will belong to themselves in ways you could never in your wildest dreams have imagined. And the way they inspired you when they were small? Well, it’s nothing compared to the way they will inspire you as adults…
Inspiration, love, and faith? It may be ours to provide to begin with, but somehow looking back on it all now I feel like I never knew what any of that even meant before I met these two.