As I’ve discussed in a number of previous posts, my wife and I provide day care for our grandniece while the little one’s mom attends college classes during the day. Well, let’s be honest about it, my wife is the one who provides the day care. I get to sit on the couch and play with the baby, sing to her, read to her, play endless repetitive games of her own devising. My wife gets to do stuff like change dirty diapers (“You pooped again?! That’s the third time today!”), comfort the little one when she starts screaming her head off and won’t stop, and run around after her when she’s hell bent on mischief that’s bound to send someone to the hospital (the baby if she’s successful or my wife if she has heart attack).
Pastor Mom is heavily involved in this equation as well. She and my wife share the child care duties because, well, it takes two adults to chase after a half-pint who has decided that she’s going to run amok today and that there’s nothing that anyone can do about it.
For the last two weeks, I’ve been taking a break from unemployment by doing some work for a tech company on a contract basis. This involves being glued to my laptop for many hours per day. My office? The living room couch. To say that this is a challenge with the little one here is an understatement. For one thing, she wants to play with uncle and I feel bad when I have to tell her “I’m sorry, honey, uncle has to work right now.”
Then there is the matter of the noise level. As I am working in an unfamiliar field, I spend quite a bit of time poring over documentation ranging from the mundane to the highly technical. The point is that I have to concentrate sufficiently to understand the stuff, a difficult proposition at best when Hurricane Hayden is going on all around me.
When the little one gets particularly rambunctious (“She just won’t mind,” as Pastor Mom says), she goes in the playpen with her toys. As you may imagine, she hates this. Being just a few steps away from me, I will often stop what I’m doing during Playpen Time so that I can sing to her or play a game of “Boo!” from across the room.
When she gets out of jail, the little one loves to sneak up to the side table next to the couch and grab at the refreshments that I keep there. Most of the time, I have a jug of iced tea, a bottle of lemon juice and a glass beside me, all of which she thinks are fair game. As in “This is a pretty fair game! Let’s see what we can dump over and spill all over the carpet!” If I notice the little one standing there, I will lunge for tea, lemon juice and glass to pull them out of the way before disaster strikes. I don’t always make it in time. If I’m busy reading and typing, I may not see her out of the corner of my eye. I may not notice at all until I hear my wife’s yelp, which is the signal for “Lunge!”
In my continuing effort to get my expected production done, I frequently eat lunch at the laptop. This is the little one’s signal that it’s Sharing with Uncle time. I will feed her a small piece of my tofu chicken or my veggie burger or whatever it is I’m eating. Then she’ll happily run off to another part of the room, only to return about ten seconds later for more. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat ten more times. By this time, I have to start reading my document from the beginning.
While the little one is here, we generally have videos of “Elmo’s World” running on our big screen TV. She also has a Nabi, Jr., on which she will play the Veggie Tales song “Barbara Manatee” or “His Cheeseburger” over and over again. As if it weren’t bad enough that both those songs grate on the nerves, the little one loves pushing buttons and will therefore rewind to play the same section of the song six or seven times in a row. I’m pretty sure I can recite the lyrics in my sleep.
So, no, I don’t have to comfort a crying baby, make up bottles of milk or change dirty diapers. But I daresay that you haven’t lived until you’ve had the pleasure of listening to the same “Elmo’s World” video you’ve already seen dozens of times while “Barbara Manatee” is playing in the background and the little one is throwing a fit. Add to that parishioners and workmen walking in and out of the parsonage all day long and you’ll long for a nice quiet office where you can close the door and hear nothing but the occasional ringing of a phone.
But I’m not really complaining. I’m glad we are my niece’s day care of choice. How else would we get to spend so much time with the little one? It may be tough to get any work done, but that’s the price I have to pay.
After all, I love the little squirt.