Growing up I was raised by my grandmother and grandfather. My parents migrated to the United States when I was three years old and they worked two jobs each to make ends meet. With childcare costs being more expensive than rent itself, my parents chose a more traditional form of childcare, my grandparents. Thinking back at those moments in my life, I don’t see how much my family struggled to keep a roof over our heads or how we struggled financially, I can only remember fun moments that my grandparent created to keep my cousin, brother and I from the truth.
I remember waking up to the smell of scrambled eggs and re-fried beans a smell that devoured our tiny apartment. How I would walk into the living room and would see my grandmother bottle feeding my little brother on one arm my young cousin leaning into her other arm in jealousy. My grandfather fidgeting at the remote trying to find a signal between the TV and where he was standing. We’d spent the morning laughing along to Teletubbies, the afternoons crying along to soap operas, and the evening cheering on Mexico’s national soccer team. I grew up with a grandmother who loved the simpler things in life and found joy in telling scary stories about “La Llorona” and many other Mexican folk stories. She would sing to us and looking back now, my love of the arts came from the small moments with her. I grew up with a grandfather who loved adventure and would take my brother, my cousin and I on walks to the corner gas station every day to buy a coca-cola and some salt and vinegar chips. If we didn’t run off into the street, he rewarded us with candy. I have fond memories of him pushing the stroller and fighting with wheels that would get stuck in dirt roads. I was in charge of my little cousin, I remember squeezing my little cousins hand so hard because I was afraid of letting go and him running into the street. I remember my grandfather coming up with games on our walks and seeing how many coins we could find on the floor.
Being the eldest and only girl between my brother and my cousin, I quickly took up a lot of responsibilities, some self-appointed others culturally appointed. I would be in charge of watching my younger sibling and cousin in the living room while my grandmother cooked dinner. I would play school with them and set up rows of pillows from the couch and our bedroom as seats. I would pull my baby brother in his bouncer seat up close and separate him and my cousin by putting a row of Barbie dolls between them. I’d use coloring books and crayons and “teach” them. Unfortunately, keeping the attention of a baby and toddler never lasted and the game lasted a few minutes before chaos broke loose. Looking back now, it was probably my favorite game to play, not so much the same for my cousin he doesn’t remember it as fun. My grandmother says it was hilarious because I would assign my baby brother and cousin coloring pages as homework.
We moved from a small apartment in Atlanta to a small house in Tallahassee when I was in third grade. We still lived with my aunt, uncle, and cousin. My aunt gave birth to a baby girl and stayed at home to care for us. My parents and uncle found a more flexible job and my grandmother and grandfather moved back to Mexico. That was difficult, to say goodbye, but it wouldn’t be the last time I’d see her. With my aunt staying home to care for us, income money went down. So she started babysitting two little girls, daughters to two new house cleaners that had replaced her at work. My responsibilities grew during this time. I would be in charge of walking my cousin, brother from the bus stop to home after school. When I got home I’d help my aunt with dishes, folding laundry, and watching the two little girls eat to make sure they didn’t choke. She taught me to change diapers and as time went by I became her little apprentice.
Over the summers in middle school and into senior year of high school, I took over her position. She went back to work and I would be the one to watch my cousins, brother, and the two girls. They were all a little bigger now, but the two girls had siblings and I became their sitter. Summers were long. I’d wake up early and my dad would drop me off at the girls’ house where I’d babysit them most of the day. We had a backyard but the heat would stop us from going outside. I had to learn to be creative. I would tire them out with scavenger hunt games and spy vs villain games. I wasn’t allowed to cook for them in middle school, but after my quinceañera, I was allowed to start using the stove. Summer became messier. The parents of the girls would buy frozen cookie dough and treats to bake and I learned by trial and error that it’s important to space cookie dough or you get a giant cookie cake.
After high school, I made a friend who was working at Seminole Sitters, a local babysitting agency in town. I started with the freshmen year of college and stayed with them all of the college caring for local children and helping their families. A family friend introduced me to the owner of an after school program in town and before I knew it was teaching Spanish at an after school program. After two years of working with ages Pre-K to 5th grade, I decided to focus my attention on a specific age group that I loved working with. I took a job at the Tallahassee Museum as a preschool teacher for VPK and loved it. That age group of 4-5 is my favorite. It’s definitely been a journey and although my life goals don’t involve teaching anymore, I am still passionate about early learning and education and working at WFSU in the education field is the perfect mix for my love of media and education. I look forward to bring my experience to the table as well as learn a great deal from WFSU.
– Andrea Terres, Education & Engagement Specialist
Thanks for stopping by the EdScoop blog, and look out for more from Andrea in the months to come!