My Mother’s Day Post (Part I)
They asked me to babysit for their five boys while both parents were out of town for several days.
I was more than willing. I like boys. I like babysitting. And a few days off from my regular job sounded like a little adventure.
In case you don’t have a brood of boys of your own and have never babysat for one, I’ll summarize the experience for you:
For three days, everything was a competition.
Everything. Was. A. Competition.
It could be a game, it could be setting the table, it could be brushing teeth, but it was competition. That means there were cheers from a winner and tears from a loser.
More often than not, that also meant at least one angry boy stomping off in the middle of the competition saying, “You’re cheating! I don’t want to play with you anymore.” That was from the one destined, in just a few short minutes, to be pronounced the loser.
And more often than not, that would be followed by another pious-looking boy saying, “That’s fine. I don’t want to play with a cry baby like you anymore either.” That was from the one destined, in just a few short minutes, to be the self-pronounced the winner.
Meanwhile, the youngest of the pack would be busy destroying the game pieces, unsetting the table, or eating the toothpaste. He was about three—old enough to know better, but as the baby of the family, he bounced back and forth between baby and big boy at his convenience.
That’s pretty much how the three days unfolded.
We played games. We read stories. We made meals. And I got to show off my mad mothering skills including the timely use of phrases like, “life isn’t fair” and “You need to do what I asked you to do first, then we’ll see.”
And I got to referee a lot. End a lot of competitions. Take a lot of losses for the team. Dry a lot of tears. Whew! They say girls are dramatic.
The only time I really remember having to exercise a serious dose of discipline was when I asked the three-year-old to come to me to go down for his nap. Instead, he ran.
I lunged for him, but he was a bit quicker than I thought. I had been losing a lot of competitions in the last few days to avoid tears and outbursts, but I knew just enough about parenting to know that I could not be the loser of this one.
Unfortunately, he knew the house and the hiding places far better than I. We were in the basement before I caught up with him and when I picked him up, he was screaming and crying as if I was cruelly ripping him limb from limb.
I don’t remember exactly what I did, but I’m sure the most serious part was my tone of voice. I do remember thinking that he was probably going to hate me and turn the rest of the babysitting experience into a miserable one.
Instead, I remember checking on him in his bedroom a little later, and seeing him curled up on his bed fast asleep. He woke up from his nap one of the sweetest, cutest, most obedient boys ever. Who knew?
So now having told you about the boys, I’ll tell you about the real challenge I faced.
I don’t remember the names of either one for sure, but for some reason, “Blackie” is coming to mind, so we’ll go with that. We’ll call the other one Whitey, just for balance.
Blackie and Whitey were indoor cats. I found that out when we opened the front door for some reason and Blackie darted out the front door.
That started a mad scramble, a flurry of fear, and a chorus of yelling from all five boys. They were sure that Blackie was going to run into the woods and get eaten by lions, tigers, and bears.
I was less convinced of that that, but I was severely outnumbered, so we all went outside to find that Blackie had taken refuge under the porch. It was one of those long porches—almost the full length of the house—and Blackie’s outline could be made out between the lattice that extended from the ground to the porch floor.
“We have to get her!” the boys were exclaiming. “If she gets out and gets in the woods, my mom will be very mad at us!”
That’s it. They played the “M” card. A babysitter’s worst nightmare…Mom will be MAD!
We all coaxed and called, but it was a cat for Pete’s sake. Cats run their own schedules.
“I think she’s just going to stay under there.” I offered. “She’ll be fine for a while.”
“No!” They all agreed on something for once. “She’s going to run into the woods and get eaten!”
So I gave in.
“Who wants to climb under there and get her?” I asked, surveying the few feet that offered just enough space under the beams for someone to slide on their belly and get the dumb cat.
“We can’t go under there.” They chorus. “We aren’t allowed.” “There might be snakes.”
Why am I not liking this??? I mean, why have five boys if you’re not going to send one of them under the porch to grab the cat?
“Someone needs to get her.” They looked at me—all five of them with imploring eyes about to fill with tears. The fate of Blackie was weighing heavily on my shoulders. And I surely didn’t want Mom to be MAD.
So…I took a deep breath and I crawled gingerly under the stairs, calling gently to Blackie so I wouldn’t startle her.
She waited until just as I was about to reach her, and then…predictably, she jumped back. She still wasn’t far away—close enough to entice me just a little bit further.
Light was coming through the lattice, but not really enough to enable me to navigate the space cleanly. I slid through slime and spider webs. I slid through mud and moss. And every time I got close enough to grab Blackie, she would spring further away, luring me slowly the entire length of the porch.
I hoped that at least there, I would be able to act fast enough to corner her against the lattice, but no such luck. Blackie was through the lattice, across the lawn, and into the woods in one horrible instant— leaving me with nothing to do but slowly inch may way back through the mud, moss, slime, and spider webs and admit my defeat to five broken-hearted boys.
I will continue soon. And it is a Mother’s Day post. I promise.