(At least not for a while!)
Last night, I baby sat a kid…and I liked it! Kind of. But I will tell you, that baby-sitting someone else’s child when you are at the “I could have babies” phase of your life is really different than when you’re 13. Here’s what happened, some of the thoughts it stirred, and why I have so much compassion for mothers everywhere.
In order to protect the innocent, I shall simply say that a small child of about 3 ended up in my house unexpectedly last night. I was expecting a house full of men, had planned to finish my cleaning, and retreat to my girl friend’s for a round of dress-up before the ball next week, (another story for another time – but don’t I sound just like Cinderella?) As I was walking out the door with a pile of gowns in my arms, one of the boys greeted me with, “Morgen, thank you so much for letting us come over, and all this…. ” Sure, of course” I replied good-naturedly. I did honestly enjoy having a full house. He continued, “and the kid too, I’m sorry, I totally didn’t know about that til last minute”, “Oh, ok…” I was trying to nod and smile and look around…then I was made aware of a short, sweet presence as a smiling creature with cocoa skin and short, tight, black hair waddled down the hall with the person watching him who had came to visit my husband…and of course, several more guys arrived and the house filled with barking dogs, cooking in the kitchen, and rioters laughter as they laughed at their own jokes.
I sprang into “mommy-mode” and separated the “scary dogs” – the big one went outside, the little one went to the bedroom, and once the “nice kitty” realized what was afoot, she insisted on bedroom sanctuary as well.
Ed and I locked eyes over the heads of our guests as I took the little one by the hand, (his care-giver was the chef for the evening and already engaged in the giving of orders to the others with a pot in each hand). Ed voiced my thoughts aloud, “we….don’t have any toys do we?” The little one had apparently come with a juice box, swim trunks, and that was it. Some assembly required? I found 2 picture books in our book-case, Ed stole a little-used stuffed toy from the dog box, and I sat the baby down in the living room with these meger offerings. He was thrilled with the books, but of course, wanted me to stay and read them. I explained I would be back soon, and with a last lingering glance at our wedding goblets perched toddler-eye-level, and blowing out a candle as I past, I gathered up my garments again, and called into the kitchen, “I’m leaving for an hour – I expect the house standing, dinner made, and the kid alive when I return!” My decree was met with gafaws and more jokes. I rolled my eyes and retreated hastily to keep my appointment.
Dresses are fun, and girl-friends are funner, and I had a great time talking hair and nails with my gal pal…just like the old sorority days! Our husbands are in the same company, and there was a small military ball thing the following weekend. So we discussed how best to allocate resources – she was most concerned with nails and hitting the gym, I was thinking my hair needed a touch up but I would do my own nails, and yes a few good work-outs for those shoulders was in the cards. We traded some dresses and and shoe options, agreed we would not spend money on either, for something like this, not worth something new. I left feeling like I had a plan, and was happy to hurry along so she could get back to a relaxing night with her hubby, and I could embrace the chaos at home.
Well, sure enough, the men were all loudly saving the world around the dining table with quite a feast prepared and pouring out of every pot and pan I had! They seemed to be taking care of themselves just fine, nothing seemed to be out of order. Perfect, my symptoms had been flaring all weekend, and I was looking forward to laying down and cooling off…but then there was the little one…with no one paying him much attention, just quietly looking on. Oh come on! He was just so precious! So of course, I sucked it up, and tried to entertian him as best I could. I tried to feed him, (he was not impressed with the offerings and demanded cookies that we didn’t have), I took him outside to read, but then he told me “I have to pee”, and before I could take his little hand he had stood up on the chair and let it fly. Whelp, that was something I hadn’t seen before.
After clean-up and changing into the afore mentioned swim trunks, I returned to where I’d left my dinner, only to find two of the guys explaining that the “big dog” had gotten in and eaten the food, and what used to be the bowl was in the garbage. Ah well, I didn’t like those bowls anyway. I grabbed an apple and my new little friend, and took him for a walk around the neighborhood, while he pointed out bugs and was scared by a duck. He had peed in his shoes, so I alternated between having him walk and carrying him where the ground seemed rough. When we – or at least I – was sufficiently tired, we headed home and retreated to the office. Now, here is the turning point. I said I wasn’t going to be one of “those moms”, and Ed is constantly annoyed when he hears about people plugging their kids into a show…but my friends…sometimes…you just need a break. So I logged into Amazon, and after questioning the young lad, we choose Madagascar, and I plunked him in front of the computer, (we don’t even have a tv). I also gave him a pile of fake gold pirate coins we had left over from a party thinking that would keep his hands busy, and an old derby hat from a past costume which he immediately loved! This all seemed to be working, so I escaped to the yard to clean up the chair…but when I came back inside it was “potty time” again. “Oh good!” I praised, he’s telling me this time. Only to discover that again, it had already happened, and the shorts were wet and so was the carpet.
I cleaned everything up as best I could, threw his shorts in the dryer, and sat him bare-bottomed again in front of the movie, and helped myself to a glass of the wine the boys had left in the kitchen. Yes, I did, and I’m not ashamed!! But as I sat there sipping, and contemplating, I wondered – what is this kid’s life like on a normal day? He certainly doesn’t seem to bothered by everything going on around him. He took to me quick enough, he would beat me and call me daddy with a smile when he needed something…so maybe he’s used to different people around? Not too shy, but not too chatty…what if we adopt a kid this age? How much of an impact does that former life have on them? Would they really grow to love you as a parent in that special way? Would I grow to truly see them as my own? Ed thinks we will adopt one day, and I’ve always wanted too…but I know it’s a difficult process. We’ll just have to wait and see what God does in our lives. I have to get my health sorted out a little better first – that’s for sure.
Back to my little friend – his dad was his normal care-giver, but was at a funeral for a relative who had been killed in a drive-by last week. I wondered if his mom was around too. I know there are many ways to make a family, and I know it often takes a village – and there should be a community involved in taking care of a child. But at the end of the day, I just don’t think anything can quite replace the balance of a loving mom and dad working as partners to give guidance, fun, wisdom, admonishment, insight, and un-selfish love to their little person. I get it – life happens, and we have to make the best of it. And I truly believe that God can redeem any situation if we let Him. But I also think that kids need – and actually deserve – a lot more intentionality from their parents then they often receive. It’s too bad that we’ve often made life so complex that it takes parents away from their children so often, and we try to make it cool, or fine, or more socially acceptable for kids to be raised by the system, or TV, or themselves, or friends…but those things should just be there once in a while when we need them. Our society should be doing more to support parents having healthy babies, healthy relationships with each other, and actually planning and enjoying being a family the best way they can.
Moms – to you a raise my glass. Dads who stuck around – for the kid, and the crazy momma – I give you a pat on the back. You are both heros in my book, and deserve all the support we can give you. This next generation depends on it.