Published Friday, September 07, 2012

Adventures in babysitting

Grandparenting for Ninja Man and me typically involves a few hours on a weekend so it was with a lot of excitement and a teeny bit of trepidation that I jumped on the chance to keep The Boy and wife Emily’s kids for a few days.

I was excited because they are adorable and we don’t get to see them nearly enough. Asher will be four in January and little Briella is 16 months old so there is no end to the cuteness.

The trepidation came in knowing that it’s been years since our kids were this age and we have less than four years experience in being grandparents.

The Boy loaded my car with a survival kit: two car seats, a pack-n-play (the Gen Y term for a play pen), beloved blankies, a suitcase, two backpacks, a pacifier (already installed in the youngest) and a list of things to do to keep the little ones alive for the next few days.

We were about four miles away from The Boy’s house when Asher whipped out a squirt gun and shot me square in the jaw. This wouldn’t have been a big deal except that I was driving at the time and had no idea he was armed. “Don’t do that!” I exclaimed, loudly. I recognized that voice from when I had to exclaim loudly to my own kids and was shocked to discover I still had it.

“Why?” Asher asked, then shot me again. This went on for a while until I threatened to pull over – a tactic I was delighted to know was still just as effective as ever before and we managed the hour’s drive without further attack or incident.

The babysitting was short notice and I had few things at home suitable for little kid sustenance, so we had to stop at the grocery store on our way home.

Knowing we had to stop for groceries, Emily demonstrated how I could strap on some weird contraption she regularly used to carry the baby on her back. “It’s ergonomic!” She exclaimed. It looked easy enough, so I tried it – in the parking lot of the grocery store – an act that caused a total stranger to sprint over and provide much needed assistance. I had the little darling on my back and contorted myself in such an unnatural position that honestly it took a village to get her and me upright. The man helped adjust baby as well as straps and in no time we were like a turtle and a shell; a kanga and a roo; a possum and a possumette.

Asher rode in a buggy that featured a steering wheel that was pleasantly non-functional while Briella cooed somewhere behind me in the comfort of the back contraption.

Emily was right; it was a great way to carry the baby. What she failed to mention was baby has a reach that surpasses all expectation. Right when I thought all was well, a loaf of bread went flying over my head. Briella laughed and, in rapid fire succession tossed a few more off to the right. I spun around just in time to see her tiny hand reach out and grab a can of soup. Thankfully this kid has quite an arm and she was able to fling it several feet away from the back of my head.

I jumped into the center of the aisle. Loaves of bread were scattered about. The lone can of soup was still rolling toward the chips. I bent down to pick up the bread. However-many-pounds of baby I had on my back pushed me rapidly toward the floor. I was bent over, hanging on to the buggy, loaves of bread everywhere. When I tried to reach down even further to pick up the first one, the baby inched forward.

I managed to stoop very low with one hand on the baby on my back and another reaching as far as possible to pick up all the tossed groceries. Asher meanwhile, inquired several times as to why I was crawling on the floor of the grocery store.

I emerged a dripping mess with several loaves of unneeded and flattened bread in my buggy, sweating from stem to stern, hoping the baby was still in her ergonomic position. The saving grace was a wonderful man who not only bagged my groceries but also followed me to the car and helped undo the baby-in-the-contraption situation. I’m pretty sure I owe him a million dollars, plus tax.

I strapped the kids into their car seats, sat down in mine, with groceries and all survival gear stowed in the back while the car’s air conditioner was busy drying the menopause from my brow.

I took a deep breath and only then realized I had to get this entire circus into the house once I got home.

In the remaining ten-minute drive I would pull over only twice: once to retrieve an army man from the floor of the car and the other to locate a missing pacifier.

All this and we weren’t even home yet. It was going to be an interesting week.

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