The Baby-Sitter's Promise MAG

January 13, 2012
By Shana Onigman BRONZE, Melrose, Massachusetts
Shana Onigman BRONZE, Melrose, Massachusetts
2 articles 0 photos 0 comments

I had only babysat for my half-brother, Scott, once or twice, even though he was three months old. I had spent a lot of time around him though, and I knew how to change him, feed him, burp him, etc., so my dad was pretty secure in letting me watch him for two hours while he went to the airport before my stepmother, Alissa, came home. I was pretty secure about it too. Scott was an unusually happy baby; he would smile at anything and he rarely cried. He had just had a hernia operation a week and a half ago, but that didn't bother me. Babies were resilient, as the doctor said, and they bounce back right away.

"You know where the emergency phone numbers are," he said, "and he shouldn't have to eat until 6:30 p.m., but Alissa will be home by then, and –”

"Dad, you're treating me like a new baby-sitter," I interrupted rather disgustedly. "I've babysat for him before. I know what to do."

Or so it appeared for the first 15 minutes we were home. Scott smiled and cooed at me like his usual self - until, of course, with the perfect timing that all babies have - Dad's cab to take him to the airport pulled up. Then, Scott decided to scream.

"Is he okay?" Dad called from the other room, as he tried to get his things ready.

"I don't know," I shouted uneasily over the baby's wailing screams. "Does he need to be changed, or to eat?" It was probably the latter, I thought. Scott was a big baby, in fact, he was off the chart in weight for his age. He was always eating, and I feared he was doomed to become a football player.

Dad stopped on his way out the door. "I just changed him, and he shouldn't have to eat yet, unless he's planning on gaining another 10 pounds in the next week." Dad smiled, secretly proud of the monstrous size of his son. "Try to get him to go to sleep. I'm leaving."

Scott screamed all the louder, his mouth wide open, the shrillest noise he could muster filling the room. I sang to him, tried to burp him, and even reduced myself to making faces at him, but he couldn't see me since his eyes were squeezed shut in his now-mottled, red face. My eardrums were taking a severe beating.

I tried to change him, too, but his volume somehow increased. I worrisomely wondered if the neighbors could hear, and if any of them had called the police to report an infanticide yet. Begging him to be quiet, I plugged his mouth with a pacifier. He screamed more.

Apparently, I did not have the patience of the average mother, who could put up with this sort of madness for days on end. I was beginning to sympathize with those parents who send their children to boarding school. After half an hour of his non-stop crying at full blast, I found that crying, like yawning and hiccups, is contagious, and soon tears of frustration and exasperation were running down my face. His crying wouldn't have bothered me so much if he had been the type of baby to cry a lot, but he wasn't, he always smiled. From the grating shrieks, it sounded like he was in pain, but I had no idea how he could be. I wondered how teenage mothers dealt with their babies, and with a sudden shock I realized that he could have been my baby. We both continued crying, he for whatever was wrong with him, I for those in worse situations than myself and for the sad and painful demise of my eardrums. Scott's screams showed no sign of letting up and I decided that he had to be hungry or at least thirsty. Prayerfully, I tried to give him some water. After a few futile minutes of this, he finally let out a belch so loud that it probably would have impressed a five-hundred-pound truck driver. I held my breath: Was he going to be quiet? No, wishful thinking. The screams resumed, and I tried singing to him through my own tears. No, he would have none of that either. Finally, I just hugged him and begged him to shut up, and mercifully he did, after totally ruining any nerves I may have had left and my irrational desire to have children when I grew up.

I gently lay him down in his crib, mentally daring him to open even one eye. Thankfully he didn't, and I leaned over the edge of his crib.

"Scottie," I whispered to the sleeping baby, so angelic now that he was unconscious, "I promise I will take care of you until I go to college, but I will never, ever have children of my own. You can quote me on that."

Scott opened his eyes. I cringed, expecting him to start bawling again. Instead, he gave me a toothless grin, closed his eyes, and went back to sleep.

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