Courtesy of Dana over at Reasoning With Vampires:
My interview is up on World Moms Blog!
So there I am, sitting at the kitchen counter in my parents’ house, when my eye rests on the cover of the local newspaper and a name jumps out at me.
When I was a teenager, a friend of mine and I were hired to babysit some kids over the summer. The friend did one month and I did the other.
It was the lady who hired us whose name I had just spotted in the paper as the head of some festival organizing group.
For some reason it is always a surprise when someone we met a long time ago is discovered to still exist. That’s how I felt seeing my old employer’s name, and the memories came rushing back.
You know how, as a teenager, things seem unbearably awful, but looking back on it you think “Pfft. That wasn’t so bad. What was the big deal?”
Yeah, well that is NOT how I feel looking back on baby sitting this woman’s children.
She was thin and blonde and stylish – you know the type – and she and her husband made a decent amount of money, so her kids had everything. Which made them terrible little brats.
The two girls were 3 and 7. I would be paid 100 bucks a week to watch them from 7 am until 5 pm Monday through Friday, and fix their lunch, for four weeks. My friend received the same deal for the other four weeks.
“The seven year old is old enough to report back to us now,” the mother cautioned us, “and she knows to come and tell me if anything goes wrong while you are taking care of her.”
Translate that as: Don’t hit my kids, and my daughter has been told to tattle on you if you make her unhappy.
My friend and I were not given any kind of power. We weren’t given any household rules, or any method of disciplining the kids. As far as I was able to gather from the children, they were spanked regularly. However, the parents made it clear that spanking from a babysitter was unacceptable, and no other alternative was offered.As a 17 year old, I didn’t know about time-outs. The parents didn’t seem to, either.
We weren’t even allowed to eat their food or help ourselves to a drink. We prepared lunch for the kids, but brought our own lunches from home.
Every morning I arrived at 7 to be greeted by two small kids still in their pyjamas eating chocolate pop tarts and sipping at cans of soda pop. Their greeting consisted of them looking briefly away from Elmo’s World, and then returning to stare fixedly at the screen again. Over the course of the day they would expect to watch Zaboomafoo, Barney the Purple Dinosaur, more Elmo’s World, and occasionally Teletubbies.
The rest of the time, they did whatever the hell they wanted.
The oldest one, the 7 year old, was the worst. She was bossy, spoiled, and lived to defy everyone. She had the power, and she knew it, because SHE was charged with watching me and reporting on me to her parents. If I tried to thwart her in any way, she responded by dragging her little sister into their parents’ bedroom on the lower floor (for some reason I was strictly forbidden to go upstairs with the kids, but playing in Mom and Dad’s room was fine) and lock me out.
Do you know what was in that room? Well, an en suite bathroom, complete with soaker tub, and an exercise machine which they liked to climb all over as if it were a jungle gym. Every time they locked me out I felt a mixture of relief that I no longer had to deal with them, and terror that the 3 year old would drown in the bathtub and the 7 year old would give herself a concussion on the exercise machine.
“It always amazes me how patient you are,” an old friend told me last night. I gaped at her, completely floored by the unexpected compliment.
It’s not that my friend rarely compliments me (although we’re at that stage of friendship where mutual affection is taken so for granted that insults are as loving as kisses, so compliments are totally unnecessary).
No, the surprise was in the particular quality of the compliment. I don’t expect to be complimented on patience any more than Hitler should expect to be complimented on his ethics.
On a self-made list of personal traits, “patience” would only appear under the title: Things I Am Not.
As I drive down the main drag, I fiddle with the radio, but am completely unable to find a station that is not playing country music. So I navigate the familiar road while a singer warbles
I took him honky-tonking and that was it,
he took to it like a pig to mud, cow to cud.
We all got a hillbilly bone down deep inside!
I park in a parking lot which is really a large mud patch and walk into the local Irish pub which, even though school is out, contains small groups of university students nursing microbrewery ales.
The waitress smiles and asks me if I’m waiting for my friends, referring to them by name.
As I sip a diet Pepsi, conversations spill over from the nearby tables. They are the sort of conversations that you find everywhere in a small university town, where beer, liberalism, and literature are rampant in equal proportions.
“Did you know that Stephen Colbert lost, like, half his family in a plane crash?”
“Yeah, he’s had a really rough life. Apparently…”
“Have you read Angels in America?”
“No, I keep meaning to, though.”
“It’s really good. It’s actually referenced in The Laramie Project, and…”
My friend arrives and former conversations from my last visit home are picked up seamlessly, as though no time has passed.
“So some one actually thought to tell those African women that diarrhea is a “hot” disease, and they need to give their children water to cool it. That made sense to them in a way that “dehydration” never did, so they actually did give their children more water, and fewer children died.”
“It’s interesting how language affects our perception of reality. The words for tomorrow and yesterday are the same in Hindi, so I actually tend to get those days confused…”
So, I know Babby is much better than he used to be, but he still has his ragey moments. Now, many of them related to food. Food that isn’t being served fast enough. He clenches his fists and screams in impotant fury when he sees food that is not immediately forthcoming.
Obviously, we’re not rewarding this behaviour. We hand him the food when he calms down a bit.
But in the mean time, it’s awfully funny.
And just to assure you that he does still have his cute moments, here’s a totally different kind of video:
Hey guys, guess what? I’m going to be a writer at World Moms Blog!
I’ll let you now when my first post goes up, so you can cheer me on!
Every now and then I go out with a friend of mine from my anxiety group.
We’ve been hanging out more and more lately. She lives nearby, has two pug dogs, and we both have babies, and while our anxieties manifest in totally different ways, we understand each other’s peccadilloes. She’s also a good match for my personality, because she’s as outgoing and extroverted as I am hermit-like and introverted, which means she actually gets in touch with me and badgers me to hang out, both of which are helpful to maintaining a friendship with me, since it never occurs to me to actually call people and invite them places.
She picked me up this morning and took me for a walk at a nearby slough (pronounced “sloo” and meaning “channel or river or other body of water that looks pleasantly marshy above but contains deep, quicksand-like sediment on the bottom”).
…Not that I’m foreshadowing or anything.
It was a gorgeous day. Spring has suddenly remembered that it is on duty, so suddenly the leaves are out and the days are 18 degrees and sunny. The first thing we saw when we got on the trail was a deer, which ambled down the path casually without seeming at all concerned by the sheltie, retrievers, and snorting pug dogs roaring around.
Pug Mama said she has even seen bears on this trail! I decided to leave my dog’s leash on him. Just in case.
We had a lovely walk, which ended in a little beachy area, and the dogs had a nice splash. Then we turned around and came home.
The path runs along a dyke, with water on either side. Every now and then the dogs would run down an animal trail in the brambles for a little splash, and then return to us, panting and refreshed.
We were about halfway back on our return journey when I noticed that the two pugs were rollicking along beside us, but my Beloved Dog was nowhere in sight.
I called his name.
Now, you have to understand that my dog always comes when called.
For the first few years of his life I never let him off leash without a light long-line (you can buy them at the dollar store and I do so in bulk). If I called, and he didn’t return post haste, I would catch up to the trailing end of the leash and step on it, which brought him to a very sudden stop. Therefore he is not really aware that he has a choice in the matter when I call him, and he usually wheels around the second I call, even if it’s just a casual “don’t go too far!”
So my dog was now conspicuous in his absence.
I decided that I would have to use The Word.
YOU know. The “C” word. The great, hallowed word which no dog owner should EVER utter unless:
a) they have a way of enforcing the command
b) they have treats
…unless it is a complete and utter emergency.
Then, one day, when your dog is barreling right towards a bear or Mac truck, you can speak The Word and know that your dog will reverse direction and shoot towards you like an arrow from a bow.
I had no treats, but hadn’t my friend mentioned bears?