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Playing Mommy

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As I held the heavy 15 month old on my hip, certain my arm was going to break, I chased down seven year old Shmuli, attempting to corner him before he tried to climb the blinds again. “Shmuli! Open your mouth! I have to take Ari to daycare very soon!” The bus would be here at any second, the medicine-containing, strawberry applesauce was dripping off the spoon, and I still had three more days to go. My eyes struggled to stay open. I had only slept a few hours the night before due to Rochelleah’s impending 9 th grade History Regent. Sighing, I shifted the baby in my arms as the doorbell rang. “Sorry.” Shmuli whispered. I sighed, frustrated and ready to snap. I thought overnight babysitting would be easy, but things don’t often seem difficult until you have to do them yourself.


My neighbor had gone to Las Vegas for five days, and she had chosen me- a seventeen year old girl!- to watch her three children. At first, when she asked me to babysit, I was super excited. The whole idea seemed thrilling to me. I would stay in her house and play Mommy. How hard could it be? I knew a lot of single mothers, and I thought that I could pull it off just as effortlessly as they did. Besides, this babysitting job would give me practice in case I ever was a single mother. I thought it would be so easy. Boy, was I wrong!


I opened the door. My little brother stood there to let me know my mom was outside. My mother’s car had become my taxi so I wouldn’t have to cart the baby to daycare through ice and snow. I set the young toddler on the table and pulled on his coat, but I couldn’t leave because Shmuli’s bus hadn’t arrived. With my fourteen year old brother watching the baby, I finally shoved the medicated applesauce into Shmuli’s mouth.


Just then, fourteen year old Rochelleah emerged from hibernation. She looked at the clock and told me that the bus probably wasn’t coming- it was already an hour after pickup time. I wanted to grow hysterical, but as the oldest person in the house, I had no choice but to remain calm. Inside of me, I screamed. I could not keep Shmuli home today. I had college work to do on the computer, and I couldn’t deal with his antics for an entire day. Frantically, I ran to the phone and punched in the number of the bus. There was no answer. I called Shmuli’s friend’s mother to see if the bus was still coming. There was no answer.


“Rochelleah! Where is Shmuli’s school?” I asked desperately.


“Um, it’s somewhere...” The teenager stuttered. “It’s down by the fire station, not this fire station, but the other fire station, the nice fire station.”


Those were some very unclear instructions, but I didn’t have time to grill her further. She headed for the shower and I called my mother, who was waiting patiently in the car outside. “Mom? Can you take Shmuli to school today?”


Already worn out at only 9 AM, I snuggled the baby, Ari, in a blanket and dressed Shmuli in his coat. I tossed him his red Ninja Turtles book bag. Thinking I was all set, I shepherded the two kids out the door. Only after I buckled the baby into the car seat did I realize I’d forgotten his bag inside. I rushed to get it, but the door refused to unlock, and Rochelleah was still in the shower. Once I hopped back in the car and made sure Shmuli was buckled, we raced down the street. My little brother made it to school 45 minutes late and I had no idea what time Shmuli’s school started. We stopped at the bodega for a container of La Yogurt for Ari, the peach flavor, then zipped on our way.


It was then my mother’s phone decided to fake sick and wouldn’t give us directions to Haftr, Shmuli’s school. “It’s by a fire station?” My mother asked, wondering how she was supposed to find this place with only that vague clue. Yet, my mother, a true superhero, found the nice fire station and the towering, brick, elementary school beside it. I stayed in the car with Ari while my mother rushed Shmuli across the street and tried to find the right entrance to the high-security school.


When she finally returned, we had to drive to another store because I’d forgotten to buy a half gallon of milk at the bodega. That morning, I’d opened the last carton of Tuscan to find the entire contents were dangerously spoiled. Poor Ari had been drinking orange juice all morning without a fuss, but his clothes and blanket screamed to be scrubbed.


At last, I rang the doorbell of the small daycare. Stripping the baby of his soiled, once blue blanket, I gave him to the daycare provider, waved goodbye, and staggered down the broken stairs, childless. Although my arms were empty, they still felt tired and strained. I climbed into the waiting Honda and closed my eyes. “I’m so tired!” I gasped.


“Well...” my mother replied with her usual answer. I knew what she meant. Well, what did I expect? Honestly, I had expected things to go very smoothly. I thought it would be easy to care for three kids. Babysitting had always been fun for me, but I had never done it overnight before. Now I know it isn’t easy to care for children. I shouldn’t have assumed that overnight babysitting would be a simple thing. The neighbor children taught me a lesson: It’s easy to think that jobs other people do are easy until you have to do them yourself. Now I know that “Playing Mommy” isn’t a game, and I cannot assume that something is easy until I first do it myself.

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