Babysitting Made Easy---Part II

Mar 25, 2008

For “Babysitting Made Easy”, Part I, click here!


I stood for a moment in a rainswept parking lot with a small, padded person hanging down my back…with me gripping his calves tightly as we gazed off in opposing directions…


Spanky and I’d done a million horsie-back rides without incident. But as it happens, we’d never done one outdoors in winter, with Spanky gloved, cushioned, layered, and padded as if for a historic lunar expedition.

In my mind, as we made our way across the Black River Coliseum parking lot, it did, in fact, register on some level that his grip was beginning to loosen, that his hold on me was receding ever so gradually. But I thought he was playing one of his little games, testing himself, if you will, and that when he’d had enough, he’d put the ol’ hammerlock around my neck once again.

Well, he didn’t. Perhaps he couldn’t, what with the mittens and all the wintry stuffing between us. And so when he began to slowly arc backward, having released his hold completely, I remember actually coming to a standstill in the lot, and stealing enough time from somewhere to form the following thought as he picked up speed on the way down: All right. He’s really let go. Now if I slowly, gently release him, and try to help him slither down…he’ll probably tumble smack onto his skull, because we’ve had no time to coordinate this stunt. But if I hold fast, I wonder whether—as gravity yanks his bulk ever lower—his little legs will lock and snap apart at the knees?

I discovered that it takes almost exactly the same amount of time for a rookie babysitter to zip through the previous thoughts as it does for a toddler to lapse into the fully upside-down position from horsie-back mode. That’s right; not very long at all.

But, thankfully, the sky did not fall along with Spanky; I heard no agonizing cries for help, no wailing in misery. As cars rolled along 5th street and distant figures made their way to the Garfield Christmas extravaganza, I stood for a moment in a rainswept parking lot with a small, padded person now hanging down my back, martyrdom-of-St. Peter-style, flailing arms eventually coming to rest at 8 and 4 o’clock, with me gripping his calves tightly as we gazed off in opposing directions—his view no doubt much more entertaining than mine. I mulled over how best to proceed.

“You all right back there, Mister?” I queried, with a perky sort of bravado. I got no response. Trusting he hadn’t fallen into catatonia from the shock, I knew I simply had to lower myself now until he could, however awkwardly, use his arms, back, and hips to right himself on the wet ground. I wondered what our relationship would be after that clunky maneuver. A young couple walked by as we attempted it. I knew they’d quickly made me for a blight on the noble, underappreciated office of parenthood—no Carol Brady here, to be sure. They had probably witnessed Spanky’s back flip, too, which, though flawlessly executed, had clearly not been on the program.

“Merry Christmas!” I chirped gaily, as my well-insulated charge rolled about on the ground, regaining his bearings. The couple proffered Yuletide wishes, too, but with decidedly less verve.

Duly humiliated now, I turned and got to the business of brushing off Spanky and reviewing his general condition. Physically, he was fine. But would he still trust me, and be able to look up to me as a figure of—well, if not precisely authority, at least imposing oldness, in the future?

His first words to me on standing—well, I can just imagine them being the six words that, strangely, bring immeasurable relief to all parents in the wake of possible disaster:

“I want to do it again!”

You know, it’s funny: These people see no reason to ever grace you with the simple two-syllable warning, “Potty!” when it could actually do you both some good; but true to the nature of their species, they have no problem communicating their immediate desires, likes, and dislikes with the precision and economy of Hemingway at his height.

I suggested we didn’t want to wear ourselves out before all the fun started across the way, and almost instantly, Spanky’s attention shifted to the possible delights to be found at the Garfield show.

And so we walked—this time, hand in hand—to where the big orange cat was holding forth!

For “Babysitting Made Easy”, Part I, click here!