Monday, July 27, 2009

The Baby-sitters Club

When I was young, I wanted to do everything my sister did. This included, but was not limited to, playing with her My Little Ponies, going to Girl Scout Meetings with her and attending The JG Dance Studio. I must admit, the more I contemplate my youth, the less surprising it is that my mother had me pegged as a 80's music-loving, man-worshipping theatre queer from Planet Fabulous at the age of two. Incidentally, I played with some of my brother's toys as well...but my adolescent fantasies about the torrid love affair between his Hawk and Duke G.I. Joe action figures is the story for another blog. And, it's worth noting, enough to make me extremely excited for the live action film starring Dennis Quaid and Channing Tatum in the roles of my original Don't Ask, Don't Tell star-crossed lovers.

Another of my sister's activities that I picked up was an avid reading of the classic Baby-sitters Club book series by Ann M. Martin. These were not books that I read idly so I would have something to talk to Krista about. These were novels that I loved, was constantly fascinated by and could probably still talk about with some measure of authority (OMG, Logan and Mary Anne are meant to be! And Stacey's from New York...she so sophisticated!). However, despite my fascination with these American classics, I can't ever claim to have actually cared for a single child. This is perhaps largely because I have absolutely no interest in children that I am not related to by blood. Disgusting little creatures that should be seen and not heard as far as I'm concerned; and seen only because who knows what havoc they would wreak if allowed to be invisible. Nothing at all like my angel of a nephew, who was my first ever baby-sitting charge.

Krista took three months maternity leave when Joseph was born, and returned to work this past week. I had agreed to take care of the little guy one day a week, and while not exactly nervous, I approached the day with a certain degree of trepidation...after all, I was in no way truly qualified to care for a child. I sometimes feel like I just barely get myself through a day without causing bodily harm. However, my mother assured me that should I go into a panic, she would drive down and relieve me. Armed with this back-up plan, I set out on my mission with a hopeful heart. The day started out in calm enough fashion; the parents left, and I managed not to break the baby for about 15 minutes, an accomplishment I proudly recorded in the daily diary Krista asks Joseph's caretakers to notate naps, feedings and bowel movements in. After that, Joseph decided he was hungry, and I successfully fed him. I then put him down for his early morning nap, a nap that I had been told was coming, a nap that my sister had informed me would probably be lengthy.

Joseph's nap lasted an hour and forty-five minutes, approximately 30 of which I was able to enjoy. After that my over-active imagination proceeded to teach me exactly who was boss. In the course of the remaining hour and fifteen minutes, I managed to convince myself on separate occasions that Joseph had a) managed to crawl out of his crib (never mind that he can't move himself), b) passed on (he couldn't possibly STILL be asleep) and c) been kidnapped (a nightmare brought on by suspicious noises over the baby monitor that could only have been caused by my sister's nutso religious neighbors opening the window and sneaking in to steal Joseph...or possibly, perhaps by the aquarium in the baby's room). It's quite humbling to realize that, even when you pride yourself on being a calm, level-headed person (which I think I am as long as certain topics are avoided...), being in charge of an infant can cause you to act with all the assurance of a 16-year old taking his driving test drunk.

As it turns out, and as I'm sure anyone who has cared for an infant knows, when babies bless you with a few hours of sleep, you should be extremely careful to make certain that you use that time wisely. Lay back, perhaps watch some TV, have a bite to eat...if there was a way to dose oneself with exactly an hour's worth of Valium, this would be the time. Because when they awake, they are merciless dictators, little Napolean Bonapartes armed with diapers and an excuse for their behavior. It's not that Joseph is a bad baby; in fact, the proud smile he puts on every time he takes a titanic crap is enough to charm the pants off of Ebeneezer Scrooge himself. It's just that Joseph knows what he wants, and he wants it immediately.

After his nap, his highness was hungry. Now, while he is incredibly advanced, his command of the English language leaves something to be desired, so I don't feel that I can be blamed for not knowing exactly what his desires were in the moment. I was given approximately 45 seconds to ferret out what his grunts signified...and then Joseph lost his temper. Luckily, my mother and sister had prepared me for this moment, and had both told me that he wants one of three things: sleep, food or entertainment. As he had just awoken, and my bobbing him up and and down was not accomplishing anything, I am happy to say that I quickly realized that it was feeding time. However, the realization of what he wanted did not, unfortunately, cause a bottle to magically appear in my hands. Which necessitated the first Angry Baby Strap Down of the day. Babies are not easy to manuever in any case...however, when they are being denied what they want, they are downright contrary. They squirm, kick, scream and generally fight as dirtily as possible in attempt to stop you from getting them safely secured so you can go heat up some lunch. And then they start crying. I don't mean they cry out...I mean they produce actual tears, which roll down their cherubic little cheeks and make you feel as if you are not only a terrible baby-sitter, you are quite possibly evil incarnate.

By the time I had Joseph into his vibrating chair (which, shockingly, isn't sexual at all), I was so flustered I was running around the kitchen like a chicken with it's head cut off, desperate to somehow heat up the water, so that I might heat up the milk, so that I might experience an end to the tears. Then, in the middle of my frantic labors, a rather mundane and obvious thought occurred to me: there is no way that anyone could do this any faster than I was. Granted, Krista has the natural advantage of being able to whip out a boob in about 15 seconds, but since I hope to never lactate, the joy of breast-feeding someone is going to have to remain a mystery. As I was not actually bodily producing his lunch, he was going to have to wait until the water was warm enough to heat his milk, so his majesty would not have to suffer through a tepid feeding. The realization of this was akin to the first shafts of sunlight breaking through an overcast day, lifting my spirits and making me realize that I wasn't a miserable, useless excuse for a human being, despite what my dictator-like nephew was trying to make me think.

Armed with the knowledge of my own general competence, and the confidence of having officially navigated my first baby-induced panic attack, the rest of the day passed in a much more enjoyable manner. As I said to Joseph, "Scream all you want kid, this homo rushes for no man. Or baby." I couldn't help but notice, however, that the child really was supporting from his diaphragm; he was able to scream as much as he wanted with no noticable decline in pitch or volume. I look forward to my next day with him...though I can assure you, his long morning nap will not be something that I allow to stress me out.

That's what the boot-flask is for.

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