When I was in my early teenage years, I had a short-lived career as a babysitter for a family that lived in our housing development. My memory of it is fairly fuzzy, except that it seemed like it should be an easy gig. The pararents-of-two were desperate to be able to get out of the house every once in a while, so the money was good, and with the kids in bed by nine, half of the night was spent watching TV. The kids were something like five and three years old, and I distinctly remember being told that I wouldn't have to change any diapers. One evening, however, this promise was shown to be made in vain as the younger child approached me and announced that he had pooped in his pants. Having never changed a diaper in my life, I was terrified, but I handled myself with poise and authority: I took that kid's dirty underwear and pants and threw them in a corner of the bathroom, and never mentioned it to his parents. If you're reading this Mr. and Mrs. Beals, I'm so sorry.
This past month we celebrated my sister's birthday and, being the budget conscious people that we are, part of her gift from us was an evening of babysitting our favorite niece, Emma. Tuesday evening she and her husband Darin took us up on our offer. Shortly after kicking off work for the day we drove out to their house to make good on our gift.
I'm happy to report that this babysitting endeavour went much better than my last one, nearly twenty years ago. Perhaps it was due to the fact that I'm not a thirteen year old kid anymore. Perhaps it was due to the fact that January worked as a nanny for several years after college. One of those things, probably.
After Lesley and Darin left, we got things started the best way I know how: with a little help from Mr. DVD Player and his friend Yo Gabba Gabba. Not having any children of my own yet, I've always had these pompous notions in my head that when I have children, I'll do it right: No TV, no fast food, no processed meats. After this past Tuesday, I think I'll quickly be talked out of the TV thing. What that TV did to that child was nothing short of magical. It's a similar phenominon to when middleaged men sit in front of the TV after dinner on Thanksgiving day: The glazed look in the eyes, the partially agape mouth, the barely responsive grunt when you try to get their attention. We turned that DVD on and had autobabysitter for the next hour -- we even got her to eat some more of her dinner, as long as we insisted that it was Brobee who wanted her to do it.
We did finally turn off Babysitter's Assitant in lieu of more interactive entertainment in the form of an impromptu dance party using our iPhones. I'm proud to say that, thanks in large part to my fantastic musical taste, some of Emma's favorite bands now include The Flaming Lips and Band of Horses. She didn't care much for Sigur Ros, but we'll ease into that.
If there's one thing we've found that Emma loves more than The Flaming Lips' Yeah Yeah Yeah Song, it's playing with our iPhones. One of her favorite games, and how we passed most of the rest of the evening, was letting her scroll through the pictures in our photo roll and announcing what each thing in the picture was:
(that means "dog")
(that means "cat")
(that means "Auntie January")
(Apparently my name is easier than "dog")
After an hour or so of this, she was finally worn out and we were able to begin the adventure of getting a child to bed. Before we could take her upstairs, she insisted that she have her Brobee and Wendy dolls with her. Giving her these toys was apparently satisfactory in order to get her upstairs, but then she dropped Brobee shortly before we went to brush her teeth. That is when ALL. HELL. BROKE. LOOSE. "Bua-bua-bua!!!!" Thank goodness Lesley had specifically told us before she left that "bua-bua-bua" means that she wants her Brobee toy. We quickly retrieved it from the steps, but the damage had been done. First she insisted that only Unckie Andy could brush her teeth. Then she decided that nobody could brush her teeth. Then she decided that she didn't want to sleep in her pajamas. Then she decided that, OK, maybe she did want to sleep in her pajamas, but only if she could cry and scream while clutching her two favorite toys while we changed her. Ever try to change a toddler's clothes while she holds a stuffed animal in each hand and flails wildly? Well, you probably have, but this was my first attempt. We finally got those pajamas on and got her into bed, calmed down and ready to sleep, surrounded by thousands and thousands of tiny stuffed animals.
And that's when we raided the fridge, ordered pay-per-view, and invited all our friends over for a party. That's what babysitters are supposed to do, right?