“Just have fun with them,” my friend said, as she kissed her three boys goodbye. She had asked me to watch them while she gave birth to a fourth. I was in charge for the next two days.
To ease me in, the youngest tapped me on the shoulder with an important message. “Caca,” was all I could make out. His brother looked at me, concerned, “Do you know what to do?” I did not know what to do. The closest I’d been to a poopy diaper. How the heck did it get halfway up his back?
For 48 hours, my adrenal gland worked full tilt, as if I were strapped to the hood of a speeding Nascar. “Jonelle, can you wipe my bum?” “Jonelle, can I have some milk?” “Jonelle, I threw up in my bed.” “Jonelllle.” “Yes?” “I love you.” A tender moment in the pit, before resuming the race.
After I caught the 4-year-old treating the dining room chandelier like a pendulum, we all needed a little fresh air. The two youngest played soccer, while the eldest drew a solar system in chalk. Delirious, from exhaustion, I giggled at the name Uranus. His eyes, piercing, he asked, "Why are you laughing?" In the distance, a piece of styrofoam magically appeared on the lawn and the little one knew just what to do with it. In his mouth, it went. It was time to go back inside.
At bedtime, I gave a show-stopping performance worthy of a standing ovation: Storytelling, singing and back tickles. When my efforts failed to put them to sleep, I pulled out my secret weapon. “You guys want a surprise in the morning?” Bribery. It works every time.
I plopped myself on the couch. The day was a blur. It reminded me of the time I threw an unsupervised party in high school. I walked around filling glasses, breaking up irrational fights, and making sure no one peed where they shouldn’t. I finally understood why parents roll their eyes when I mention being too busy. Would I ever be ready for this reality?