Why is it that the thought of having a baby is so appealing, but the thought of having full-blown children terrifies me to no end?
I guess because even with the never-ending dirty diapers and round-the-clock care, babies won't remember if you screw up. And they haven't learned to talk yet, so they'll never call you on it. Kids, on the other hand, are damn smart. And they'll be the first one to tell you if you're doing something wrong.
So when Jerry called me from work Saturday morning to ask if we could watch his sister's kids for a few hours that afternoon, my heart seized up. Amy and her husband wanted to go to the annual home show and knew their kids would rather die than look at siding and grout samples.
"But our house is even less exciting than that!" I said. I mean, we have nothing to entertain kids with. NOTHING. Well, besides Toby. But I didn't think we could expect him to enthrall a 13-year-old, an 8-year-old and a 3-year old for four hours. As in, "Here you go kids! Play with the dog! We'll be over here being boring adults and paying our bills and balancing our checkbook and stuff!"
"It'll be fine," Jerry said. "I told Amy to pack some stuff for them. Besides, it'll only be a few hours. When it's time for them to leave, you'll wish they could stay longer."
Right. This coming from the guy who has the easy end of the job. He'll sit with the two older boys and play video games while I have to entertain a toddler with house plants. Maybe we could pick off the dead leaves. WEE!
But I knew there really wasn't a decision to be made. I mean, they're the best kids on the planet and that's what families do. They help each other out. Besides, maybe sometime in the future we'll need them to watch our kids while we go check out siding and grout samples.
When Jerry got home from work, he found me in a panic. I was upstairs in the attic, frantically digging through boxes we haven't unpacked since the move, trying to find the lone box of crayons I know we have. Somewhere.
"What are you doing, crazy lady?" he asked.
"We have crayons! I know it!"
"Kelly, relax," he said, laughing. "It's not a big deal."
"It IS a big deal! I don't know what I was thinking wanting children! We're outnumbered, they'll swarm us. Do we even have enough food in the house?"
But there wasn't any more time for pep-talks. The doorbell rang. We knew because Toby flew down the steps barking like a maniac.
On the way to the door, I couldn't help but remember that I was babysitting by the time I was a teenager. And I was damn good at it. I've had so many parents tell me over the years that I was their children's favorite.
What's changed? I guess the knowledge that I can ruin them. In the course of a few hours I can completely destroy their chance at a stable future. Just by accidentally swearing or something.
In a matter of seconds our quiet home became a war zone. The guys plopped on the couch and hooked up their game system while Little Miss Emily decided it was time run around chasing Toby until she caught him, all the while screaming at levels detectable by our neighbors. In a 14-block radius.
As predicted, Jerry hung out with the boys while I played with Emily. I asked her to show me what was in the bag she brought. Toys! Glorious toys! First we did a Strawberry Shortcake puzzle. Then we played a retarded version of Dora dominoes. Then we played with her freaky polar bear-looking stuffed animal that snored and whined and moved its limbs, sending Toby into an epileptic fit.
And that was it. The bag was empty and we burned about 22 minutes. Shit.
Shit. Shit. Shit.
So we played dominoes again. And tucked the bear into one of my silver serving bowls and found a really, really, really quiet spot ... shhh ... for it to sleep in on the kitchen table. Then we set the oven timer for five minutes later so we would know when to wake him up.
Then Emily reached into her bag and pulled out a Strawberry Shortcake video. A video! An HOUR-LONG VIDEO! So we went up to my bedroom, plugged in the mini DVD player and chilled out on the bed. But trying to keep Toby and Emily from killing each other while balancing the DVD player proved to be a difficult task. First of all, if the disc bumped and I had to watch that "berry berry fun birthday" crap a second time, I just might kill myself. Second, Toby and Emily have a lot of limbs. And when all eight of them are flailing around in a wrestling match of sorts near my face, I'm not pleased.
Miraculously, we made it through the video with only one bump and restart. I am now dumber for having watched it, but Emily seemed very pleased with the "fun little baby DVD player like in her car." Whatever rocks her boat.
Next, I realized I was starving and stupidly decided I couldn't wait another hour until the kids were gone. So I asked everyone if they wanted anything, mentioning that I had made a fresh batch of homemade chili the day before. What I should've done is gotten out a notebook and written down their orders, waitress style. Because, of course, everyone wanted something different.
Nate: "Um, I'll take some popcorn if you have it."
Ben: "I'll try the chili, please."
Emily: "Chili. Um, ew, it looks gross. Maybe grilled cheese? No wait! ... Peanut butter and jelly. No wait! ... Are those cookies? Ooh! And string cheese! Wait! ... Is that popcorn?"
Jerry: "I'll eat the four sandwiches you just made for Emily that she suddenly decided she doesn't want anymore."
Kelly: "Can I eat now?"
And even though I'm pretty sure more popcorn kernels ended up on the floor and in between our couch cushions than in anyone's mouth, and even though it was crazy and hectic and I was absolutely EXHAUSTED after only a few hours, I did have a good time. There will be much less hesitation the next time.
But after the door closed and the three of us realized the whirlwind was over, I swear even Toby looked slightly relieved.