We’ve all been there. Well any of us old enough to have friends or family with children have been anyway. Someone asks you to babysit the apple of their eye. How can you say no? After all the little rugrat is cute as hell. They no longer ooze at both ends and now that they can sometimes string a semi-comprehensible sentence together, they’re even fun.
So we say “Yes, of course I will look after the fruit of your overactive loins.” or words to that effect.
Once upon a time I agreed with the proverb that says the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Now days though, I believe that in addition to good intentions, the road to hell has a footpath running along one side. A footpath, made exclusively from the ground up bones of well-meaning babysitters.
Have you ever seen footage of an amphibious assault by a marine expeditionary force? It’s pretty much the perfect visual representation of the term “Shock and Awe!” Hundreds of tonnes of equipment, manpower and destructive toys hitting a shoreline like a technological tsunami. If you haven’t you really should watch a few clips of it on YouTube. It makes for both fascinating and somewhat intimidating viewing.
Now have you ever seen the arrival of a four to six-year-old at the babysitters? Compare and let me know if you can tell the difference. Okay to be fair most marine equipment is coloured in some variety of olive drab. Where as most toys belonging to young children are covered in the sort of colours most associated with acid trips. Bad acid trips. But aside from that there are a lot of parallels. One moment the target zone is calm and peaceful. The local inhabitants going about their daily business, blissfully unaware of the chaos about to be unleashed upon them. Then with frightening suddenness vast amounts of stuff appears as if from nowhere accompanied by either the marines or a young child. Trust me the marines would be better, they’d be quieter and at least you could swear around them.
So the little one has appeared and their parents have disappeared, leaving behind them only two things in addition to their precious darling. A truly immense pile of stuff comprised toys, spare clothes, dvds, food, more toys, wash stuff and still more toys. Oh and the distant echo of their joyous laughter, laughter which somehow seems to be at the expense of the designated sucker. No sorry, I meant delighted babysitter, to whom they now feel an intense sense of gratitude and sadistic humour.
Well anyway, you try to put the sound of that cackling laughter to the back of your mind. After all you have an evening of arts and crafts planned for the child. Followed by stories and an early night in the spare bed which you have lovingly prepared for them. Yeah right, fat chance.
Unfortunately you can forget any of the plans you’ve made previously, the child will have other ideas. Remember all those toys? They’ll play with most of them. Well, play is probably not the right word. Distribute, yes that’s the right word. They’re going to distribute those toys evenly around your entire home. Make sure that you watch out for the spiky ones, those are the nasty buggers that will end up alongside your bed, precisely positioned for you to step on as you get in and out for glasses of water and trips to the bathroom.
Once they’ve made absolutely sure that every inch of your once tidy home now, has a nice even coating of brightly colored plastic and faux-fur, it’s dvd time. Let me tell you something. The content of modern kid’s dvds have been carefully crafted to make children happy as Larry. Unfortunately these dvds quickly turn the average adult human mind into something comparable to a bowl tapioca pudding. Tapioca pudding which is also somehow perfectly and permanently balanced on the edge of a psychotic breakdown. I really don’t know how the makers of those dvds manage it. But after a mere hour of a certain purple dinosaur, or worse ten minutes of specific bipedal piglet and her family, any adult in viewing range has been reduce to being within just one short step of joining the inmates in a nuthouse movie.
But guess what? That’s the only thing the darling child you’re minding wants to do. Oh and don’t think you can escape by sitting there and listening to your MP3 player. Oh no, you can’t get away. You have to watch with the little dear and answer all of their questions. And oh boy will there be questions. It’s always tempting to compare the child’s mind to a sponge, always waiting to soak up new information. But that’s so much crap. A child’s mind and mouth are the primary parts of a vocal machine-gun which uses questions as bullets. More often than not the same question over and over, again and again, until you can actually hear your own brain putting a gun to itself and pulling the trigger.
But the good news is that eventually they will get tired and want to go to bed. You’re bed. Forget the spare bed you made up for them. Forget that it has a duvet covered with pictures of princesses. No they want to sleep with you. That means you can’t just put them to bed and settle down to watch some adult television. What this means is that you’re having an early night as well. Now isn’t that lovely? I mean that’s what every adult wants on a Saturday evening. To be asleep in bed at 8pm or maybe 9pm if you’re lucky.
Not that you’ll actually get to sleep much. Because while they will probably sink almost effortlessly into the deep coma like sleep of the very young and the very old, you won’t be afforded that luxury. You see just as you start to drift off into sleep, that’s the moment that your mind starts to play the theme music of the kids dvd you just watched over and over and over and over…
But don’t worry in the morning, or at worst in the early afternoon the happily hungover parents will arrive and take the marine corp or their little one home with them.
And a few weeks later, just long enough for you to have forgotten the true horror of it all you’ll get a phone call. You’ll answer and the conversation will end with…
“Yes of course I’ll babysit. It we had so much fun the last time…”
(This is mostly tongue in cheek and does not in anyway, represent the writers real feelings about babysitting for certain great little 4 year olds.)