The babysitter looks at me expectantly. I glance down at the schedule I’ve dashed off in hot pink felt pen on the back of a four-year-old’s crayon drawing. (Shhh, don’t tell.)
5:30: Dinner (pizza delivery)
6:45: Nolan’s bedtime (diaper, pjs, 2 books, sound machine on)
7:30: Twins’ bedtime (potty, pjs, 2 books)
It’s the bare details, of course. The pizza has already been paid for, tip and all. Nolan has special nighttime diapers since he leaks through the cheaper ones we use during the day. The twins aren’t allowed to talk in their room after they’re tucked in but can quietly page through as many books as they want in their beds. Et cetera.
I realize I’m the one who’s supposed to explain all this to her. I’m the authority figure here. The mom.
When did that happen? I mean, I know we were the ones who had these kids and all but yeesh.
“So we’ve had a bit of a rough afternoon but they’re really excited for you to be here tonight,” I start off. “Bedtime should hopefully go smoothly. If you need something to keep the twins occupied while you put Nolan down they can watch TV…”
I think back to my own days as a babysitter, which, despite three kids, almost eight years of marriage, and a mortgage, were all of yesterday. What did those parents tell me when I was the one given a schedule and standing on the other side of the counter? I think they told me to throw them in bed and instructed me on how to use the remote? Maybe? Those parents all seemed like they knew things. Self-assured. They didn’t seem as desperate to get out of the house as I do now. Did they feel the financial strain of paying for both a babysitter and a night out? These date nights drain our bank account by $100+, easily, and that’s just with the cost of a babysitter, the pizza, and a reasonably nice dinner for ourselves. The parents I babysat for didn’t seem so concerned about these things at the time. Now, on the other side, I’m not so sure.
“The pizza is paid for and should be here at 5:30 - the boys will eat sausage and Brooklyn will only eat cheese. There are oranges in the pantry, too, and please help yourself to anything you’d like. Leftovers can go in the fridge. These are their bedtimes...”
She looks at me, absorbing everything I’ve said. Either that or she’s completely disinterested. That blank face all teenagers seem to master gives away nothing. She’s been to our house before, but not to babysit. What else does she need to know? Should I give her a tour of the kids’ bedrooms? All three of them know where their own pajamas are. Should I show her how to work Nolan’s sound machine or the baby monitor? That seems like an insult to her 15-year-old, iPhone-wielding intelligence. Besides, Nolan knows how to work his own sound machine.
This situation, me on one side of the counter, her on the other with her poreless skin and her leggings and the scrunchi on her wrist, (because apparently we’re going full flashback mode here and those are back in style), seems so bizarre and formal and old. How on Earth am I the one in need of a babysitter?
I rattle off a final list of instructions as the kids run around our legs and hope I haven’t left anything out.
“Nolan needs to wear one of the Elmo diapers to bed, they’re in the top drawer - if the twins have a hard time settling down you can tell them that mommy and daddy will give them donuts in the morning if they stay in their beds quietly - the remote is here and feel free to watch Netflix or whatever once they’re all in bed and the toys are picked up - the kids can help put things away before they go down.”
I don’t need to show her exactly how to change a diaper, do I?
Hugs and kisses all around once Tyson comes downstairs, clean-shaven and all. I grab my shoes and purse, ready to dash out the door. Nolan realizes what’s about to happen and lets out a desperate cry of “Mom-meee!” with tears in his eyes. The only way to solve that problem is to get out of sight as fast as possible. I give her one last instruction as I shove a flailing Nolan in her arms. “Don’t worry, he’ll be fine. Just wing it! That’s all I do, anyway!”
“Okay,” she says, as she looks at me with wide eyes and a half-smile. Maybe I’ve broken the mystique of any potential authority I have as the mom by telling her to wing it. He will calm down I know, just as soon as we’re gone. That or he’ll work as an excellent form of birth control.
We wave from the minivan as they watch us go from the window of the playroom, three little faces pressed against the window, Nolan still with tears in his eyes. Maybe I should feel bad but instead I grin at Tyson as we pull away. A 30-minute drive downtown and a kid-free dinner means freedom for a few evening hours. Here we go.
Crap. I forgot to tell her about the emergency numbers. Oh well. They'll be fine.