The Light Touch / Honey, I sedated the kids
Don't get me wrong, I love kids. So much so that I told my neighbor, Sue, if she ever got stuck she could always call on me, never expecting that day to actually come. But it did. Sue phoned me early Monday morning explaining that her babysitter had the flu, and could I watch Archie and Veronica (named after the comic book icons) until mid-afternoon.
Monday mornings are not the ideal time to entertain kids, who have just come off a sugar-high weekend having consumed, so I learned, two bags of Oreos, a jar of peanut butter, three quarts of Kool-aid, chocolate chip pancakes, French fries and Blizzards from Dairy Queen. These little tykes gave new meaning to the word: hyperkinetic.
When Sue opened the door, four-and-a-half -year-old Veronica stood there clutching what appeared to be the frayed end of a nondescript animal's tail.
"It's her blankie," Sue said, "a piece from my old beaver coat. It makes Veronica feel secure. She takes it everywhere."
Three-year-old Archie, sucking on his middle finger, gave me a look that implied: "look lady, you mess with me, and I'll ruin your life in two-minutes flat."
Then there was their pooch, Dave, an old mutt, who smelled like wet feet, and their 16-year old cat, Murray. "I'll be back by three," Sue said. "I'm sure you won't have any problems."
She handed me a list of names and numbers including her husband's office, the pediatrician, veterinarian and Sue's mother in California.
"Why your mother?" I dared ask. "If you needed her, by the time she arrived, the crisis would be averted."
"My mother is an authority on child-rearing," Sue explained. "I once had trouble breast feeding Archie, and mom came to the rescue."
I imagined Sue's mother's breasts being FedXed to Connecticut just in time for dinner.
"I'll be fine," I assured Sue, smiling nervously as Dave the dog looked like he was ready to take a chunk out of my ankle. I wanted to pick up Archie, who was beginning to cry, but feared he might give me a karate chop if I got near him. As soon as Sue drove off, the kids had simultaneous temper tantrums. It was only 9 a.m.
Fortunately, the house was well-organized. At my disposal: a potty chair, nap mat, two tricycles, action figures, games, juice boxes and baggies filled with Cheerios. Archie removed his soggy finger from his mouth long enough to poke Murray in the eye. The kids wanted nothing to do with toys. All they cared about was pinning-the-tail on Dave.
It's a scientific fact that for every hour you spend with children under five, your eyes begin to glaze over, and you start to resemble Vanna White. By 10 a.m. I was starting to lose to my edge. Archie and Veronica, realizing my mental state, took advantage of the situation by singing the Barney song eight consecutive times.
By 11 a.m., I had established an intimate relationship with an Alpha Five robot, and was feeling slightly heady from too many raspberry Fig Newtons dipped in apple juice.
"Archie has to go potty," Veronica informed me.
"How do you know?"
"He's making his potty face," she said.
Archie had, indeed, turned a deep crimson, and was emitting strange noises. I ran for the potty chair in the nick of time. Five minutes later, he emerged with a satisfied look on his face as though he had just survived an out-of-body experience, which, in a sense, he had.
After a few romps around the house on their tricycles, and overturning a vase of flowers, they wanted ice cream.
"Before lunch?" I asked.
"Mommy and daddy let us have ice cream whenever we want it," Veronica lied.
"Today, we're waiting until after lunch," I said. "I'm making you grilled cheese and banana sandwiches."
The kids wouldn't relinquish control, started crying and asked when mommy was returning.
"Very soon," I prayed. "In the meantime, you're going to eat."
A child psychologist would have killed me.
They screamed so loudly that I thought the neighbor might call 911 and have me arrested for babysitting with intent to sedate. While Archie and Veronica lay on the floor holding their breaths, Dave, the mutt stalked me, baring his teeth. I threw him a bowl of leftover pasta hoping he would spare my limbs. Murray hissed, arching his back in preparation for attack.
By the time Sue arrived home, life was back to normal. Archie and Veronica, thoroughly exhausted from playing "torture the babysitter" fell asleep on top of Dave.
"You certainly have a way with kids," Sue praised. "I can never get them to take naps. I hope I wasn't gone too long."
"Who was counting?" I smiled.