Not too bad of a job if you find decent kids. Good way to get some spending money, that's for sure. I just had a fun experience today, wherein I realized what they're really paying me for:

Now for my favorite conversation of the day: (keep in mind that I've prepared food for them a number of times before)

4-year-old girl points, "What's that?"
I reply, "A zit."
"A pimple. It's just something that teenagers get."
"Are you a teenager?"
"Does that mean you can cook?"

You are the sun. You are the moon. You are the sun that looks over the moon. You are the light that shines in my eyes, tonight. I want to walk with you among grassy fields and sandy shores. You are love. You are the epitome of love. And I love you. written by Adrienne Goldman, age 8

"Look at me! I'm so fat."

I watch Adrienne as she points out her taut, thin stomach, probably a more common sight in the depths of Somalia then the grease-laden suburbs of America. She pouts, adjusting her neon orange bikini, pinching the muscular flesh of her lithe thighs, searching for imaginary weight. I cringe as she puts herself under such scrutiny. Why must a girl so precocious succumb to these phantom troubles?

Allow me to explain how I came to make Adrienne Goldman's acquaintance. My mother, upon bailing me out of Gucci-inspired debt for the umpteenth time, decided that it was time for me to Find A Job. My natural rapport and candor with adults worked to my advantage here, and by the obsequiant recommendations of my hairstylists I soon received a call from Miss Goldman, a delightful fair-haired woman (courtesy of Clairol, not nature) who owns the neighbouring day spa. Shrugging with the air of someone desperately needing work I acquiesced, formulating the picture of a darling little girl that loved ballet and gymnastics and found solace in her Barbie dolls. I did not expect to open the gilded ivory door to find a scrawny girl with a pageboy, mud encrusted boots, and a camera around her neck that I would later find out that she carried constantly, snapping pictures of whatever happened to catch her youthful whimsy.

Needless to say, I was floored. How sweet were the Fates for introducing me to this girl! She took me by the hand and ran with me down the hills of the golf course (her parents were, naturally, country clubbers), her hair flapping in the wind and her coltish legs darting fast as she showed me cartwheels, round-offs, and other comparable stunts that can only be done in the eve of one's youth. We swam in the pool in the evening and pretended that we were mermaids of nobility lost in a water. We practiced her softball pitch, played tennis, drew pictures. Quite frankly I still find it impossible to believe that her parents are actually paying me for such idyllic bliss; our conversations would reveal to me all too well her maturity beyond her years.

Yet such maturity does not always come from an egegrious mind or from the perusal of literature. Some maturity you gain from experiencing the darkest vices of humanity and it was one balmy August day when Adrienne told me about hers.

"Jessica, do you know what sex is?"

I was taken aback; in all of our conversations together Adrienne's mention of the opposite sex had never even hinted at a sexual nature.

"Yes, I do know what sex is. Do you, Adrienne?"

"Yeah. My grandma talked to me about it yesterday, and told me to watch out for rape. I was raped once, you know.

By now it was a visible physical effort for me not to drop my jaw in pure astonishment. "What do you mean, Adrienne?"

"Well, when I was six, my cousin Peyton would take me upstairs, and then he would put his.." She blushed for a second, "penis. He put it inside me lots of times. That's what my mom told me to call it, you know. And my friend Britney said that that was what helped make a baby. Am I right?

I nodded, gulping down saliva, and epinephrine in an evermore forceful effort. "Adrienne, do your parents know about this?"

She nodded yes. "I told them last year and now I can't see Peyton anymore. But I did see him once at a family reunion and he stuck his tongue out at me, and tried to touch me again. But Mom told me to tell him to STOP IT, and so I did. She tried her best to put on a brave face for me but I could still see the hurt, the longing. I couldn't help but wonder to myself if innocence was always a physical quality because even though Adrienne was deflowered I still saw her as a rose in bloom, a little pink bud that was still not spoiled. Were these thoughts a mere solace to my trepidation or a true quality about Adrienne? Call the police. Talk to her parents about it. Get information. The words "professional responsibility" stuck in my mind but to this day I know that betraying Adrienne's hard-earned confidences would shatter her tiny little soul.

I am looking at her now, hunched over the breakfast table, her tiny pink tongue circling her lips as she writes in furious concentration. Writing me another poem she labours over the words, trying to make a new amalgam of her creative consciousness. She is achingly beautiful.

What is the price of surreal maturity? Steadfast eloquence? A beautiful mind? And if there is a God who or what made Adrienne pay this price?

Miss Goldman pays me for babysitting but I think the real money is in the poems her daughter gives me. The picture I have of her, framed in the red sun of dusk, putting her feet in the nearby lake. I take a look at one line she is scribbling...

Walk with me slowly in the path of life. Take my hand.

And then I smile, and hold hers.

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