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Confessions of a Babysitter MAG
I honestly consider myself to be a very sympathetic human being. When my friends, Kyle and Brittany, were having couples issues, I was the first one they texted for advice. I also scored very high on the personal empathy section of my advanced placement psychology course. But an enduring and honest faith in myself was shaken recently, the eighth of November, when I realized: I am incapable of relating to babies.
November 8. 6:01 p.m. “Oh, they should all behave really well for you; Ohh, you will have no trouble, Ohhh, make sure Nate doesn't eat the Christmas ornaments.” S, here I go; five plus hours with two hyperactive boys, ages seven, three, and the baby.
The seven and three-year-old are so much fun. Their names are Ryan and Nate and they tumble around their small, bomb-proof house, stuffing oranges down their throats (and wads of cookie dough from the refrigerator when I'm not looking) and laughing hysterically at nothing in particular. I love their joy. But, like the inevitable threat of homework always getting in the way, every few minutes I drag my gaze to the wide-eyed baby staring at me from its bouncy seat. That happy place inside me twists, yet I grimace and coo shrilly. The dad is a cop and there's no telling he didn't set up cameras to catch my displays of ignorance.
During the evening, Ryan, Nate and I build a fort out of pillows, tickle each other to death, tear off our socks and throw them around the basement, play baseball on the Nintendo Wii while that damn baby just sits in that stupid bouncy seat and stares at us the entire time.
“Baaaaby sidder, cuddle wif meeee!” Nate exclaims, patting a blanket around my legs with soft, chubby hands.
The baby stares at us.
“Hey, look at my Pokemon collection!” Ryan demands proudly as he spreads out a thick stack of trading cards. These kids are brilliant! But that baby still stares, and I am waiting, just waiting, for the moment when it starts to make those horrible squawks native to little people. Any moment, it might require food or diaper changing or some other form of attention. I also know it will start wailing without inhibition because that's how babies are. What will I do if we're in the middle of building our fort or playing tag and the atomic bomb hits? I am not ready for this.
It is now 9:22 p.m., almost time for the boys to go to bed. This is when I know the rumpus will begin. While I try to stuff Nate into too-small pajamas, Ryan sneaks to the fridge and stuffs more cookie dough down his throat, chortling with glee. I deposit Nate into a crib he is more than capable of climbing out of and send Ryan into the bathroom to brush his teeth.
The baby needs changing; I even know it from my semi-developed maternal instincts. I've put it off already for ten minutes. Finally, I spread him out on the ottoman and get it done, breathing through my nose as Nate runs around in circles screaming “No bed! No bed!” and Ryan bangs around in the bathroom, obviously not brushing his sugar-glazed mouth.
I thought changing the diaper would make this baby happy. I mean it should, even though he almost rolled off the ottoman within the fifteen-minute process that felt like an hour. But now he is no longer content to sit in the bouncy seat (and he isn't hungry, either, even though I heated his bottle exactly 13 seconds as I was told), I prop the little chunk on my hip while attempting to read a bedtime story to two nocturnal hooligans.
Ryan finally settles on his I Spy book, and we all gather on the couch. Ryan finds hidden objects in the jumbled scenes faster than I can think. I want to marvel at his brilliance, but there is a writhing creature on my lap that won't be consoled. I finally give up and send the boys to bed.
“I want to show you the rest of my Pokemons,” Ryan takes my hand.
My heart skips. “Next time we will, I promise.” I want to cry.
The squirming and squealing continues and I reluctantly close Ryan's bedroom door and make my way to the couch.
It is just the two of us now.
I know he knows I am an imposter. There is insincerity rolling off of me like smoke. Cameras. I remember the cameras.
“Okay, it's just you and me now, pal. So, please.”
Its eyes roll in the back of its head. The volume increases.
I try grabbing its hands and helping it walk around the room. The legs collapse beneath the little creature, as it makes no attempt to stand, only increasing my frustration.
Cameras. Remember the cameras.
I put it in the bouncy seat again on the kitchen table and heat the stupid bottle exactly 13 seconds, just as I was told.
It refuses to open its mouth, causing milk to dribble down its double chin.
This is when I grab my cell phone, the only lifeline connecting me to human beings. I text my mom: “This damn baby won't stop fussing, no matter what I do!!! Helllp meeee :(” She has got to have answers. She's gone through this scene, after all.
My life is like a horror film – a blur of microwaved milk and Christmas tree lights and baby tears, all spread out before me, a silent scream.
A few minutes later, I get a text from Mom: “I'm sorry he is being fussy, I hope you are okay!”
I am not okay! I smell like butt wipes and milk and it's so hot here!
Another text: “I hope they get home soon. I know you have a psychology test tomorrow. Do you want me to call them for you?”
Damn, I forgot about that test. Nooo, don't call them!
I am in the middle of responding (I think I forgot how to spell) and I absentmindedly hand the baby its bottle.
Wait a second. It's in his mouth. He actually put it in his mouth! He sucks for a few minutes and stares at me.
The door opens. His parents are home. After a grand old evening out with cop buddies and their wives, these parents are all smiles and laughter. The baby just stares at me and sucks his bottle.
“Look at him staring at you, just like you're his angel,” the dad says.
“Yeah,” I return, sweetly, and stare right back into that baby's eyes, one last time.
He knows. I know. And it will be our secret because he cannot talk.
So naturally, I totally failed my psychology test.