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Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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(long) babysitting report

I knew I was in trouble when Ruth told me, "No matter what happens, just remember...STAY CALM."

The day seemed to go as planned at first. Annie was disconcerted at Mommy leaving, but settled down ok when I reminded her that we were going to pick up Sara at school. Annie looooves Sara. I could hear her saying "Sawa" from the front of the double stroller on the way there, and from time to time she would poke her head out and peer at me suspiciously.

We arrived at the school fifteen minutes early. I had several nannies and other mothers greet me in a way that clearly indicated that they thought I was my sister (Ruth and I look alike to some people). If I was a cruel sibling, I could have really changed her reputation (had a cigarette hanging out of my mouth, empty booze bottles rolling out from under the stroller, etc.) but I decided to be nice and explained who I was. It felt a bit odd there for a bit, being part of the mother/nanny crowd. I set Annie loose on the front lawn.

Eventually Sara emerged, looking around warily (apparently she had asked Ruth several times whether I knew what time to pick her up). By this time, Annie shoved her way to the front of the crowd, bellowing Sara's name. Overjoyed that I had managed to show up at the right time, Sara skipped over and gave me a huge hug. I popped Annie back in her stroller-prison and we headed home while Sara happily told me about her day.

And then sometime during the walk home, Annie fell asleep in the stroller. One of her shoes fell off; I wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't tripped over it.

Annie falling asleep may sound like nothing, but it definitely set off little alarm bells in my head. Ruth had given me several pages of instructions and maps...NOWHERE did she say that Annie would fall asleep on the way home from school! Annie was supposed to stay wide awake throughout lunch, and fall asleep on the way to Sara's gym's class so I could get a break. We got home, and I put Annie in her baby chair in the living room. She stayed asleep. I put on a Little Bear video for Sara while I (loudly) made lunch in the kitchen. Ruth had warned me not to heat the soup to boiling or I'd have to cool it for the kids anyway. I forgot, of course. While the soup was cooling, I went back into the living room and played with Sara, not bothering to keep our voices down. Annie kept sleeping. Ironic, considering that we generally creep around the house trying not make any noise when Annie's asleep, usually. Finally I woke Annie up to give her her bottle (I had a vision of her waking up halfway to Sara's gym class, screaming with hunger). She looked a bit crabby and dishevelled (can't blame her, really), a lot like the way Jeff looks when he wakes up in the morning. But she hoovered down the bottle, and then I changed her diapers. Sara wasn't hungry so only picked at lunch.

It was raining when we set off for Sara's gym class, of course. I got out the big plastic tarp thingy and put it over the double stroller. I tucked a white blanket (WHY did Ruth give me a WHITE blanket??) around Annie's legs to keep her warm against the wind, and partway through the ride, Annie flung the blanket off and it got wound around one of the muddy wheels. I got it untangled, but there was a big black stain across one corner. Sigh.

According to Ruth, Annie would fall asleep on the way to class and I'd be able to get an hour break while Sara was doing gymnastics. HAHAHA. Annie, obviously fortified by her nap earlier, was in the mood for fun. She was wired and restless by the time we got to the gymnastics place a half hour early. I unpacked the girls from the stroller, peeled off their layers, set them loose in the changeroom while I got out Sara's gym clothes (and wondering what the heck I was going to do in the half hour until Sara's class was pouring rain outside, and I had no toys with me). Annie and Sara ran up and down the changeroom, laughing and shrieking, and pulling me by my hand. The other mothers politely smiled as they watched. One commented that she had never Annie awake before. Annie found that she could open a cupboard, and pulled out a couple of toys. I was relieved; so there were toys here after all! But Sara shook her head and said, "Annie's not supposed to play with those toys. They belong to other children." Sigh. I wrestled the toys from a stubborn Annie, tried distracting her with a snack.

Finally it was time for gym class. I met Slavko, one of the teachers. He was very friendly and wasn't half bad-looking. ;-) He commented on how much Ruth and I looked and sounded alike. Unfortunately we couldn't chat long because it was time for class. Sara asked me for her three hugs and four kisses (apparently some good-bye ritual she has with Ruth) so I gave them to her. With Sara gone, I decided to try to put Annie to sleep; there was no way I was going to stay trapped in that claustrophobic little changeroom with a restless one-year-old. I stuffed Annie back in the stroller and went for a walk in the rain. Pushing the stroller, I couldn't carry an umbrella, and the hood of my coat kept being blown back in the wind. My shoes got soaked. I thought about motherhood. Annie stayed wide awake and excited until ten minutes before the end of Sara's gym class, when she promptly fell asleep.

There was a small cluster of parents waiting outside the gym peering through the one-way mirror. I pushed myself to the front (heck, I'll never see these parents again and besides, they probably all think I'm Ruth anyway HAHAHAHA) and held Annie up to the one-way window, pointing out Sara. Slavko was helping Sara do a somersault on a pair of rings suspended from the ceiling. Even I was impressed! There were only about five children in the class, and after a few minutes, Slavko led them all in single file to the doors, where they were reunited with their parents and nannies. Sadly, he didn't hang out to chat. I took Sara and Annie downstairs. Both of them were hungry, so I pulled out the bag of snacks (turkey slices, bread, fruit...Ruth was wise to warn me to bring food whenever we went out). Annie made another half-hearted attempt to get at the toys in the Forbidden Cupboard but lost interest when she saw I wasn't going to make a fuss about it.

After the remaining food was put away and the girls packed into their sweaters and coats and shoes and boots and put back into the stroller and the rainguard put back on top (it was still raining, of course), I headed home. The 1/2 hr walk home seemed longer because it was mostly uphill. Who needs to go to a health club with kids around? Geez. By the time we were halfway home, my arms were screaming for mercy, pushing that double stroller. My feet were cold and wet, rain was dripping inside the back of my neck, the back of my t-shirt was soaked, my glasses were covered in raindrops. I thought some more about motherhood.

On the way home, we dropped by the Children's Bookstore. I had promised Sara a "small toy" on the way home, and although I had made this promise much earlier in the day when I had naively imagined a leisurely walk home in the sunshine, I was not about to break it now. Annie was fussing in the stroller, and I sensed an impending explosion. "You only have a few minutes to choose something, ok?" I told Sara. I unpacked the two girls and set Annie down in the play area, keeping an eagle eye on her grasping hands. Sara finally came up to me with a small glittery cardboard box in her hands.

"I've chosen this," she told me solemnly. I looked it, and realized that she had no idea what was inside since she couldn't read the label. "There are ten mini-crayons and tiny stickers inside," I said. "Do you still want this?" Sara nodded. I had to get something for Annie too, of course, so quickly scanned the racks of "impulse buy" toys situated conveniently near the cash register. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that Annie was starting to lose interesting in the train set. Not much time left.

"Fish," I said to the woman behind the counter. "Do you have any plastic fish?"

The woman looked startled. "Fish? I don't know..."

I grabbed a plastic toy plane out of the one of the boxes. "Here, I'll get this."

"There are dolphins and whales over in that other box," called a helpful mother from across the store.

"It's ok, I'll just get this plane, thanks."

The woman behind the counter gave me an odd look, but rang up my purchases. I retrieved Annie and gave her the plane. She looked at it and said in wonder, "Mine?" I replied, "Yes, Annie. It's all yours. Annie's plane." Annie grabbed it in delight and started making motor noises, waving the plane around in the air. Taking advantage of the moment of distraction, I stuffed the two girls back into their stroller. Annie bellowed, "BYE!" to everyone in the store, waving her plane. I'm sure people waved back, but I was already halfway out the door.

The rest of the stroller ride was uneventful except for the fact that one of Sara's boots fell off along the way. Annie did not fall asleep. When we got home, Ruth was home, but both Sara and Annie wanted to keep playing with me. Sara and I played Evil Person Tries To Kidnap The Princess From Her Castle In The Sky, and Annie immediately took off all her clothes except for her diaper, asked me to put Sara's tutu on her, and started running around the house waving her arms around and bellowing with great joy, waiting for me to chase her.

Important things I learned during my babysitting yesterday, for my future reference:

  • Never ever EVER forget Annie's pacifier when going out.
  • Always bring a change of clothes.
  • Kids will never do what you expect.


Officemusic: Adrian Bellew tape (from Rand).

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