Tuesday, March 09, 2010

COLUMN: Babysit

My girlfriend works her tail off every week teaching first grade at a Bettendorf private school. For this, she's awarded ALMOST enough money to live. She off-sets this a little by babysitting for extra cash several nights a week. She watches two girls, ages 5 and 6, who cling to her enormous family tree somehow by parental marriage (I always get confused when she tries to explain it.)

The two girls might just be the cutest, sweetest pair of siblings ever made. Think Rod & Todd Flanders from The Simpsons in human form and you'll be kinda close. The first time I ever met them, they both came running into my arms with huge bear hugs going, "WE MISSED YOU!" When I complimented one recently on her obvious haircut, the other pulled me aside a few minutes later, looked up at me with huge puppy-dog eyes, and said, "I gotted my hair cut, too." They can melt ANY heart with little more than a glance.

So I didn't think much of it the other day when my girlfriend said, "Hey, I didn't get a chance to go to the gym today. Would you mind watching the girls for an hour while I run over there?" Strangely, at the time, this sentence didn't come with a sound effect of "dun dun DUN!" It would have helped. It would have helped me say, "Actually, there aren't enough words in the English language to express how much I would, in fact, mind doing this."

Instead, what my mouth inexplicably said was, "sure." Weirder still, my brain MEANT to say "sure." What's so hard about watching a couple of adorable kids for an hour, right? My girlfriend does it all the time, so what's the big deal?

Not only am I a single guy with no offspring, I'm also an only child who grew up on an isolated 50-acre farm in the middle of nowhere with nary a kid for miles around. I haven't been around little kids since I WAS a little kid. This explained the lump in my throat when Amy said "bye" to head off 6 blocks away to the gym.

I was prepped and ready to mold young minds. I had seen Amy's babysitting prowess first-hand, and I thought I'd learned a lot: you had to be authoritarian, you had to set the rules, and you never ever wanted to be "IN BIG TROUBLE, MISSY!" But I also thought that if Amy played the strict card, I could play the nice guy card and still get the same result. I could be Totally Rad Uncle Shane, The Awesomest Babysitter In The Land.

Well, I learned some more things -- primarily that "Hannah Montana" is the most insipid program to ever grace our achy breaky airwaves. I know, I know -- it's a kid's show. But this thing makes Full House look like Masterpiece Theatre.

However, I also learned that Hannah Montana is the world's greatest babysitter. The girls were hyper and chatty and bouncy until I flipped that show on. Within 30 seconds, they had become full-on catatonic Hannah zombies, sitting in stony silence while Miley Cyrus hypnotized them into some kind of creepy, all-consuming Disney submission.

But then Hannah ended. Uh oh. As fun as watching The Disney Channel was, it was also elimination night over on "American Idol," so I thought I'd give it a shot. My channel change to Fox was met with exactly four minutes of complacency.

"Shaaaaane?" asked the six-year-old. "Can you put the TV back to the Disney please?"

"I will in a little bit," I replied. "Let's watch this for a while first. You girls like singing, right?"


In an eyeblink, they're running amok. While one demonstrated her ability to screech the Hannah Montana theme song, the other went straight to my box of video game equipment and pulled out a microphone from Guitar Hero.

This led to our own anarchic "American Idol" contest. Let's just say Simon would NOT have had good things to say about their performance, which seemed to fall in the realm of avant-garde jazz improv with the lyrics (I kid you not:) "American Idols, me and youuuu!/Diamonds On The Avenuuuuue!"

"Hey Shane?" said the 6 year old.

"What's up?" I asked.

"I'm hungry I'M HUNGRY TOO!" said the two-headed monster.

Okay, no problem, we've got a contingency plan in effect. Amy had laid out some cheese and crackers in the kitchen. My kitchen is exactly six footsteps away from my living room. In the twelve steps it took for me to get there and back, they had managed to find my box of cat toys and spread them allllll over the floor (the cats, meanwhile, had long since sought shelter in the bedroom.)

Now there's singing and squeaky toys and yelling and eating. Well, more like shoving cheese and crackers towards their mouth with total disregard as to whether or not their mouths were open at the time. This is my only explanation as to how 10% of the crackers ended up eaten and 90% turned to crumbs all over the floor.

"LET'S PLAY HOUSE!" one screamed without missing a beat.
"I'M THE MOMMY!" yelled one.
"I'M THE SISTER!" yelled the other. (Odd family.)

"Umm, what am I?" I sheepishly asked.

"You're the dog! Now BEG!"

House lasted five minutes, until Mommy and Sister got into a fight over who got to hold the Family Microphone. Tears were almost shed. I did the only thing I could: I changed the channel back to Disney. No Miley in sight. Curses!

Yelling. Singing. Dancing. A request for more water.

"Okay, I'll get you some mo--"


That was the moment that Totally Rad Uncle Shane died and was replaced by Mean Grumpy-Face Shane. Mean Grumpy-Face Shane said, "Okay, we need to SIT DOWN. NOW."

Soon, Amy came home. This might have been expedited by my text message which may or may not have involved immediate threats of amateur self-vasectomy. Amy walked in the door and sorted the situation immediately. I'm afraid we were all IN BIG TROUBLE, MISSY.

Final Score: Kids 1, Shane 0. But you can't just get on a bike and start riding, right? I just need practice. It could have been worse. I didn't need 911 or Poison Control. No bones or possessions were broken. The kids (and Amy) still like me. The cats may eventually forgive me. The training wheels are firmly in place. And now when Amy says she doesn't want to babysit, I officially feel really, really bad for her. Maybe that was the whole point.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Shane. You did a good job. I'm Nanna. You think that is bad. Try 24-7. I can turn my back and just 1 room is gone. I thought some time a bad storm when through the house.I never laughed so hard. IT MUST OF BEEN A SHOCK FOR YOU. hOW MANY KIDS DID YOU SAY YOU WANTED>