IN AWE OF MAMA
Last week I went down to Long Beach to babysit for Ryan (2.11) and Mia (6.8) while their parents went down to San Diego for Matt’s gig at the new House of Blues. I’ve known these kids since they came into the world and it’s always a pleasure to spend time with them. After 24 hours of babysitting I am always in awe of my friends who stay home and raise their children. It’s exhausting. Leisa says that you get to ease into it because you start out with a newborn, but still, I say it’s harder than any job I’ve ever done.
We went to a playdate at Meg’s house because her kids are about the same age. And they have a slip and slide. And a new kitten named Sunny. And Meg had a nice chilled bottle of white wine. Sitting in the backyard of Meg’s house watching the kids play in the sun reminded me of lazy summer days when I was a little girl. Our slip and slide didn’t have a “splash zone” at the end of it so we would often slide right off the end of it and hurtle into the cement wall my dad built to create planter boxes. Between the 70s version of the slip and slide and Mr. Wiggle, the toy that also attached to the hose and then proceeded to chase you around the backyard squirting you and trying to strangle you our summers in the backyard were a bit edgier.
After slipping and sliding the afternoon away we left to go back home about 5pm. In the rear view mirror I could see Ryan’s eyes drooping and my stomach clenched with fear that he would fall into a five o’clock nap. So I resorted to one of my dad’s tricks for keeping kids awake. He used to sit at the light and tap the brakes and make the car do the cha-cha. Now this was probably more fun back in the good old days when no one wore seatbelts because every time he’d hit the brakes our little bodies would smack into the car seat in front of us and, gasping with laughter we would be climbing back up onto the seats when he’d do it again. We thought this was hilarious and would chorus from the back seat, “Do it again!” Since both kids were strapped into the backseat of mom’s station wagon only their heads would snap back and forth, but they still giggled and wanted more and from the backseat they chorused, “Auntie Susie, you drive crazy!”
Whatever it takes – just don’t go to sleep.
When we got back to the house, all eyes open, it was decided that we should walk down to Rubio’s for dinner. That sounds so simple doesn’t it? It’s not. “Walking” up to the corner is made much more difficult when Ryan wants to go on his peddle bike with the long handle behind it for pushing and decides that the handles are sticky from the last time he was on it with a sucker and he doesn’t want to touch them. This means he’s not steering so I have to tilt the thing back and push him up the street while hollering at Mia, who is zipping way too far ahead of us on her razer scooter, “Wait! I said wait!” And once we get to Rubios I have to drag the heavy metal scooter in with us because I’ve never gotten over the time that I left my bike outside Hill Drugs and it was stolen. I’m sporting some massive bruises on my ankles from managing the scooter and Ryan at the soft drink bar where you get to make your own concoction of sugar filled beverages. I was adamant about just saying no to Coke as caffeine and sugar and an over tired two year old is just asking for it. After minor drama regarding having lemon in his drink because his sister had lemon in hers and he has to do everything Mia does right now, we got our food and headed home.
By now it’s coming up on 6:30, but to me if feels like 9:30 so I turn on the TV. I think kids watch way too much television these days, but you know what? Sometimes you just need a fucking break and zoning out to mindless adventures of Zack and Cody feels like a freaking vacation. After dinner I started dropping hints to Ryan about how much fun it was going to be to read stories. Unfortunately he was totally on to me and he knows that “stories” means bedtime. By 7:45 he was too wiped out to care and the call of the baba was way too enticing. After reading him about seven books, during which time I kept dimming the lights more and more, to the point where it was so dark I was making stuff up because I couldn’t see, he finally passed out.
At 8:20 I joined Mia downstairs for a scintillating movie called “The Cheetah Girls.” Something in me said, “this is not age appropriate entertainment for an almost 7 year old,” but I was too beat down to argue. The movie did not end until almost 10 pm and then we had to watch the new Hilary Duff video wherein Disney’s darling is all tarted up like a porn star and still this does not distract from the fact that she really can’t sing. Mia LOVES Hilary Duff. This frightens me, but as long as she honored our agreement that she would go to bed right after the video I would happily suffer through it. And she did.
I went up to bed shortly after Mia and it felt like I’d only been asleep for about 10 minutes when I heard Ryan running down the hall for his 4 a.m. baba. I handed it to him and threw the covers back so that he could slide in next to me and he informed me, “No. I sleep on the udder side.” Okay dude, whatever makes you happy. He climed over me, sucked down the baba, puts his little arms around my neck and spent the rest of the night kicking me in the stomach with his feet so that I was sleeping on the 5” closest to the edge of the bed. The dog lay in the corner licking her front paws over and over and over. Unlike the kids she’s got separation anxiety.
I lay there and watched the room grow lighter as dawn turned to day. Mia came in for morning cuddles and then we all got up to prep for the day’s activities. I had to get Mia ready for her ride to camp, which was going to arrive at 8:40 a.m. I made breakfast, got her dressed and put food in her backpack. I got her curly hair combed out all cute and I got her upstairs to brush her teeth. I did all of this while she was glued to the TV set because she hit the “on” button the minute we got downstairs and I hadn’t yet realized that the TV has some kind of mind control over children that’s just plain scary.
Once Mia was off to camp we had one little hiccup wherein Ryan drew all over the TV screen with a green felt pen and tried to wipe it off with the sleeves of his sisters jacket that he was wearing. When he realized that it was only making the mess worse he came and got me where I stood in the kitchen not 5 feet away. The kid is quick. Luckily the felt pen came off with some spray cleaner, but he still had to have a time out to think about how he would never do that again. And so I would have some idea where he was and what he was doing while I finished in the kitchen. Then it was all about getting him dressed and we were off to the grocery store. I was a little scared about taking a toddler into the market because the shelves hold all kinds of temptations, but we did pretty good since we stayed mostly on the produce aisle and I introduced him to smell-o-shopping. All I had to do was point out to him how cilantro smells when you shake it and put your face in it and he was completely engaged. We got out of the market pretty easily all things considered. I did buy him juice boxes with a snowboarder on the front, but that was it. I didn’t have any issues at the check out where they keep all the candy.
After unloading groceries we packed a snack and headed to the park where I wedged my adult sized ass onto jungle gyms and slides that are built for much smaller posteriors. We sat in front of the steering wheel and as Ryan drove I san Fly Me to the Moon, much to the amusement of all the hispanic nannies at the park with their charges. I was exhausted and wearing smashed grapes so I didn’t really care what people thought. Plus, Ryan is a big cuddler and I am putty in his hands.
We weren’t home 10 minutes before Mia returned and the TV was on. I no longer cared that it was sucking out her soul. They were both alive and happy and that was my mission. I made hot dogs for lunch and let her watch “Totally Raven,” which she’s totally not supposed to watch, because you got to pick your battles and I’d only had about 4 hours of sleep so I wasn’t up for the negotiations.
Leisa and Matt got home and they’d had a great time and so had we, and as always I left with a deep appreciation for the job that is mommy. And a new understanding of why my mom took Valium when I was a kid.