Thursday, January 28, 2010

Babysitter of the New Year

I consider myself a pretty decent uncle. Really. I am overly fond of my sister's kid, I take him for drives and lunch and scare him with masks and buy him things and let him feed my fish and change the lad's diapers and take him when my sister is at work and no one else can watch him.

But I'm not a great babysitter.This week, I had the child all night, and he awakened me by climbing out of his crib, taking off his soiled diaper, and bringing it into my room. "Poopy," is a word he says quite a bit nowadays (though not nearly as often as "Turtles" or "No"), whether he's done it or not.

The kid really enjoys watching--more than anything else--Fox's ICE AGE, but has the attention span of a child thrice his age, and never makes it beyond the fifteen minute mark. Sometimes he'll get bored a few minutes in and just ask you to start the movie over again.

Look, I'm not good with kids--which may prompt you to ask who I am good with--but I do enjoy taking care of my nephew. He's at that age, though, where he runs around like crazy, getting into everything, and absolutely will not obey any command, suggestion, or warning. An extension of this is that the child must not be left alone unless he's sleeping (or for the aforementioned first bit of ICE AGE), and I learned this the hard way.

I've got a fishtank that he's been fascinated with since he was a fetus, and one of our rituals together is The Feeding Of The Fish. Now that he's old enough to destroy things, I had pushed the stool away from the fishtank and put it in the other room.

I went downstairs or to the toilet (or more likely, in here to do something on the damn computer), and when I checked on him, I found that the child had gone to the stool and pushed it back into the room and up to the fishtank. He had climbed up it and gotten the fish food, opened the lid, and dumped it out (in his defense, some of the food DID go into the aquarium, in addition to the floor). The mess was considerable.

Well, I grabbed him and put him on the table, figuring that would keep him off the floor while I swept up all the fish food. I got the broom out and went to work cleaning it up. I was down on all fours, brushing it into the dustbin, when I thought to check on the boy.

He was still on the table, and somehow he had pried the lid off the Elmer's Glue . . . and poured it out all over himself.

The whole bottle. All over his face, hands, feet, pants, shirt, and tablecloth.

Well, I grabbed him, lifted him to the sky (getting glue onto my hands in the process) and shouted, "Goblin King, Goblin King, wherever you may be; Take this child of mine far away from me!"

Didn't work.

I carried the lad to the bathtub and put him in it. I stripped off his clothes, cursing under my breath, and started the water again.Oh no, digression time. Once, about a dozen years ago, I was riding a bike in the city, when the back of my pants somehow caught on the bicycle seat. I stood up on the pedals, and the entire ass of my pants tore right up, from pocket to crotch.

Well, my friend/acquaintance/com--the dude I was with thought that was the funniest thing ever, despite the fact that not only were my pants ruined, but I was going to have to ride all the way back home to change with my bum hanging out. I felt the rage (that warm righteous kind) rising in me, and then I had this crazy thought: "If I also laugh about this, I'm gonna seem more cool, and less of a sore loser, than if I get mad like I want to." So, I stapled on an insincere smile and muttered, "I guess it IS sort of funny." We rode back and I got new pants on. And in the telling of the tale, even if he wants to paint me as a pathetic mongoloid, I can be proud I took the high road.

Which brings me back to the matter at hand. It was a similar experience, with stress, hurt, and anger at the time, but something I knew I would want to write about later. The child didn't seem to care that I was mad, and was happy to have another bath that morning. While he splashed around, I calmed myself and thought about it. I realized that, once the adrenaline wore off and the glue was all cleaned up, I'd probably find it funny. I regretted not taking a photo of him covered with glue, and considered grabbing my camera right there for a picture of him now. But I have a phobia (perhaps not an irrational fear) of taking pictures of children in bathtubs, so I decided to just take a photo of the clothes.

I let the boy bathe for a bit, then got him dressed (in different clothes) and he said he was hungry. I asked him if he wanted yogurt or eggs, and he chose eggs. I put him in his high chair and warmed up the eggs for him to consume.

I filled up the sink to soak the glue-covered clothes and tablecloth, and when I came back into the kitchen, the boy had thrown all the eggs all over the floor.

I guess it was because I was frustrated and tired (I have a thing about getting up before . . . any hour, really), but in that moment, I understood why mothers suddenly abandon their children and just drive away, or why fathers get off work and spend four hours at the local bar before coming home.

I screamed at the child, asking him why he would do this, why he would ask for eggs then make such a huge mess of them, ending my profanity-laded yelling with a demand that he clean it up. I stomped out of the room and scrubbed the clothes for a minute (which isn't a euphemism, despite how much it sounds like one).

Finally, I returned to the kitchen. To my surprise, the boy gathered all of the fallen eggs (or at least all that a two year old can be expected to find) onto the bowl without a word.So, I guess it ended on a positive note. And in typing it up here, it really doesn't sound so bad. In fact, in looking on my camera, there is indeed a photo I took of him with the glue on him, and it doesn't look like a whole bottle to me (most of it must have stayed on the tablecloth). I'm not sure if it's a funny story, in retrospect, but it surely wasn't the epic tragedy it felt like at the time.

So I'm glad David Bowie didn't show up to snatch the baby away.

Unca Rish Outfield

*My mother claims that this is totally natural for a two year old. She also makes matters slightly less good by telling me how bad I was at his age. "Oh, let's see, you killed the family goldfish, you got Mrs. Baylock's dogs to attack Dad, you knocked me off the staircase with your tricycle, and you inspired Holly Palance to hang herself."

1 comment:

Abigail Hilton said...

That was hilarious! Thanks for the giggles. :D