The combination of college students returning home for campus shut downs and parents looking for childcare due to the Covid-19 pandemic ended up working perfectly for both parties involved.
When school(’s)s across the country shut down in mid-March (of 2020), college students needed to find a temporary way to make money, and elementary school kids needed someone to look after them while their essential parents went to work.
That’s why many college students picked up babysitting. For a lot of them, babysitting lasted only a few months until summer started. Some worked through the summer until school started up again, and some are still babysitting still to this day.
Such is the case for Luke McGee.
“I have been babysitting for many years, but I began babysitting my most recent client in the beginning of the summer,” says McGee, a sophomore at Castleton University. “I started babysitting because I believe it is one of the most important things we as humans can do. It is a sharing of kindness and warmth. Those who babysit are helping the next generation of the world to grow and that generation in return helps us grow. We as humans inherently want to help, and this is an extremely meaningful way of doing so.”
McGee babysits a pair of siblings from Rutland Town School, which only offers remote classes on Wednesdays, although parents have the option of having their kids be fully remote. That’s what Jennifer McLemore, the mother of the kids McGee babysits, chose to do.
McLemore, who is the Assistant Principal at Mill River Union High School, says that she works remotely but goes in some days. Her husband watches the kids on Monday and McGee is on duty Wednesday.
“Wednesdays are a great remote equalizer,” McLemore said. “All students are remote so my kids are the ‘remote’ kids that day. They are just like everyone else. It tends to be the best day for my kids because Luke is here.”
McGee said his Wednesdays begin with a knock on the door and a chai tea in his hand, with a bag of board games slung over his left shoulder, he steps inside and is welcomed in by the now familiar sound of two “sweet” dogs barking their greetings.
“The kids are already in their first class of the day, so I quietly wave hello to them and begin setting up for my own first class,” said McGee, who simultaneously takes his own classes while helping the kids with theirs.
He says the day is then jam-packed with board games, storytelling, and sometimes leading the crew pretending to be Pokemon trainers.
“Throughout the day we laugh and learn, and by the end all three of us are exhausted but joyful,” he says. “I finish washing the dishes I made in the lunch-making process, and say my goodbyes, they enthusiastically wave and I head out and back home… before realizing I was so busy cooking for them that I forgot to feed myself and promptly steer my way towards Panera.”
When asked what it has been like helping kids with online school, McGee says it’s been a wholly different experience.
“Instead of helping to teach kids learning skills, it has now evolved into teaching kids life skills,” he said. “Kids are not used to being cooped up in front of a screen for most of their day. For the first time, kids want time off the screen and not on the screen.”
He explains that that’s why he started bringing board games – it gives them a space to learn while not staring at little numbers on a laptop. He helps to teach them about patience and waiting your turn to STEM and engineering with various board games.
“He makes sure to do something fun every time he is here,” McLemore said. “Yesterday, said ‘Five more days until Wednesday and I get to see Luke!’ I came home two Wednesdays ago and they both asked me to leave so they could spend more time with Luke. I feel very lucky to have him here.”
McGee said he feels lucky to be able to do it, though there are frustrations.
“The most difficult part about babysitting is that these poor kids have been staring at screens all week. They feel tired and fatigued, and they aren’t able to see their friends so they even feel a little lonely,” McGee said. “It is heartbreaking, and so I always do my best to help them feel connected, to each other and to the world. Whether that be running around outside or playing five separate board games in one hour, I help them to have one achievable goal, having fun.”
And McGee said babysitting the kids does a lot for him too.
“It has helped me to feel grounded. It gives me a purpose- to help people grow,” he concludes. “Which is something I feel we are all looking for right now, a purpose. Digital learning has us feeling disconnected, COVID has us feeling insignificant, and the election has us feeling powerless. But for eight hours of my day, I am not worried about the uncertain future we all find ourselves hurling towards. I am helping two wonderful kids grow.”
Authors Note: I was inspired by my own experience to write this story. I am in a very similar situation as Luke. In the beginning of summer, I started watching a pair of siblings, Landon and Sara.
I wanted to dedicate this to them. During a time when we all felt isolated and lonely, I found solace and friendship in these two kids. We bake together, paint together, they interrupt my classes and I panic not being able to find their passwords. But I want to thank them for being my tiny bit of normalcy in this difficult time, be it only on Wednesdays or random weekend days. I’m leaving for a month to help my sister in her final month of pregnancy, but I’m really going to miss them and their crazy selves.