And so there we found ourselves, looking for a sometimes babysitter.
Naturally, I checked all the candidates’ resumes for the basics: advanced mathematics degree, Navy Seal training, culinary snobbery, and high marks on the patented Sam Bee How Do You Respond To Pressure-O-Meter. By way of example: have you ever landed an airplane successfully in the Hudson River with no major injuries reported? Ever fended off a bear attack with an infant safely nestled in the crook of your arm? Can you toilet train my toddler while instructing the others in perfect French, but still be attentive to the risotto that’s currently bubbling away on the stove? I seriously want to make risotto-balls tomorrow.
Oh. Wait. That’s not how it works at all. Babysitting is a word-of-mouth thing for us; and a great babysitter is someone who we luck into and never want to let go of. NEVER. No Navy Seal training required. Well, it’s preferred of course, but not essential.
How thing have changed since I was five years old, and ‘that powdery old lady across the street’ aka ‘my babysitter’ would let me down into her basement to catch up on my afternoon stories with a single sleeve of saltines for nourishment. I don’t really remember her ever conversing with me, or offering me a cup of water, or looking into my eyes, or even really knowing my name. Fun times.
Which got me thinking about how things have changed since I myself took the role of babysitter, occasionally, for friends of my mother, at the age of twelve. Me: braces, Def Leppard t-shirt, clueless expression on face. Them: three children, including one infant, and twin toddlers. An enormous spooky house, and one box of Froot Loops staring me down from the counter.
Le *gasp*! The Forbidden Froot.
The only breakfast cereal I was ever allowed to eat was Alpen. Yes that’s right, Swiss muesli. The ‘nun shoes’ of morning nutrition.
So when I walked in that home and saw that box of JOY, and heard the words “eat anything you want”, I mean, who could blame me for not listening to a single word they said about caring for their newborn baby and their two precious twins and what they were supposed to be eating and what time they were supposed to go to bed and where their diapers were and for that matter, how to change a diaper and where the backup telephone numbers were and all that other junk about safety and whatever whatever BREAKFAST CEREAL. Did I mention that I was terrified of children? Also, there was BREAKFAST CEREAL available to me.
I think the children were only marginally safer in their home with me than they would have been if they were alone, or in the care of a helper monkey. At least if there was a haunting or something, I would have run down the street screaming and trying to save my own life, and that would have probably attracted the attention of older, more normal people with defined concepts about such things as: the needs of children.
I’m not saying I was a bad babysitter…I’m merely saying that I was the WORST babysitter. And that after my brief foray into the world of pre-teen childcare, I never held a baby again until one came out of my body. I think we were all better for it.
And now if you will excuse me, I think I need to go and worship the ground that my safe, reliable, delightful new babysitter walks upon. In the meantime, help yourself to some Alpen.
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