I worked in a restaurant once. I’ve always said that I have never worked so hard for so little. But then I watched my friend’s kids
for an hour today. I am completely wiped out. I honestly don’t know how moms do it all day every day; that is some seriously tough work. Way to go moms! [And dads.]
My friend had a parent-teacher orientation (henceforth known as PTO because I’m too lazy to type it out again) thing this evening and asked if I could watch her boys for about an hour since her husband was working late. There are three male offspring ranging from somewhere between one and six years old. How hard could it be? I’ve babysat before, and remember clearly how it’s done: Give the kids some pizza, put them to bed, turn on a Disney movie, fast forward it to the halfway point so you can pretend the kids picked the movie before bed (instead of the truth which is that you were scared by the quiet, dark house and – as everyone knows – kidnappers, thieves, and murderers can’t break into homes where Disney movies are actively playing), and wait for the parents to get home. It’s almost too easy.
Unfortunately, the PTO was scheduled early enough in the evening that the kids probably wouldn’t require dinner until after Mom returned home, which also meant that putting them to bed immediately was also not a viable course of action.
After my friend left, I conducted a quick survey of the apartment. Her youngest was very helpful with that by pointing out everything for which he had the proper vocabulary: cat, pillow, book, mine (as in the possessive, not the bomb), milk, potty, water, Daddy (unfortunately, it was only his picture and later his shirt, so I wasn’t off the hook so easily), blanket, sock, and shoe. I noticed the couch and love seat cushions, a couple of blankets, and some pillows, so I called out to the older two boys in the bedroom and asked if they wanted to build a fort. Stupid question. Of course they wanted to build a fort. What person, child or adult, doesn’t want to build a fort?
We pulled all the cushions to the floor, the boys brought in about 30 blankets and an extra pillow or two, and we began construction on our fort. It was grueling labor. The cushions didn’t want to stand up on their own, so we called for reinforcements, and out came the stuffed animals. When we lowered the blanket roof onto the walls, the fort caved in, and we were forced to reconstruct several segments. Eventually we scrapped the blanket roof, citing substandard building materials, and elected to use the more durable cushions from the back of the couch. Of course, this made our fort dimensions smaller, which made it a little more challenging for me to fit. It turns out that our fort was constructed next to a hot lava bed, a shark pit, and quicksand, so when it collapsed for the final time, we had to jump carefully from one cushion to the next so we weren’t killed. My foot slipped on a pillow step and I barely caught myself with one foot on a cushion, and both hands on another, bridging the molten lava. It was a precarious situation to be sure. My only salvation came when the youngest boy pleaded for milk. As the only adult in residence, I was forced to abandon the adventure in order to placate the desires of a toddler.
The middle child discovered the pile of clean laundry on the end of the couch, and started throwing it around the room. I’m not sure what took place during the milk run that caused such aggression, but I wasn’t about to surrender to his violent attack. I shouted to my new ally to grab a shield and we diligently used pillows and couch cushions to protect ourselves from sock bullets, shirt grenades, towel bombs, and underwear artillery. I was amazed at the amount of ammunition the enemy had in his arsenal. The onslaught continued until he ran short, at which point we fired back in his direction. War dragged on for what felt like hours, and at the end, I surveyed the damage to the land. It was devastating. I worried that my friend might come home at any moment and discover the carnage, so I convinced the boys to help me clean up the mess.
By “help me” of course I mean that they occupied themselves with other toys while I folded blankets, returned couch cushions to their rightful places, and dug laundry out from behind (and under) furniture. When I was finished with my chores, the oldest wanted to play “Sharks and Minerals” [sic], but everyone else voted for Hide and Seek.
For Hide and Seek, I was nominated to be “It” first and was instructed to count to 100, until they realized that would take more than 15 seconds. We negotiated and eventually settled on 30. We played several rounds, all but the youngest taking turns with the hiding and the counting. I learned three things from this game: 1. Little boys cheat. B. Children ruin all the best hiding spots. 3. It takes less than 12 seconds for a toddler to remove his clothing.
After the eighth round of Hide and Seek, I checked the clock; the PTO must have been running over. I sighed when I realized my friend had only been gone about 13 minutes* by this point. That’s when I realized I was in way over my head. How in the world do you people do this?!
We found a board game and played until Mom walked in the door. I discovered that the competitive side I thought I had maturely buried, is actually triggered by six-year-old boys and takes no prisoners. My friend’s arrival was perfect: I was winning and that was also the exact moment when the youngest informed me that he needed to go to the potty.
As I gathered my things to leave, the middle child ran to the door to grab my leg and offered informatively, “You aren’t going nowhere.” I offered to let him come to my house where he was welcome to sleep in a crate with one of my dogs, and he promptly let go so I could make my escape. I assume the brief attempt to hold me captive means I didn’t mess up too much. Also, no children were harmed in the writing of this blog post, so I think we can all agree to call that a success. And seriously… kudos to all your mothers out there; I really do not know how you do it.
*13 minutes might be a slight exaggeration, but I distinctly remember that not nearly enough time had passed for us to have made and cleaned up as many messes as we did. The only explanation I can come up with is that time passes much slower for children than adults, so they are capable of doing a lot more (especially things of the mess making variety) in a lot less time.
NOTE: This was originally written as a guest post for another (real-live) blog, but guest posting was suspended before publication… so I am posting it here for your reading pleasure (also because I am too lazy to write up my most recent date; I am really slacking).