Four Gentlemen of the Suburbs

July 15, 2011
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All babysitters are hired companions. No, really. Little kids, for some absurd reason, idolize teenagers. Therefore, their parents hire one to hang out with them. As a cover they leave fore awhile to make it seem there was a legitimate reason for paying us. In reality, teenagers aren’t allowed any sense of authority. Adults don’t even trust us to go to the bathroom without a pass. Why should they put the lives of their children in our hands?

I realize if this were 1550 or something I would already have kids of my own; but they would be swept away by some wet nurse or governess. The young mother didn’t have to change a single diaper.

I wish I had a wet nurse on speed dial. She would know what to do with this partially removed diaper. I’m just staring at it as if it might, at any moment, grow legs. Knowing the number of bugs this kid consumes, it just might.

“Othello!” That’s what you get when both your parents are Shakespearean scholars.

The fifth grader in question saunters into the room. His dark blonde hair is pointing out at all angles and dirt is smudged across his cheeks.

“What?” He looks at me as if I’m ruining his life.

“Hand me that diaper, would you?” I nod towards the Pamper’s bag because my hands are full.

“What’s in it for me?” He leans against the doorframe and smirks.

“Uh,” my mind races, “a thanks?”

Othello regards me for a second, “No.” He turns and walks out.

“Othello Clark! Get back here this instant!” My command fall on deaf ears. I sigh and try to reach an arm towards the plastic bag without dropping Lear onto the changing table. The baby squeals as his arm bumps up against the wooden bars. I mutter a choice word and reach further. A finger brushes followed by a palm. My arm feels like it’s going to drop off.

The bag spills, spewing diapers everywhere. I stoop down to retrieve one and slide it onto Lear. “Good,” I smile at him. My happiness is short-lived when....PLOP! My hand dips into something unsavory. Lear giggles. This time, a string of choice words exit my mouth.

“Amanda!” Hamlet calls from the kitchen.

“What?” I’m searching the room for a wet wipe. It’s like they all started up a game of hide and seek in the last thirty seconds.

“C’mere.”

“Just a second!” I risk a glance down at my hand and gag. I need a sink. Where’s the nearest sink? I’m just about to leave when I realize I can’t leave Lear to fend for himself on the changing table. Too many things are working against him. Such as Othello and gravity.

Careful not to smear anything on the baby, I pick him up and carry him into the kitchen. Dear little Hamlet looks up from his coloring book and his mouth drops open. “Is that....poo on your hands?”

“I’d appreciate it if you were more supportive.” I put a now crying Lear into his baby pin. Next, I walk towards the sink keeping my arm as far from me as possible.

“Oh my God,” Othello walks into the room and instantly collapses in laughter. I ignore him and flip on the faucet. There isn’t enough soap in the world to wash away this nastiness.

“I’m hungry,” Hamlet comments.

“Me too.” As a pre-teen, Othello is morally obligated to eat every twenty minutes.

“In a minute.” I wonder if Mrs. Clark has a secret Germ-X stash anywhere.

“Are you going to cook it with that hand?” Othello looks horrified.

“Yeah, I left my replacement at home.” I glance up at the clock. Tybalt should be making his appearance from soccer practice any time now.

After examining the contents of the fridge (mostly bribery foods), I select a box of Kraft Mac & Cheese.

“Hey, Amanda?”

“Hamlet, don’t stand on the chair.”

“Can you put soda into our mac and cheese?”

“You mean you want me to substitute the milk for soda?”

“I guess,” he shrugs.

“No.”

“Awww, Amanda.”

He’s lucky I don’t add cyanide to the mix. I don’t have time to tell him this because the front door bursts open. I have to stop Tybalt from tracking the mud from his cleats into the house. How Mrs. Clark keeps her carpets clean, I’ll never know.

“Hey, Ty,” I say boredly.

“Where’s the food?” That’s seventh grade love for you.

“I missed you, too.”

He just grunts and runs up the stairs. Ty is stuck in one of those comical middle school relationships. He believes that even talking to me counts as cheating. Of course, he believes that green and red match as well.

By the time Ty descends the stairs again a bowl of cheesy goodness is decorating the table. Othello has already attacked the food and Hamlet is hot on his heels. Wanting to be a gracious hired friend, I wait until they’ve gorged themselves. My spoon scrapes the bottom of the bowl. I made a double batch!

Now I know why Mr. and Mrs. Clark are so skinny.

After the unplanned eating competition at the table, the hellions burst into the living room. They crowd in front of the television screen arguing over which channel to watch.

“ESPN!”

“Disney!”

“Nickelodeon!”

“Lifetime!” The boys look at me like I’m crazy then go back to fighting. Lear begins crying and I go in search of his bottle. Of course it’s packed behind gallons of Gatorade.

By the time I get back, the living room is uncharacteristically quiet. All three boys’ eyes are glued to the screen. I pray to God that they aren’t watching Girls Gone Wild or something. “Mommy! look what Amanda let us watch!”

I release a breath of relief when I see it’s just football. I sink into a white leather chair and relish in the quiet. My ears are actually ringing from how quiet it is. It’s a wonderful feeling.

Ty is the first to break the tranquility. His phone rings some cuss word-laden rap song and he steps out. It’s kind of pointless because I can still hear everything he’s saying. Everyone can.

“Hey, Tiffani.” After hearing her name the two boys press their ears to the wall. They giggle like school girls and bat their eyelashes mockingly. I just roll my eyes and make sure Lear doesn’t puke on me.

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The good thing about football games are the fact that they last for ages. Getting the boys hooked on something non-destructive creates less work for me. I believe I’m entitled a little bit of narcissism every now and then. “Alright, everyone,” I stand up and press the TV’s power button, “bedtime!” I always believe that saying ‘bedtime’ with the right amount of enthusiasm will change their views on it. I’m stupid.

“Five more minutes?” Othello pleads.

“No.” It’s always good to be firm when training wild animals.

“But-”

“No ‘buts’. Pajamas.”

“But isn’t that where butts go?”

Ignoring his crude joke, I herd them up the stairs. “Teeth need to be brushed.”

Hamlet watches me place Lear into his crib. “Why doesn’t Lear need to brush his teeth?”

“Because he doesn’t have any.”

“If I don’t have any teeth will I have to brush?”

“Keep blowing it off and that’s exactly what you’ll get.”

I lay everyone’s pajamas out on their beds just to speed up the process then go corral them out of the bathroom. Othello has flung toothpaste into Hamlet’s face and Hamlet retaliated by dipping his attacker’s toothbrush in the toilet.

I’m so glad I’m an only child.

Finally, they’re all in bed. As I flip off the light in Othello’s room, I hear Hamlet call, “Amanda, will you tell me a story?” Hamlet’s idea of a story is adding ‘and then everyone died’ at the end of every sentence. I oblige him.

The downstairs at night is a creepy place. Across the room, the microwave clock glows angrily at me and I swear I hear the door open. To keep my mind from wandering, I pick up one of Hamlet’s books. It gets put down when I realize I’m reading Mr. Zucky Buys a Puppy.

What am I supposed to do? Twiddle my thumbs? I stumble over to the television where I blindly pick out a DVD. Anything....except Care Bears. What are three school-aged boys doing with Care Bears? You know what? I don’t wanna know.

Too lazy to switch the movies, I press play. The overly happy face of Mr. Cherrywood, the orphanage owner, greets me. I wonder how he can do it. Four is enough. At one low point, I catch myself wishing for friends like the Care Bears.

By the time the Clarks walk through the door, I’ve moved on to the special features. They look at me like I’m insane. After a night with their children I probably am. I don’t care, though, as long as I get my money.

“We’ll call and schedule next week,” Mrs. Clark tells me.

Heck no.

“Sounds great,” I shoot them a charming smile and pull the door closed behind me.





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