About a month ago I got a text from my friend Julie asking, "Do you work October 5th? We're looking for a babysitter that afternoon."
My first thought was that she must have meant to send it to someone else. I mean, I'm known for a lot of things (loving Diet Coke, hating pants, a penchant for day long marathons of crappy reality TV shows), but I feel like being responsible enough to care for someone's child isn't one of them.
It's not that I don't like kids. I do. I'm just really not sure what to do with kids. Kids don't like to talk about me nearly as much as I do. I can't just get them drunk when they're bored like I can with my adult friends. Their limited vocabulary makes trying to have a conversation excruciating. They scream about everything, and not just about things that warrant an elated outburst (like when a Britney Spears song comes on the radio).
Also, they're sticky. How do they get so sticky?!
Babies are even more of a mystery. I never know at what age I'm supposed to start talking to them like they're grown ups (and I'm super self conscious about how ridiculous my baby talk voice is). For the most part, they're pretty boring too. Sure, they're cute enough, but if we're not friends, odds are I don't really care about your kid until they're old enough to start saying hilariously inappropriate things in public.
A few years ago I ran into someone I was acquainted with in college. Calling her a friend would be a stretch. We shared a class together, and we ended up sitting together after looking around at the rest of the group and realizing that there wasn't going to be a better option for either of us. I was honestly surprised that she even remembered me.
She had just had twins, and she was definitely in the "showing off" phase of new motherhood (Ooooh, look what I made with my vagina!). She spotted me while I was at work and brought up one of the babies. I was forced to ooh and aah over it's squishy, squinty, purple infant face while she filled me in on far too personal details of the birthing process. It was ten minutes of "Oh my," "So cute," and "You must be exhausted" before she was done with me, and I saw an opening to extract myself from the situation.
Just as I was getting into the "We should definitely get coffee sometime" part of the goodbye she interrupted me and said, "Oh, wait, my mom has (whatever the name of the other one was), let me go grab him!"
They're twin infants, do you really need me to look at both of them?
I thought through Julie's request though. James is unreasonably cute. He's also at an age where he's developed a personality (much more interesting than when they just poop and scream). I couldn't resist an opportunity to bond with him, and it's not like I had any real fears of taking care of a child either. I started babysitting in middle school, and I had a regular gig through most of high school. I can't imagine much has changed in ten years (excuse me while I have a panic attack after typing ten years).
That, and she offered to pay me in wine, so...duh.
After agreeing, I didn't really think much of it until the day before I was going to be having a baby in my apartment. At that time I looked around and realized I was living in just about the least baby proof environment in the world (ranked just below the set for that scene in Saw II with the pit of hypodermic needles).
I started cleaning (and I hate cleaning), and I payed special attention to those areas that I can't see, but are at perfect level for little baby hands. Under the couch, behind TV stand, and between the chair and the wall. I found .83 cents (mostly in nickels), a couple super stale Cheetos, a tube of super glue, 4 beer bottle caps, and earring from Pretty Pretty Princess, and a big 'ole butcher knife (from that time I was pretty sure there was a killer out in my hallway, but I didn't want to stop watching Gilmore Girls and hide, so I put a knife under the couch just in case).
I got through two rooms before I remembered that babies can't work doorknobs and just shut the doors to the rest of my apartment. Good enough.
The first few minutes after James was dropped off were a bit tense. We halfheartedly played with some toys while eyeing each other suspiciously, both just waiting to see how this whole thing was going to play out. It dawned on him about ten minutes in that Mom and Dad had indeed left, and he was expected to spend the afternoon with me. That's when the screaming started.
The kid's got lungs, but I wasn't about to let it ruin the fun that I knew we were going to have. I was prepared for this. I'd heard that he was an especially big fan of the song Hey Jude so I put in my Across the Universe soundtrack and sang and danced around the room with him. This earned me a curious, but vaguely annoyed look...which is better than crying.
I realized that I was just going to need to keep him entertained.
|Colander drums seemed to work...|
|...for a little while.|
|He was super into Kylie Minogue...|
|...and also Little Shop of Horrors.|
|He fought me a bit, but I got the hang of it.|
No matter how much fun we had, I think we were both pretty happy when Mom and Dad came back...
...and I was super happy to pop open my payment.