This must be what parents feel their life is like every day. You see, the main reason we went to New York was to be parents for a week. I’m not sure that you could really classify it as parenting—more like glorified, overextended babysitting. But, we got a taste of parenthood none the less. And for those of you out there waiting for the “the big news” or the first peek of a baby bump on my belly…check back in with me next year, or the year after that…
I won’t lie, we had every intention of going down that road this year, but we, ummm, booked a cruise when we got back from New York instead. Whoo whoo. Had we only watched one child, we probably would be picking out nursery colors; however, watching three children gave us a glimpse into our life 10 years from now…and that left us realizing we needed to go to Aruba. It’s not that we didn’t do a fantastic job, cause we did! And it’s not that we don’t think we’d be wonderful parents, cause we would be! It’s just, dear God, why does anyone choose to live in that state of chaos?
My brother and his lovely wife, along with their three adorable children, moved to New York last year to train to become ministers in their church. One of their duties was to go on an outreach trip, and they couldn’t take their kiddos. Enter the best aunt and uncle ever. We embarked on a trip to stay with the kids for a whole week. I was perfectly confident. Eric had a few reservations (mostly about taking the kids into the city), and I think my brother and sister-in-law were terrified. My biggest concern was getting enough sleep with a baby in the house. Wrong concern…
You see, the 1 year old slept perfectly fine for us. One clean diaper. One warm bottle. A half hour of cuddles. Voila! One sleeping baby. The first night was a bit tough, and thank God for Eric’s patience. He discovered that the white-noise of the dishwasher was enough to put the baby to sleep, so he stood against the counter for an hour rocking. He totally earned good husband points.
The 5 year old…not so much. Why didn’t anyone inform us that he has nightmares? Why didn’t anyone tell us that he was taught that M&M’s before bed will alleviate nightmares? (NOTE: We did NOT succumb to this. Eric wittily told him carrots do the job even better!) Why didn’t anyone inform us that when he crawls into bed with you at 1am that he will secretly be awake and poke and kick you all night? Why didn’t anyone tell us that he will get up every 5 minutes—slamming doors, screaming, and waking up the baby we just worked an hour to get to sleep? Why didn’t anyone tell us that one night he has to leave his light on, and one night he has to leave it off, and one night he has to watch TV for two hours, and one night he has to leave the TV on all night…
The first morning, Eric went to wake him up, and he was kneeling on the edge of his bed, wide-eyed, bouncing:
Michael: “Uncle Eric, I can’t get back to sleep.”
Eric: “Umm, it’s time to get up buddy.”
Michael: “Aww, man. I didn’t get to sleep at all.”
Thankfully, the facility where they live had daycare available, and oldest child was in school all day. This gave Eric time to work, and me time to sleep, and clean, and scrub baby drool out of my hair. When we picked the kids up the first day, we provided them with the first clue of a scavenger hunt. The hunt took them through all of the “normal” things they would do anyway-snack, dinner, ready for bed-but they didn’t even realize it cause it was so fun. One stop on the hunt was the “Mat Room”—a big room filled with mats that the children can play in during a rainy day, which was good, cause we had a few of those.
(like brother, like brother…Jake just started walking, so he was still in the “zombie” walk stage)
(I’m pretty positive that I wasn’t yelling, or discipling here. Drama queens!)
After running and playing, Michael told us that his legs hurt, to which Eric replied, “It’s probably just growing pains. You’re getting bigger.” Umm…apparently we have a little Peter Pan on our hands. A temper tantrum ensued with screams of “I don’t want to get bigger.”
Later that evening, we put together a weekly plan of activities that the kids wanted to do, and also give them some sort of structure in an unstructured situation. We wrote down the activities that we supported on index cards, and then let the kids choose a few of their own to write down.
Some of our ideas: Some of the kids’ ideas:
Dave and Buster’s Bike ride
Krazy City Play on the playground
Shopping Movie Night
Ice Skating at Rockefeller Plaza Cheeseburgers for dinner
Okay…kids are seriously deprived of the simple things in life nowadays. When they define a “special event” as going on a bike ride, something is wrong with the world.
(Even Jake had an idea.)
So what did we end up doing? Well, we played on the playground a lot. Until Michael fell down and screamed so loud someone almost called an ambulance. No, he wasn’t bleeding. No, he did not bruise. Yes, the playground is padded.
We also went ice-skating. Not at Rockefeller, but at the local mall. There was no way in Hades we were taking Peter Pan on the subway, and my brother forgot to leave the baby snuggy carrier thingy out. That baby was heavy. We also ate at Johnny Rockets, and Eric, Bailey, and Michael finished dinner with a HUGE ice cream sundae. Jacob and I shared an organic baby cookie. Yum.
The next night we stayed in and had breakfast for dinner. We put blankets and pillows on the floor, and changed into our “favorite pajamas” right after school. We’re sooo sneaky. Everyone was ready for bed by 6:30, and they didn’t even realize it. We were attempting to play board games, but Bailey (the 8 year old), and Eric (the 24 going on 6 year old) wanted to play Monopoly. Michael wanted to play Candy Land. Jacob wanted to play Whack-a-Mole. I wanted to sleep. So, Jacob and I read a book and played Whack-a-Mole, and Eric, Michael, and Bailey played Mario Kart on Wii. Which led to mucho-mucho tantrums, and I stepped in and turned it off. Eric refused to let Michael win. Which I agree with to an extent, but he wasn’t used to it. “My daddy always lets me win! He’s the loser.” Oh, that’s pleasant. Seriously—take note now family and friends—do not buy my possible future children video games.
(Look, even the baby isn’t too fazed by the tantrums anymore. But there’s always some brother & sister love going around.)
(No Game Night is complete without Eric kicking someone’s butt in Monopoly.)
Thursday night, all hell broke loose. All of the girls realized they had caregivers, who probably didn’t know the rules. Some convoluted story got developed to where they were all staying all night at someone’s house. Umm, nope. School night. Cue teenage angst from 8 year old. Many whispers and phone calls later, I discovered they were all planning to get together to watch Twilight, because someone’s grandma was too out of the loop to realize it is not an 8 year old’s movie. Bailey demanded that I call her mother, so that she could ask permission, who surprisingly gave in. Cue temper tantrum from 5 year old because he didn’t get to go. Cue screams from 1 year old because he got woken up. Cue anger from caregivers at parents.
The rest of the week, instead of letting Bailey go to her friends’ houses, we invited the girls over. So now, we had 7 children in our care. Glutton. For. Punishment. Out of this whole arrangement, Eric got volunteered to drive one of the girl’s non-English speaking grandmother grocery shopping. Eric doesn’t speak Spanish. This also happened to be my birthday, so he wanted to pick up a few items to surprise me with. He checked out with a pooping baby card, a pot of azaleas, and menstrual pads. Gotta love a guy who manly enough to pick those up-without even being asked to do so. Needless to say, I think he creeped out the grandma.
The girls had a good time, though. We did crafts. We had fun. Might I add that in my book, this is a perfectly fun 8 year old activity? In fact, Bailey and Michael gave up a trip to Krazy City to go to Michael’s and buy more craft supplies. We went through 1,000 popsicle sticks in 24 hours.
Eric built a Viking ship. Then painted the bottom red to channel his inner Louboutin.
Eric’s boat led to the kids wanting to make boats and have a boat race, which we did in the bathtub.
We did have one traumatic experience. Buzz Lightyear died. Yep. Michael is obsessed with Toy Story, and that’s putting it lightly. He took Buzz to school with him because it just so happened to be Buzz’s birthday. (Eric and I spent the morning going to Dunkin’ Donuts to buy a ceremonious birthday donut for him.) Before lunch, Michael’s class went to the playground, and then we went straight to the cafeteria. So, Buzz got locked in the classroom, and died of starvation right there in Michael’s cubby. Michael was so distraught that he put his head down and cried all through lunch, and refused to eat anything (although he did want ice cream at the last minute-yeah right, buddy!). While sad, Eric and I did delight in the fact that we spent the afternoon eating the birthday donut…But wait! It was an Easter miracle. When we picked Michael up from school, Buzz was alive! And Michael had no recollection that Buzz ever died. Crapt… we had to go buy another birthday donut.
Overall, we had a wonderful time, and I don’t think the kids had as much fun as they thought they were going to. That’s what makes us know we did a good job! Eric learned the time-out rule-age +1, after putting Michael in time-out for like half an hour. At least he got his first taste of discipline. I learned that I have no patience for screaming children, but can take teenage angst with a grain of salt.