Copyright 2008 by Megan Anderson
It’s a vacuum commercial, it’s a sitcom, it’s a maid—no, it’s Super Babysitter! She cooks, she cleans, she kisses boo-boos. And with a mind that translates and speaks four year old faster than a speeding bullet, she’s a regular bargain at five bucks an hour! Well, that’s about how I felt after two straight days of baby-sitting…
I had received a call the previous weekend from a lady.
“Hello? Oh, hi, how are you? That’s good to hear. Baby-sit your children? Next Friday and Saturday? Sure, I’d love to. Do you mind if I bring my little sister along? No? Great, we’ll be there. Thanks. Bye.”
Remember those words because you might discover the irony of them later. Before I knew it, another week had passed and my weekend of playing mom had arrived. I hurried home from school, grabbed my duffel bag and little sister, and left for their house.
The first one to greet us was a little blonde haired, blue-eyed cherub with dimples. Upon sight of him, I knew I was in trouble—there was no way I was going to be able to resist that smile. Peeking out from the kitchen stood his older sister, brother, and dog. Their mother hurried into the room and took charge. She ran down the list of usual baby-sitting information: bedtime was at my discretion, they were allowed to watch any movie they owned, there was plenty of food in the pantries, and the numbers in case of an emergency were posted on the refrigerator. Her husband pulled in the drive and moments later they had packed the car, kissed their children good-bye, and left before I could change my mind.
It was about this time that I had a reality shock—I have to entertain and care for these children for two whole days. What had I gotten myself into? I turned to them, smiled, and asked, “Well, what do you guys want to do first?”
What do they want to do first? Never ask children that question; it’s dangerous. It turned out that what they wanted to do first was play with their toys in the basement. Harmless enough I figured, but playing with toys soon turned into a game of “bull fight.” “Bull fight” is an excellent Friday night family game. Allow me to explain the logistics. First, you pick someone to be the bull. Of course, I was picked to play the bull since I was the biggest. Then you choose someone to be the matador. We had four matadors, the three children plus my little sister. Once you’ve selected your players, you distribute the imaginary capes to the matadors. The matadors take these imaginary capes and taunt the “bull,” who crawls wildly around the room while making grunting noises and pawing the ground with her “hoof.”
It was great fun, or at least it was great fun till one of the matadors received an accidental blow to the eye. I immediately performed surgery. While the injured party recovered on the sofa, I matched wits with the older boy in a board game of Stratego while his little brother watched. As I started to win, I discovered something: young male egos are rather fragile. Even though I was ten years smarter than he was, the prospect of being beaten by a girl was a disgrace that the little guy thought would best be avoided by running to his room to pout. An hour and a counseling session later, I managed to coax him out of his room and back downstairs to rejoin the others for a movie.
After a short debate, we settled on the Disney cartoon “Rescuers Down Under.” Halfway into the video, I went into the kitchen to pop some popcorn. They had one of those odd microwaves that actually came with a button labeled “popcorn.” I confess I never saw that button till it was later pointed out to me. I placed the bag in the microwave, set the timer for the three minutes and forty seconds my microwave usually took to pop popcorn, and returned to the couch. Two minutes later, I sensed the popcorn was burning. I believe this sudden revelation had something to do with the billowing clouds of smoke that were innocently seeping from the microwave. As the kids sat coughing on the floor, I opened every window in the house and turned on all the fans. With a sigh I plopped down and watched the smoke float out the windows, taking my baby-sitting career with it.
The movie ended and I sent the older ones upstairs to prep for bed. The little one was curled around a pillow on the floor, fast asleep. He looked so comfortable that I quickly discarded the thought of waking him. Very gently, I gathered him into my arms and tip-toed him up to his bed. It took some talent, but my sister and I managed to tug down the covers and tuck him in without disturbing his dreams.
I stood there staring at that angelic little face and my heart clenched with a soft, warm feeling. I experienced maybe a touch of what each mom must feel at the end of a long day as she stands by her children’s beds watching them sleep. I could imagine their mother standing there reliving the precious events of the day, her memories mingling with the distant thoughts of how her children must soon grow up and face the world. I could feel the gentleness of her smile and hear the whispered prayers of her vigilant love. In that moment, I thought of my own mom and all the grueling days I must have dealt her as a hyperactive child and a selfish teen. I thought of all the things she did for me day to day—folding laundry, making dinner, answering questions, cleaning house, playing taxi driver, picking up groceries, disciplining me when I disobeyed, asking me about my day, taking me shopping, helping me with homework, showing me how to make things... I thought of all the memories we had together and of all the things Mom could be doing for herself if she didn’t spend all her time caring for me and my four siblings. I thought of all the dreams and desires she must have sacrificed in her life to care for me—all because she loves me. As I stood there, I began to realize that my mother’s love was selfless, forgiving, and complete, while my love was selfish and ungrateful. Mom had given so much for me and yet I never took the time to thank her for her selflessness.
I shook my head as I continued to watch the little boy curl up in sleep around his blanket and another smile edged its way across my face as I reflected, “Who’d have thought that it would take a weekend of playing mom before I’d see my own mom?”
The morning came far too soon and the sun and I awoke to the sound of debating whispers.
“Should we wake them?”
“Maybe we should wait.”
“But I’m hungry!”
My eyelids slowly cracked open to see six waiting eyeballs staring at me. I blinked and stifled a groan. Why is it that children can fall asleep so easily and rise so early?
“Hey! Morning, kiddos. Everyone doing ok? How long were you standing there? Anyone want some breakfast?”
I’ll bet all mothers appreciate the wonderful invention of cereal. There is one drawback to the convenience of this invention though—cereal contains a great deal of sugar. My sister and I sensed the building energy in the room and quickly decided that a little action packed trip to the park would be just the thing to wear the kids out before the parents returned.
“Ok, head upstairs, change into your play clothes, put on your tennis—tennis, not sandals—and meet me at the door. You’ve got five minutes! Last one down gives me a piggyback ride! Go, go, go!”
The children scrambled for the stairs to be the first one to fulfill my orders. Within ten minutes, my sister and I had locked the house up, buckled all the kids into the car, and headed to the park.
We returned from the park with three tired children, two bewildered tadpoles, five pairs of filthy play clothes, and two exhausted wannabe mothers. The children put themselves to bed while I stuffed a load of dirty play clothes into the washer machine.
My sister and I collapsed onto the couch as I glanced at my watch. Ten minutes to go. I dropped my head back and enjoyed the silence.
Voices came from outside, keys were clinking in the lock, and the door opened to reveal a pair of refreshed parents. I quickly held a finger to my lips and murmured, “Shhhhhh, they’re sleeping.”
A paycheck, multiple thanks, and a laugh or two later, my sister and I piled our stuff and ourselves into our car and left. All in all, playing mom for a weekend was relatively fun—tiring, but fun. On our way home, my sister and I decided that as soon as we walked in the door, we were going to hug Mom and bless her endlessly for all her hard work and love. Now, anytime I feel I’m taking Mom for granted, the thought of three little faces and a weekend of playing mother reminds me to thank her for being…mom.
I am a happily married young woman who lives in
South Carolina. Although I graduated with a professional degree in
Accounting, writing remains one of my loves and continues to be my
way of expressing emotions to my family for special events. I wrote
“Mom 101” as a gift for my mom for Christmas a couple
in the subject line of the message.)