Twice a week, we provide day care for my year and a half old grandniece from just about the time that the sun rises until well into the evening. The other weekdays, and often on the weekends as well, we have her for part of the day. It is fortunate indeed that Pastor Mom, my wife and myself are all available to share in the babysitting duties. To put it mildly, that cute kid wears us out.
Needless to say, my grandniece must be fed and changed throughout the day. Beyond that, however, we do our best to keep Little One entertained at all times. Toward that end, she has more toys, books and stuffed animals than a child ought to know what to do with, songs and games on her Nabi Jr. tablet, kid videos on our cell phones and reruns of Sesame Street streamed continuously from YouTube through our TV set all day long. And, of course, our personal attention at all times. Failure to provide said personal attention for more than, oh, I don’t know, say about 30 seconds, results in Little One reverting to her preferred activities faster than you can blink your eye. Among the activities to which I refer are dumping the trash onto the floor and rooting through the soda cans, vegetable peels and used paper plates, opening drawers and removing the entire contents thereof, sending lengthy character strings as text messages to my wife’s friends, repeatedly opening and closing the kitchen cabinets, and pressing the buttons on every remote control, laptop computer and electronic device in the house. In the immortal words of Julie Andrews, “these are a few of my favorite things.”
We also take Little One riding in the car a lot. To give you something of an idea of what I mean, today we:
- drove to my niece’s residence (stopping at the post office to send out a job application on the way), picked up Little One and brought her home with us so that Niece could study for her exams;
- an hour and a half later, we put Little One back in the car seat, drove back to Niece’s residence, picked her up and drove two towns up the freeway to drop her off at a meeting;
- drove Little One back to our house, making a quick stop at the supermarket to pick up a few items on the way;
- an hour and a half later, we put Little One back in the car seat, drove back up the freeway to pick up Niece from her meeting, then turned around and drove back down the freeway to drive Niece and Little One home;
- drove from Niece’s residence back to our house, stopping for gas along the way because (surprise) our tank was just about dry.
This was actually fairly minor, as we had Little One for only about four hours today. Tomorrow we have her for eleven.
My wife will start this show about 7:15 am, the time she leaves the house to drive over to Niece’s residence, pick up Niece and Little One, ferry Niece over to the college in the next town, and drive Little One back to our house. As an inveterate night owl, I am forever grateful to my extraordinarily kind wife for not rousting me out of bed to join her on her morning rounds at that ungodly hour.
The days and the weeks go by as we zigzag across three towns to get Niece where she needs to be on time, with Little One secure in the car seat just behind us. I find it quite a challenge to keep Little One entertained in the car while she is thus constrained with nothing to divert her attention other than some bite-sized pretzels and her sippy cup of juice. As my wife is usually driving, Entertainment Committee duties generally fall to yours truly.
Let me just say that I am not good at this stuff. Not at all. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I don’t know what the heck I am doing.
Some things are pretty standard, such as the mandatory singing of “Frère Jacques.” After that, however, I am at a loss. Thankfully, however, Little One is ever ready to prompt me for what comes next. “Boo!” she will intone (it actually comes out more like “Buh!”), which is the signal for me to turn around and keep her entertained, gosh darn it. When we first started this little game, I would merely “boo” her back, and we’d keep going this way in call-and-response fashion until we reached our destination. By that time, I will have a severe crick in my neck from turning around to face her every ten seconds or so.
Lately, however, we seem to have upped the ante. It is, of course, all my fault for trying to be a show-off. Never having been a parent myself, what I did not know is that once you go down this road, you can never go back. I don’t know what possessed me to get fancy by booing up a regular storm, like the Pied Piper’s rodents, in fifty different sharps and flats. Accompanied, of course, by appropriate facial expressions, including rolling my eyes, sticking out my tongue and clucking. Said performance tends to result in Little One laughing her head off. For that payoff, I’ll do anything. God, I’m such a sucker.
After that, we get into the Sesame Street songs. My wife’s favorite is the one that goes “la-dee-dah-dee-dah, la-dee-dah-dee-dah, what’s the name of that song?” As for me, I usually stick to “Counting to Four.” You know, the one that goes “One, two, three, four monsters walking ‘cross the floor, one, two, three, four chickens just back from the shore, bawk, bawk, bah-bawk, bawk, bawk, bah-bawk, bawk.”
Just call me Uncle Chicken.