It was a lazy Sunday afternoon in the Summer of 2014. The sun was shining down on New Jersey. The temperature was reaching 32 degrees Celsius and it wasn’t even noon yet. It was my day off but I planned to spend it with my host family and participate in family time because I was, of course, “family.” I spent most of my free weekends at home all cooped up in my bedroom on my Iphone or watching Netflix but as I began to feel more comfortable around my host family as I was living with them for four months now, (whilst taking care of two young boys ages two and four at the time) I decided to spend time with them outside my working hours because I liked them and they liked me.
Both host kids and I were waiting for their dad to finish cleaning the swimming pool so we can swim. We were watching my host dad through the kitchen window, anticipating how long it will take him to clean the pool. We were ready in our swimming costumes, goggles, sunscreen lotion and swim towels. My host mom was upstairs putting her bathing suit on so I stayed with the kids downstairs.
I was eager, happy, excited and nervous all at the same time. I felt how my host kids did when I gave them dessert after they finished eating dinner. Or when their mom would return home early from work. Or when they found out they’re grandparents bought them presents.
“Are you guys excited? I am!” I asked them while looking down at them and making sure their goggles were placed on their heads correctly.
“Yeah!” They simultaneously cheered.
“We’re gonna have so much fun today. I can’t wait! It’s gonna be the best day ever!” I continued to keep the excitement going.
I could see my host dad unlocking the swimming pool gates so we can enter.
“Okay guys, looks like daddy is ready. Let me check if we have everything,” I knelt down to my younger host kid making sure he had enough sun screen on his face and then turned to my elder host kid who scrunched up his nose as I rubbed the sun screen onto his cheeks.
I learned so much over the past four months. I learned how to make their favorite mac and cheese and learned how to sneak vegetables in the sauce without them knowing. I learned how my older host kid would always reassure me it’s safe to cross the street when no cars were around. I learned how my younger host kid enjoyed watching his dad leave for work every morning from the garage door. I learned that both host kids were left-handed but always ate with their right hand.
I learned all their small adorable habits that made me love them so much. I was so happy in that single moment and felt love throughout my body for them.
“I love you guys so much!” I smiled ecstatically as I told them.
“I don’t love you.” These four words that exited my older host kid’s mouth made me feel like the smallest person in the world.
“What? Why?” I was shocked, confused and wanted answers.
“Only my mom, dad, brother and grandparents can love me. Not you. I don’t love you.” He said it again as if to confirm it. As if it to engrave his harsh words into my mind, body and soul. I felt sick. Something felt uneasy in my stomach as my lips became dry.
They say kids never lie but how could this four-year old tell me such cruel things? How could he not love me? I’ve been doing nothing but look after him, his brother, this house and at times, his parents. My love for him quickly turned to anger. From wiping his bottom, feeding him late at night, soothing him when he’s crying and begging for his parents to come home, I did everything. I did it all willingly and happily. It was not only my job, but my life. Was I supposed to endure this for the next eight months?
I stood up and blinked the tears away from my eyes. Luckily, I had my younger host kid to distract me from the pain my older host kid just inflicted on me.
“We’ve got everything now, let’s go.” I held onto his hand and walked him out the kitchen door that led to the swimming pool gates. My older host kid ran in front of us all the way to his dad and hugged his legs. I squeezed onto my younger host kid’s hand for support but he quickly let go and copied his older brother’s actions. And I was left standing there alone looking out on their perfectly fulfilled family that didn’t involve me.