Adventures in Babysitting: "24" - Sudden Write Turn Freelance Writing

Adventures in Babysitting: “24”

First, we survived.

Second, it took twice as much time to recover as the length of time that we had nephews K. & D. overnight.

The boys arrived at noon last Sunday, carrying in a suitcase, backpacks, and a giant tote bag of assorted child-necessary items. I feared that there might have been a miscommunication about how long they were staying.

“Where are we going to sleep?” were the first words out of D.’s mouth. I had tidied our guest room where he and K. would share a bed that night. He unpacked his super-soft Snow Leopard and DeeDee (an elephant), and tested the nightlight I had installed just that morning.

K. gave the room a cursory review, then asked to go outside and play. “Sure, stay in the backyard,” I said, thinking: this is easy.

After a dizzying review of who gets what allergy meds and when, and when to stop liquids for a certain tiny-bladder, my sister was off. I think she might have squealed the tires on her minivan when she left for 24-kid-free-hours…

By the time I had prepared boxed mac n’ cheese (blech) and custom turkey sandwiches, most of our wiffle balls had disappeared into neighbors’ yards. The boys enjoyed the idea of lunching on our porch more so than the actual eating, and I’m still learning not to offer drink choices if I just want them to drink the juice boxes we bought for them especially. They decide that the neon sign that we have up on the porch wall reads “Sunny-D”…yes, that’s it. If Sunny Delight was served in an adult drinking establishment, I’m sure they would have a neon sign, too.

Somehow I manage to scrape the cheese sauce/orange glue off of my saucepan in time for us to walk down to our town’s Memorial Day Parade. The Uncle drove down a little earlier to set up with the band he was playing with for pre-parade entertainment outside our church.

It is a one mile walk from our house, on sidewalks lined with mature trees and houses built 90-100 years ago on small lots – very different from their new-build house on an acre in a young neighborhood of an outer-ring semi-rural suburb. Not better, just very different.

I pull the wagon hauling our camp chairs (D. gave up after a few blocks), the boys collect pocketfuls of “helicopter” seeds, run through “hot lava” pools of bright sun between cool oases of tree shade, and puzzle over a “sleeping” squirrel. Sometimes they do fall out of the tree, and die, I tell them. In a world where the violence of roadkill is commonplace, a squirrel lying still in the grass must be sleeping.

We put jackets on and take them off, over and over, suck down juice boxes (no other option!), and accept brownies from the church. Still, the boys are hungry (“Maybe you should’ve eaten your lunch…”), and are ready to go home after the parade. Thank heavens the Uncle had the car, or I would have needed a pull in the wagon.

I don’t recall exactly what, but I find something to do while the boys and The Uncle play the three drum kits set up in our basement. Take a moment to fully consider that sentence.

Fast-forward through the usual Let’s Make a Deal-dining experience at the nearby diner: I drive home and calculate how many hours until bedtime (mine), and listen to exaggerated backseat whispers echoing Mommy’s reminder not to yell in the car because “Aunt Terra isn’t used to it.”

Aunt Terra isn’t used to a lot of things that she has experienced over the last several hours. I manage not to careen off the road on the way home.

flaming marshmallow
S’Mores in the backyard. I’m just out of the frame to the right…mouth agape, probably.

Is it ironic that we scrambled around the house collecting matchbooks to place out of reach, then light a fire in the backyard and hand the boys sticks to torch marshmallows into flaming blobs of sugar? I have to admit, S’Mores are awesome and I don’t eat them enough. I’d like to try enjoying them while NOT pondering the flame-retardant qualities of our lawn chairs and clothing.

Later, The Uncle stands helplessly in the middle of the yard, guarding the hot grill, while the boys zip each other around in the wagon. I think that I should be filming this, but, with my blood pressure rising at their break-neck speed, I just go inside and hope for the best.

D. left a note on our shower idea board.
D. left a note on our shower idea board.

Shower time, and the myth I had perpetuated for months about an alligator living in my bathtub finally dissolves. They discover that it is a blue plastic carnival prize that sits on the ledge. As I set the water to a safe temperature, I explain that the Uncle and I have an ongoing game where we move the alligator around the bathtub for the other to find. The boys use up a lot of water and the alligator makes a fantastic journey.

A family movie, then bedtime. D. requests a pad, a pencil, a flashlight, a book, then, please come take the pad, pencil, flashlight and book. He finally decides to lie down. An exhausted and patient K. is elated. So am I.

Sleepless night in a nutshell: up every two hours to investigate a thud (cause unknown, but no one fell out of bed), and two bouts of unexplained shouting (“Oh,” says my sister the next day, “I forgot to tell you that K. yells in his sleep.” Great. Good to know.) I send the tiny-bladder to the bathroom after the 5:30am investigation, and narrowly escape having him then climb into bed with me and The Husband.

It’s cereal and fruit all-around for breakfast on the sunny porch accompanied by soft classical music (don’t offer SpongeBob and you don’t have to listen to it. I’m learning!) I get the boys dressed while The Uncle showers and then send them all out back to play with the last remaining wiffle ball. I might dawdle a little in the solitude of the bathroom. The Uncle texts: Please hurry.

A whirlwind 23 hours have passed, one hour to go. We didn’t get to do all the fun activities I imagined, but somehow I think that K. & D. will still remember this as an adventure. We have just enough time left to hike the woods at the end of our street before Mommy arrives.

The Husband goes upstairs to retrieve the suitcase that K. neatly packed right after he made the bed, but finds the bag open and clothes strewn all over the guest room. It must have happened about the same time that the D.-sized hand print was left on my office window.

My sister and the boys roll away, and The Husband and I turn to each other and each see the face of a shell-shocked babysitter. How long until cocktail hour?


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