Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Babysitter

The nine-and-a-half year old was keeping sketch for me on the street. I was running late - ambitious in my reckoning that I could be there for five if I left Wrathmines at four. Ambitious too in my reckoning that I could successfully follow the directions I had been given and navigate my way there via public transport. Two buses and a taxi later, I arrived looking somewhat flustered, not at all cool, calm, collected and Supernanny Jo Frosty like I'd planned. I made my apologies to the next-door neighbour who'd been watching the girls until I arrived, and politely rebuffed her kind offer to do the babysitting for me. She looked concerned, as well she might - for I am patently an incompetent, and an eccentrically dressed one at that. She eyed me suspiciously as I chirruped nonsense at the child, like some kind of Pied Wicked Stepmother. Thankfully the bewildered little duckling followed me into the house with nary a word of complaint, her sister skipping along behind us, curious to see what I'd do next.

I wasn't sure about that next part either. My babysitting experience is limited to drunkards and actual babies - neither require much by way of entertainment beyond the occasional bottle. What would I do with a nine-and-a-half and an almost four year old? I'd asked their dad, who had reeled off a schedule. In one ear and out the other; all I'd remembered was that they were to be fed at some point and that they like magazines. I'd brought jellies, but realised that as I was to have these dolls in bed before their daddy arrived home, filling them full of sugar might not be a wise move. So, like an optimistic but disappointing magician, I reached into my bag and produced my trump cards; glittery magazines with pictures of ponies and non-threatening boys, with shiny plastic toys stuck to their front covers. A little early in the game to be flashing my bribes about, but having made them street children for approximately twenty minutes with my tardiness, I thought it prudent.

The elder lemon was thrilled, and curled up for a flick-through. But the littlest duckie's face fell. "I already have this one". She was gutted, and frankly so was I. It came with a dinky little cellophane wrapped xylophone, and I had planned on winning her affections by teaching her to play my tinkly and slightly 'tarded version of Twinkle Twinkle. She looked up mournfully at me, and all I could do was apologise. Apologise, and blame her dad. "Anyway" I say, "now you have two xylophones! So we can play them together!". She looked at me then with something approximating pity, and gathered the magazine up with a resigned sigh. "I'll just hide it here" she said, stuffing it in behind the armchair, "and then it will be safe and I won't forget where it is".

Nor will I.

Exhausted by all this disappointment, she decided to lay down on the couch and wallow for a bit so I tried bonding with her sister instead. Not one to look a gift-bearing horse in the mouth, she was poring over her mag and chewing contentedly on the sparkly pen that had come with it. Anxious that I wouldn't be the only one without a magazine, she showed me the one she'd gotten earlier that day, which came with free lip gloss. We did a quiz to see which shade would suit my personality - Vanilla Cream, apparently, because I am a classy sort - she was disappointed to see that I had already stuck my finger in the gloopy pink strawberry one and was busy slathering it over my classy lips and wiping the remainder in the hem of my skirt.

I'm not sure that I was quite what the girls were expecting.

With a little help from Zoey 101, Princess Jasmine, Dora the Explorer and Angelina Ballerina (who is an even worse babysitter than I am, it seems) we made it through to bedtime. The littlest duckie had a brief stomping knicker fit before allowing me to dress her in her jammies and supervise her brushing her teeth through her incessant chatter. "I have two potties!" she informed me with pride, as she dropped trous and ably demonstrated how one might be used. I made admiring noises, sensing that it was expected of me. Later, at half past go-to-sleep-please, her sister and I were telling one another stories in the next room when I heard a polite but insistent knocking. I hurried in to see what the matter might be. "I did a wee" she stage-whispered fretfully. I eyed the tossed bedclothes with trepidation and ran a cautious hand over the sheets. Dry. She stood watching me with her pants down around her knees, it was only when I had checked them too for soakage that she pointed me towards the potty. Her achievement recognised, she pulled her pants back up and tottled back to bed.

With a sigh of relief I returned to her sister, who was putting me through my paces. Instead of me simply reading her a story, she'd chosen one with pictures where you had to make it up as you go along. Storytime improv... this kid was testing me. She played the frog and the dog, I played the boy and felt embarrassed to feel embarrassed at my discomfort. I haven't spent enough time in the close company of small children to feel comfortable acting like one.

I think I need to remedy that.

22 comments:

Dot-Com said...

And there was me thinking I had it tough yesterday when a single mother on the plane dropped her baby off for me to watch while she went to the loo!

She must have noticed my all-but-excited expression, but it was very clear to me she didn't really understand my worry that this little creature might touch my laptop and make the movie stop or something! I'm glad my "baby sitting" wasn't more than three or four times a couple of minutes *lol*

B said...

zoey 101 i think?

Aidan said...

It's not too bad when you are used to it. I'd still get well stressed out if I ever had to mind somebody else's kids though. Everybody seems to have their own peculiar ways of doing things.
Feeding babies abootle can be a nightmare if they are too cranky or tired to drink. The more annoyed you get the lest milk consumed the worse the problem, yikes.

PaulB said...

Sounds like you did great to me. Joining in and "look at me" attention is all most kids want, sounds like you managed both very well.

Rosie said...

i'd be delighted with that, Dot. i worry that i am so awful with children that people would rather leave the neighbour's cat to mind them. i'm not, of course, it's just paranoia because my ovaries are wonky and i worry that babies can sense it.

i know i'm mental.

corrected, B, thank you. you're a fan?

these kids were happily none too particular, Aidan. i did my best with them, Paul. hopefully their dad gave them the jellies the next day and didn't snarf them himself. then they'll love me for sure.

Conan Drumm said...

Well done, but take it from me, other folks' kids are always much easier to mind than your own!

Ellie said...

Aren't they adorable?!

Radge said...

At least they didn't set your jabs on fire, a la Mrs Doubtfire. Small mercies.

Rosie said...

but i will have model children, Conan! friends and family will queue to babysit them!

they are, Ellie. i wanted to keep them. though when i woke on saturday with a rotten hangover, i was rather glad they weren't there to share it.

i ain't got no jabs, Radge.

Annie said...

I want you to babysit me.

Oh, hang on, you DO babysit me.

Common Law said...

They sound like spoilt, ungrateful brats. You should have sent them to bed with no supper.

Rosie said...

you're easy, Annie. i can ply you with drink.

they are neither spoilt nor ungrateful, CL. i'm just hoping they might let me babysit them again.

EW said...

A lovely post, amazing how kids can be so innocently proud of achievements like potty training!

Takes me back

EW

Common Law said...

Just teasing. They're good girls and indeed they will have you back any day of the week!! They loved you.

praiseach said...

Potty training.....you couldn't pay me enough to do that job

Rosie said...

thanks, EW. and thank you to you too, CL, that's made my day.

it was strictly a supervisory role, Rua. someone else had already gone over the basics with her.

B said...

nope it's for children and i'm a big adult sort

problemchildbride said...

"like some kind of Pied Wicked Stepmother."

Ha!

Gardenhead said...

I used to babysit in the house across the road from me when I was 15. Once the kids went to bed I spent the rest of the night carefully emptying small splashes of spirits out of all the bottles in their expansive drinking cabinet into a plastic bottle of 'shitmix' for the next gig coming up.

When the kids were awake I was good with them. We made huge cardboard houses out of fridge boxes.

Rosie said...

we used to call those "dolly mixtures". proof positive that you'll drink anything when you're 15.

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