Sunday, January 25, 2009

Welcome to Kelly’s Life, Episode 16

I’ve never been particularly fond of other people’s children. In fact, I think boarding schools are a fine idea. Keeps them all in one place, out of sight, and out of public places where they would otherwise be running and screaming down the grocery store aisle, terrorizing unsuspecting childless people, while their mothers relished in a moment of blissful short lived freedom. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So when I agreed to watch my friend’s children while on an out of town visit, Caty, age 9 and Colin, age 3 ½, I knew PRECISELY how I was going to handle them. And despite this fact, this delusional genius I thought I had in my theories and capabilities of the momentary raising of children, I was, in all honesty, completely terrified. What if they break, or runaway, or get lost, or eat something they shouldn’t. What if they scream and yell and say, “YOU’RE not my mommy and YOU can’t make me!” as they draw on the walls with their crayons. What if they throw-up or crap their pants for god sakes.

So I spent weeks thinking of how I’d devise creative ways to keep these little munchkins entertained in productive, educational, active ways. No way was I going to have them watching TV, on a nice summer day, when they can be outside. We were going to do stuff. It would be fun. We’d sing and dance and play in the yard and their Dad would come home and be gleefully amazed. It was going to be just lovely. Because, really, how hard could it possibly be? They’re just little people. No big deal.

So when their mom dropped them off, and Caty and Colin went running through the house, climbing on furniture, chasing the dog, screeching and giggling, at 9:00 in the morning, I said to their mom, “Please. Don’t go. You’re not leaving them here, with me, are you? Can’t you stay?”

“By the way, Colin is only half potty trained”, she says. And off she went, with a pleasant grin, and a carefree lilt to her step. She hopped in her car, and drove away at 90 miles per hour. I think to myself, “She knows something I don’t know.”

I had decided that the kids and I were going to make dinner that night. And since we had no car, we would bike to the store and buy some groceries. I thought it would be fun. It took about 68 minutes to get out of the house. I don’t know why. They kept scampering away. And, did you know, you really can’t rationalize with a 3-½ year old boy? They have an attention span of, MAX, maybe 7 seconds.

Colin: “We going for a bike ride?”

Me: “Yes, we’re going for a bike ride.”

Colin: “I wanna go on a bike ride!”

Me: “We’re going on a bike ride.”

Colin: “I wanna wear my helmet!”

Me: “Yes, you’ll wear you’re helmet.”

Colin: “I don’t wanna go on bike ride!”

Me: “Put your helmet on.”

Colin: “I DON’T WANNA WEAR MY HELMET!!!”

Me: “You HAVE TO put your helmet on.”

Colin: “We going for a bike ride? I wanna wear my helmet!”

And he put his little bike helmet on. Over his swim goggles.



We went back and forth like this, oh, maybe, three more times, before I stuffed The Boy in his bike cart, and sealed him inside. Caty rode behind us, on her pink Barbie bike, wearing her pink Barbie helmet.

I’d decided we’d stop by Wal-Mart first, because I wanted to buy The Boy a piggy bank. (I’ll explain later.) Before we’d left the house, Caty asked me if I’d buy her a stuffed animal. I told her if she wanted a toy, she’d have to buy it with her own allowance money. I have no heart. So we mosey through Wal-Mart, to the toy section. And suddenly, I realized, you don’t take children down the toy aisle if you honestly intend to leave that place without throwing down some cash. They wanted EVERYTHING.

“No. You can’t have that.”

“Put that down.”

“No you can’t have that either.”

“Put that back.”

“Stop screaming.”

“Chainsaws are not for children”

“I said NO.”

Caty had found a toy she wanted, and I had found a piggy bank for Colin. I decided it would be unfair to buy something for The Boy and not for Caty – so I told Caty that I’d pay for half of the toy she wanted. And you know what? I took the three dollars from that nine-year-old girl, and didn’t even feel all that bad about it. Consider it coffee money. Which was CLEARLY going to be needed. Ah yes…a triple shot of espresso…that will be nice…

…and then, all of a sudden, like startled deer, the children are running and screaming down the aisles of Wal-Mart.

Oh good god.

I gave them one run. And as I nonchalantly moseyed up to the little monsters, I said, “No running. No screaming. If you run, if you scream, we put the toys down and we leave. No toys for you.” I had laid down the gauntlet, with my stern serious adult face and tone of voice. Caty settled right down. The Boy, with a glimmer in his eye, looked right at me, screamed, and went running. Caty looked at me. I looked at her. “Let’s go”, I said.

I catch up with Colin, pick him up, put him on my hip, take his toy, put it on a shelf, and start walking. At which point, this adorable little boy, with his blond hair, blue eyes, and enviable long eyelashes, starts carrying on like a demon child, flailing, kicking, hitting, screaming at the TOP of his lungs, in the middle of the store,

“PUT ME DOWN!!! PUT ME DOWN!!! PUT ME DOWN!!! EEEEEAHHHHHHHHHrgh!!!!!!!!”

Colin really is a heavy little bugger, but no matter how much he squirmed, I was able to hold on and keep walking. And when he finally realized that I wasn’t going to give in, he did. Put his arms around my neck, head on my shoulder, and quietly cried. I kept walking, promptly and with clear purpose, through the store – because obviously, we’d been all the way in the back. And I was wondering, really, how long before Social Services came in and carted us off. Or would it be the police? Either or. At this point, they can have them.

Outside the store, and not yet caught, I stuff The Boy back in his wheelie, and off we go to the food store. We were able to finish our errands and make it back home with only one minor incident at the grocery store which involved shoes thrown out of the cart and onto the aisle floor, a boy climbing out of the food cart and briefly screaming and running amok, and an offer I made to the mother standing in front of me in line to take THIS boy home with her too. She declined.

So by the time we’d biked home, me pulling the hefty kid and all the groceries behind me, including a watermelon, all I really wanted to do was sit down and have a moment, until I realized, that you actually have to feed these little creatures. Like, real food, no less. You can’t just give them some salad and call it good.

Colin: “We having grilled cheese?”

Me: “Yes, we’re having grilled cheese.”

Colin: “YEA! We having grilled cheese! I want grilled cheese!”

Me: “It’ll be ready in a minute”

Colin: “I don’t want grilled cheese!”

You get the idea. I plunked it down on the dining room table, with their tomato soup and apple juice. Am I great kid watcher or what! Is that not the all-American kid watching meal?
So in the midst of all of this, every ten minutes, I was asking the boy if he needed to use the potty, because I had HUGE fears of the consequence of me not asking him every ten minutes. After lunch I sent him in to sit on the potty and told him to not come out ‘til he pooed. Nothing. I got nothing. Off goes the boy, pull-ups askew, pants twisted. It was time to play outside. We were out there, not FIVE minutes later, before I turned to Caty and said, “You think your brother smells kinda funny?” Ever the wise and seasoned older sister, she walks over to The Boy, pulls out the pull-ups, and with a scrunched up face declares, “EWWWW!

“YOU! Inside!” I say to Colin.

Good GOD what has this kid been eating!? Sweetheart that Caty is, she grabs a plastic garbage bag, holds it out, her other fingers clenching her nose shut, and quietly removes it from the house, while the two of us are gagging. The Boy is completely un-phased. I pass him a handy wipe, and tell him to wipe his butt, and hand him a clean pair of pull-ups. And off we go to draw pictures on the driveway with sidewalk chalk and play hopscotch, and play on the swing set.

It’s only 2:00.

And suddenly, like a beacon in the night, it occurs to me: The Boy hasn’t had a nap yet.

Oh joyous freedom! Peaceful tranquility! Oh happy time!

I decided that the cue for naptime was when yelling, kicking and crying transpired. So I swooped in, got yelled at, kicked at, and the crying began. I marched right on up the stairs, Boy in tow, and shut that sweet little child in his room for a nap.

I made it to 3:30 before the TV went on and I plunked the kids down in front of it so I could make dinner, in peace and quiet, by myself, little people out of my hair.

Oh. About the piggy bank. I sat Colin down at the kitchen table. I drew a picture of him, on the potty. Then I drew a picture of a piggy bank. I told him every time he pooed in the potty, I’d put a quarter in the piggy bank. And at the end of the week, daddy would take him and buy him a toy with all the money in the piggy bank. I then drew a picture of a pink piggy, and taped it to a plastic container, and declared: “THIS is your piggy bank.”

He was very excited. I left the picture of him and the potty stuck to the refrigerator door, at eye level for him, so that every time he walked by he could tell me about the potty. And you know what? It worked like a charm. At least on my watch it did. And at this point, that’s all that really mattered to me.

By 7:00, I was ready for bed. And that was only day one.


So, the moral of the story:

1. Pull-ups are your friend.
2. 3-½ year old boys cannot be reasoned with.
3. God help the parents of multiples. Particularly multiple boys.
4. As a non-parent, whatever you thought you knew, whatever you thought you could handle, whatever theories or methods you had convinced yourself of – does not apply when dealing with the little people.
5. I respect parents. All parents. How sanity is retained, how relationships manage to survive, and what on earth you find charming about babies – I will never know.
6. I now believe in daycare, grandparents, and nannies. THOSE are some special people.
7. Bribery. It’s your friend.