I’m babysitting some kids who are so active and hilarious that they keep me running like Usain Bolt. They’re smart and curious and so loving and appreciative. Still, sometimes I feel like I can’t keep up with one request or disciplinary moment before another one piles on top.
So I was happy to pick them up from swimming lessons, take them home, and cook dinner.
“Ah-ha!” I thought. “They’ll have worked off all their extra energy.”
Um… noooooo. Remember those old motorcycle toys, before battery-operated-everything, that you hooked into a kickstand and then cranked up to let it go?
Okay. NOW imagine that you have three of those toys, fully cranked. They’re sentient, verbal, and very hungry. You have my evening in a nutshell.
I hadn’t even gotten them into the car and they went in three different directions. Thank you, Jesus, for giving me the wisdom to get Emerson certified in babysitting two years ago so that she would be qualified to help. She was putting the booster seat into the back seat for the youngest while I gathered the three of them. Child 1 wanted to play basketball in the parking lot. Child 2 had to go to the bathroom. Child 3 was running back and forth between the pool and the car doing god knows what. A fourth child was on his way home and I did not want him to be alone for long.
“Emerson, please help me get them in the car.”
Here’s the thing. Emerson is certified to babysit. She knows, intellectually, what to do. But being an only child, she does not actually know the first thing about corralling little kids in real life. She whipped around, running in two directions, as I piled towels and goggles into the back.
“Just start telling them it’s time to go.”
She trotted over to the youngest child, Child 3, who hopped towards the car like a bunny. I went after the Child 2 in the bathroom as Emerson headed towards Child 1. I returned from the bathroom with Child 2 only to find Child 3 hopping away from the car again – and then Child 2 who I had just corralled ran to join the basketball game. Dude…
“Em, just be funny and sling her over your shoulder, if necessary,” I nodded towards the youngest, and motioned to the other two to get in the car. They reluctantly trudged towards me.
Emerson gently told Child 3 to head towards the car. She hopped in a circle around Emerson. The other two, seeing that the youngest was going nowhere, abandoned their walk to the car and skipped back towards the basketball game. Gah!
I worried that Child 4 was going to be scared if he had to wait long.
“Come on, y’all, in the car,” I called, and Emerson gently (she really needs to learn to be firmer) shooed them like ducklings. Hop hop hop. Bounce bounce bounce. It was as though Emerson and I were ghosts playing out scenes from our living years with humans who could no longer see nor hear us.
“GUYS! IN THE CAR. NOW,” I drill-sergeant-ed them, but not unkindly. I was firm, but not angry. They scrambled to the car and I grinned at Emerson, who followed behind looking wary and tired. She loves these kids, but having always been a mostly obedient child (knock on wood), she does not understand their behavior. I find them wildly amusing, even when I’m being pulled in 10 different directions. I always wanted more kids and I love navigating the chaos.
I had the three in the back seat, finally. I stuck my head in the passenger door.
“Thanks, y’all. Put on your seatbelts, please.”
“I don’t know how.” “I don’t have a seatbelt in the middle.” “This seatbelt is too tight.”
Emerson rolled her eyes at me from outside the window and I grinned.
I loosened Child 1’s seatbelt, only to have him throw himself against it so it locked up. “See?!” he said. “It’s too tight!”
“Well, honey, don’t throw yourself forward and it won’t lock up like that.” I adjusted it again and he threw himself forward again. “Ugh, well, that’s just how it’s going to stay,” I said.
“But I can’t breathe!” He thrashed dramatically in his seat. I suppressed a laugh. His eyes told me he knew exactly what he was doing. I loosened it again, but paused…
“Okay, that’s enough playing, because we need to get home. If you do that again, it stays that way all the way home, okay?” I clicked the seatbelt again. He threw himself forward again and grinned. I shrugged. “Okay, enjoy the ride.” His face was priceless. Oh, well. Boundaries, kid. They’re real.
In the meantime, Child 2 found his seatbelt and got it on.
“Hey, good job!” I said.
“IT’S HOT!” he yelled, blasting my ear drum just as I leaned down to adjust and secure the seat belt for the youngest. “THIS CAR IS MESSY!”
“It is. We’re leaving in a sec. Hang on.”
Emerson leaned against the passenger window of the car, her face like thunder and pointed at Child 2. I shook my head at her with a smile. He didn’t mean to hurt my ear, he just yelled on impulse without seeing the consequences ahead. He’s only in like fourth grade.
Child 3 sat primly in her seat as I situated the seatbelt and secured it. “There you go, sweetie.”
“Thank you,” she said. Whew!
I leaned down to pick up a paper bag from the floorboard.
“Hey, why you got grey hairs?” Child 1 said. I grinned. Don’t be around kids if you can’t handle honesty.
“I guess it’s just my age,” I said.
“I think you got too much stress,” he said.
Emerson threw her hands up in the air and walked away from the car.
I giggled. “Yes. Yes, I do.”