Thursday, May 27, 2010

The dreaded babysitting call was a close thing

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

The telephone rang innocently enough. Little did I know the horror that awaited me on the other end of the line when I answered. It was my sister.

"What are you doing tomorrow between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.?" she asked. Internally, I screamed the scream that told the audience watching a horror movie that the pretty girl who'd just entered the basement was being murdered.

I knew what she was about to ask. Uncle Brian was being coaxed into babysitting my four-year-old nephew. I've spent time with him, of course, but always in the company of my sister or my mother, who babysits him often. I babysat him for an hour once when my sister had to get groceries and he was sick, but that was about it. I remember spending the entire hour praying, "Dear God, please don't let him need to go to the bathroom."

Luckily, God was in a good mood on that particular one-hour gig and my nephew was contented to watch television and play with his toys while I sat there doing a 36-piece puzzle and then looking all over the living room for the last piece, only to find out afterwards that it had been lost ages ago. I invested three minutes of my life into making that 36-piece puzzle! Where's the justice? When would I get those minutes back, huh?

Anyway -- back to my story. So, come to hear that my sister had been called in to work on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and my mother was going out of town. Now, I should be honoured that I'm thought of highly enough by my sister for her to entrust the life of her only offspring over to me, right?

Had you witnessed some of the knock-down-drag-'em-out fights my sister and I had when we were kids, you probably wouldn't have guessed that she'd actually want me to babysit her child for fear that I would get revenge for some argument from 1975 by sending him out to play in traffic. But we were kids, then. Now, we're adults and things have changed. She wanted me -- her beloved (cough!) and trusted (cough!) big brother -- to babysit her little man.

Now, I love kids. I think they're fun and cute. I'm not intimidated by them at all. I'm a good uncle and godfather, and I don't forget birthdays or Christmas. But... when they need the bathroom, my eyes glaze over and I pray for an aneurysm to take me swiftly and silently into the waiting arms of the Lord. I don't do bathrooms or diapers.

I stood in the middle of my living room that Friday night, sweating bullets, trying to come up with some sort of excuse. I couldn't tell her my grandmother had died. After all, we have the same grandmothers and I'm pretty sure she knows they've been dead for 27 and 31 years respectively. Maybe she had a bad memory and I could try the excuse? No, that wouldn't work. I think she'd remember something like that.

Now, don't get me wrong. I love my nephew. He's cute -- like his Uncle Brian. He's smart -- like his Uncle Brian. He's chatty -- like his Uncle Brian. He's fully toilet trained -- like his Uncle Brian, too. (Thankfully, my parents wouldn't let me go to university without being toilet trained first.)

But the full toilet training situation (for him, not me) is only a more-or-less recent thing. In my mind, he still hasn't fully graduated into the kid who can take care of himself in that department. I still think of him as the kid who says, "Mommy, I need da bafroom... now!" followed by him being picked up and run with through the house and thrown on the potty, then singing, stories, being ignored -- or whatever other technique was being used that week. My own Uncle Brian technique would have consisted of holding him out an open window and squeezing, but no one thought that was as hilarious as I did when I brought it up at a family dinner. Party poopers... no pun intended.

Thankfully, his other grandmother was able to babysit, so my babysitting job was cancelled, much to my relief -- and guilt.

I mean, he's only four years old. How much trouble could it have been? But what would have happened had he reverted to those pre-potty-trained days had my babysitting traumatized him into age regression?

Well, had I been forced to babysit him, I would have just distracted him every time he needed to go. That's all there would be to it. As soon as I heard, "Unca Bwyan, I gotta go to da bafroom," I would have used my superior mental ability and attention span to trick the little bugger into another activity. "Hey, how about McDonald's? You can go to the bafroom... I mean the bathroom... after McDonald's. How does that sound?" And, of course, he'd be very happy with that and we'd go to McDonald's. Crisis averted.

But there's only so long you can hold off Mother Nature.

Eventually, I'd run out of tricks or he'd start seeping like a leaky rain barrel. My scheme would only last a few hours, and if his mother was late arriving to pick him up, it could be catastrophic.

After hours of delays, he would pretty much be ready to explode. Then, his mother would thankfully arrive. "Hi, how did you make out?" she would ask. "Great... great... Very busy now! I've got lots to do! Here you go!" I'd say, throwing him in the back seat. "I just heard on the police scanner that your house is burning. Better go home now." In a panic, she would speed down the street to get to her "burning" house.

She'd never be expecting the explosion from the back seat before she'd even get to the end of my street, but my no-bathroom-while-babysitting record would be intact.

I'd owe her a new car, but it would be worth it. Yup, well worth it.

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