If there’s one lesson I’ve learned while helping Best Fest Buddy Tom with babysitting his three grandchildren, it’s this: Don’t cry over spilt anything. That’s what the dog is for.
A recent Saturday included a dumped bag of nachos. It has also included soiled diapers not properly secured as hazardous material.
Dogs eat anything. Tom’s grandkids are going on two, four and five. Do the math.
To protect the mostly innocent I’ll call the dog Loco, the youngest child KD, the middle one Dizzy and the eldest Jilly.
I found it cute when all three climbed up on the couch to peer out the window to watch their Grandpa repurpose a wire hanger to unlock a door on his daughter’s old SUV to retrieve keys.
Tom, though, wasn’t fond of the constant questioning from the peanut gallery. He needed to concentrate on the directions I provided to guide the hanger onto a door handle to manipulate it open.
Task accomplished, we celebrated our success with a handshake and almost a hug. Tom drove off to pick up some diapers and groceries. He left me to watch the young trio.
Back inside, I immediately noticed smiling Dizzy wandering about in just a shirt. He laughed at my suggestion he find pants, pronto.
This was one of Tom’s practical jokes, right? He’s going to call a cop buddy, and hilarity would ensue. Or was he hoping one of the three would wind up writing a Midwest version of “Angela’s Ashes”?
Nah. Dizzy needed the diaper, I guess. As long as he doesn’t have to go again, I hoped and prayed.
Past that, babysitting started off well enough. I didn’t mind being used as gymnastics equipment, being careful not to let the pantsless one bounce on my knee or sit on my shoulders.
Jilly decided she wanted the book Dizzy held. A battle ensued. I diplomatically suggested Jilly read another book. Hahahah.
As I worked to separate her from her brother I realized the obvious: I probably weigh twice as much as those two and their younger brother combined.
So I became Babysitting Hulk, or maybe The Thing. But friendly. To end the sibling rivalry and the crying, I used my strength to tickle bellies, then picked up Dizzy by his ankles. I dangled him like a bat in a cave, then gently swung him back and forth before plopping him onto the sofa.
He laughed. I scanned the room and located baby KD crawling about on the kitchen floor.
Next Jilly wanted us all walk to the park. It’s raining, I told her. “No it’s not,” she lied with the conviction of a White House staffer.
Soon it was back to me being the human climbing wall. I found this Zen-like, an exercise in meditation, patience and tolerance of pain. Next time wear a cup, I thought.
Jilly decided it was time to play with her bright pink hair clip. It doesn’t take long for her and Dizzy to figure out the fun to be had attaching the clip to my nose or my ears.
I feigned being hurt, because kids love Three Stooges schtick. Actually, they love Peppa Pig, inanely hypnotic YouTube videos and rifling through pictures on anybody’s smartphone.
Jilly already knows how to scroll, swipe and find apps. That scared me enough that I stashed my Android on top of a tall cabinet, next to my wallet and keys.
That’s where I put the hair clip, too, after Jilly found it hysterical to lick the clip before attaching it to me.
I herded KD back from wherever it was he crawled. Dizzy helped. Jilly scurried out the back door. She knows all too well that most people have but two arms to gather errant toddlers.
Despite my pleas, Jilly refused to get back in the house. It was raining on and off.
“No it isn’t,” she said with glee. The other two whined. Loco chimed in from his cage, making horror movie howls, pacing like a wronged prisoner.
Having enough of the cacophony, I told Loco to shut the hell up. Back door open, I took Jilly by the arm and brought her in the house. Why don’t they make child proof handcuffs specifically designed for babysitting? Or have Skinner boxes or beds (Google them).
Seeing I was a bit miffed, Jilly huffed off to a bedroom. Awesome, I thought. She gave herself a timeout.
I heard what I thought was Jilly crying. Knocking on the door, then entering the room I saw she was under the covers. Her sobbing sounded suspect and sprinkled with chuckles.
Ahah! The punishment for faking tears – tickles. Now back to the couch, young lady, where we all can sing the ABC song, Wheels on the Bus, and I can teach you 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.
This worked for a bit. The four of us practically posed for a Hallmark Father’s Day card, all snuggled together and crooning from the couch, Loco joining in.
Then they scrunched me in the bits. Again. And again. They know this hurts. I know they know.
Jilly tipped me off on another occasion when I told her not to step on my lap. “On your cajones,” she replied, matter-of-factly, reminding me of one of the serial killers on Mindhunter.
The other place they liked to step, or sit, was on my shoulders. I created a new exercise with this called the tot crunch.
From a seated position, place one Size 5 diaper-wearing daredevil on your shoulders. Hold him firmly by the ankles. Lean forward as far as you can or until his head brushes the ground. Repeat 12 times.
Tot squats is another option. Load the kid as described above. Stand up. Sit down. Repeat 12 times or until child soils diaper.
Speaking of diapers, an hour of so into my solo babysitting stint I wondered what was taking Tom so long. He did say something about heading to New Orleans.
That led to playing a game of “Where’s Poppa?” Jilly’s version involved her running to the window or door, claiming he was back. When he failed to enter, she proclaimed, “Tricked you.”
That ended after 247 “tricked yous” when Tom finally returned home.
Hooray! I survived. The kids survived. Tom diapered Dizzy. All was right with the world.
Tom changed KD’s diaper, which was fun to watch, as Jilly and I held our noses.
I can’t remember if it happened in this timeline or not, but Dizzy pranked Tom by smelling like he crapped, only having peed his diaper. Once changed, Dizzy promptly crapped in his new diaper.
An artist whose medium is bodily waste, Dizzy needed a new canvas on which to create his next masterpiece. I needed my phone to video Tom revealing this new work, an abstract expressionist classic in shades of brown.
I thought better of making a video to post, though. Tom’s revenge could be recording me walking Loco and picking up after her.
Gagging at the mushy poop. Holding the bag a safe distance from my nose. The dog pulling ahead as we trudge to the garbage can 50 yards away. Me trying to act cool as I say hello to the attractive runner. Now that would get lots of clicks.
Anyway, Tom cooked. His brother Mark stopped over for dinner. We watched MeTV and UPN. The trio’s parents finally arrived home from their jobs after 9 p.m.
Tom and I took the opportunity to head out for a drink. Wearing matching shirts, of course, as we’ve done quite a few times before. Babysitting reminded me that some jokes never get old.
How can you not enjoy people gawking at you, then working up the nerve to ask why the same striped shirt?
Out answers varied:
- We run a babysitting service. (Tom had a big stain on his top as proof. Plus, we smelled like we had been babysitting.)
- We’re twins, still live at home, and our mom still dresses us.
- It was a remarkable coincidence.
- We’re on the same cycle.
- We were hired as strippers by the birthday party upstairs.
- We just finished our shift at a new fast food restaurant.
Along with our prank, we enjoyed the floor show. Bar staff escorted out a stumble down drunk who had knocked over chairs as well as other patrons. That reminded me of babysitting, too.
Flash forward to the following Friday night. Tom winds up babysitting again, and he has to pick up the trio during a storm. He gets wet in the process.
Back at his place, I’m human Velcro once more. Jilly shows me the new fist bump she invented that incorporates a thumbs-up sign I showed her the prior weekend. Her and I and Dizzy feed each other Cheetos. KD offers to share his bottle of milk with me – and jumps up and down holding my arm, laughing, like an evangelist at a revival meeting.
We tease grouchy grandpa Tom, in whispers, as he brings us beverages, multiple times. He’s our topless waiter, having removed his rain-soaked shirt.
Bedtime for Tom meant time for me to go home. The tykes laugh. We exchange goodbyes. I tell them I love them and even their grumpy grandpa Tom, whose belly I suggest might explode upon touching his navel.
Decades from now, when they are my age, these kids might wind up babysitting on weekends themselves. I hope they remember the times we had.