Life’s Not Fair (Part II)

(If you missed the first part of this story, you’ll want to go back and read Part I)

Much to my disgust, the boys were completely over their concern for Blackie by the time I crawled out.

“That’s okay.” They said. “She’ll come back. She always does.”

Always does?

Why was this information not shared with me before I slid through slime?

But, as my mother taught me, Life is not fair.

That was the first cat incident.

The second cat incident happened the last day.

I was exhausted. I’m not gonna lie.

Nevertheless, I got up while the house was still quiet. I was determined that I was going to get showered, dressed, and have my devotions before anything else broke loose. That’s what real moms do, right?

I didn’t have my contacts in (a phrase which herein means, I was blind). This fact does great things for my ability to ignore the world. It is much easier to avoid distractions when you have only the faintest sense of sight.

And I wasn’t going to let anything distract me.

Nothing.

Not even that strange smell wafting into my bedroom.

Not even the fact that the strange smell was the dirty diaper kind of odor.

Not even the fact that the smell seemed to intensify as I headed toward the bathroom.

Whatever it was, I could deal with it after I was clean, my hair was dry, and I had read my Bible.

I brushed back the shower curtain and there, right there, on the white shower floor, was a large, brown pile.

Whitey. Apparently.

It took me a while (in my blind state and in unfamiliar territory) to rummage up proper cleaning materials. I was on my hands and needs scrubbing the tub when I heard a voice behind me.

“What are you doing?” Reformed 3-year old asked. He really was cute.

“Cleaning the tub.”

“Why?”

“Because your cat used it as a potty.”

“Why?”

“That is a very good question.”

“I’m hungry.”

“I understand. Give me a couple of minutes and then…”

“I’m dirty.”

That was the start of another day.

And the end of my plans.

It was that afternoon that the boys’ dad arrived back from his business trip. It had been three days full of competitions and heart breaks, but we had a lot of good times too. I had prepared food, done laundry, cleaned the kitchen, played games, chased a cat, slithered through slime, and now…scrubbed the tub. Needless to say, I had worked very hard not only to keep them changed and fed but also to let them have some fun.

But as their dad unloaded from his car, the five boys went running outside like so many starving sailors who had just spent decades marooned on a dessert island eating roots, slugs, and tree bark.

I was glad they were happy to see their dad, but I felt a bit betrayed as they inundated him with every detail of the days gone wrong and all the reasons why mom should be MAD!

I don’t think they mentioned one good thing from the three days.  Not one.

Tell Miss Danielle, “thank you.”  The dad ordered as I gathered my things.

The boys tilted their heads in my direction.  “Thank you,” they mumbled.

Then I drove off into the sunset.

Mom was right, life isn’t fair.

It was a few days later that the phone call came that put the icing on the cake.

It was the boys’ mom. The summary of what she had to say was this, “For some odd reason, my husband thinks it would be appropriate to pay you A LOT of money. I don’t think that’s necessary, do you?”

I didn’t really know what to say. I didn’t need A LOT of money, but I also didn’t know what A LOT of money was.  I think I said something like, “whatever you think, I was happy to do it.”

They did write me a check, I was well paid, and I was grateful to get it.  I didn’t remember thinking it was A LOT of money…And I was a broke law student making $7.25/hr. Anything should have seemed like A LOT of money.

But it hindsight, it was a good thing. It helped me get a better glimpse both of that mother and of life as a mother in general.

She didn’t think much of what I had done, but then, why should she? This was her life. She did it every day without a check. Probably without much thanks at all. And, had she just been through what I had been through, the last three days wouldn’t have stood out to her in the least. It was just life.

And it sometimes it isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that some of the toughest jobs earn the smallest paychecks. And that kids who should drop to their knees in eternal gratitude will instead blow off someone’s hard work.  It isn’t fair that cats will use the bathtub when they have a perfectly good litter box just inches away.

But life isn’t fair.

Thanks, Mom, for teaching me that.  Bet you thought it would never sink in.

And thanks, moms, for working a job that stinks sometime. And is never quite fair.

EPILOGUE

Blackie did come back (that same day, in fact!) no worse for wear.  The family are still friends although I should probably be wondering why I was never asked to babysit again.  All the boys grew up to be responsible members of society to my knowledge.  And no, this episode is not the reason that I am still single and childless…although it just might have something to do with the fact that I do not have a cat.

Life is not Fair

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.

The cats.

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.

Major fail.

I will continue soon.  And it is a Mother’s Day post.  I promise.