You would think after years of watching minors that I would know all of their tricks. The popular mantra, “you can’t out trick the trickster” has only applied to me under very limited circumstances. Certainly, not during my adventures in watching minors.
Lil’T passed kindergarten with flying colors. She knew how to tie her shoes and could write her own name. I missed the graduation ceremony but I wanted to spend some time with Lil’T and her brother. I needed some entertainment. I had the pleasure of baby-sitting her while her parents celebrated Father’s Day. It seemed odd to me that they would select Fathers’ Day as an excuse to visit a four star hotel and not their anniversary. That is, until I realized that their anniversary fell on my birthday and I am generally unavailable to baby-sit on that day. I have learned that not too many of their friends and relatives agree to baby-sit for both children at the same time. I was happy to oblige. Due to the heat, I demanded that the event take place in their air conditioned home. My instructions were to pick them up from their grandmothers and take them to the house. My cousin arranges this hand-off scenario all of the time. By taking shifts they can maximize the amount of time of their vacations or trips without overburdening any one relative.
As a single woman with no children, I am always amazed at that state of their house. Each time I visit, I check the white furniture in the living room. I still cannot believe that the set has not be replaced by something darker. The kitchen never looks the same twice. It reminds me of a kitchen in a group home. Everything cabinet and cupboard had a lock including those above the counter. I stared at the lock on the refrigerator for a few minutes. There are, of course, the tell-tale signs of a family with children which consist of school lunch menus and pictures held by color magnets on the fridge. I pull the door handle and find it tethered by some kind of lock. It resembled one of those locking ties that SWAT teams use to subdue prisoners. Seeing it on the door handles of the refrigerator prompted me to call my cousins during their romantic getaway. He explained to me that Trey did not permit himself to be hungry for long. It was his habit shout, “I am hungry” just once. If there was not response to his within the next few moments he would take matters into his own little hands. I was warned to leave any food sitting on the counters, to confirm that the pantry was closed and to reattach the tie on the fridge. I thought that the arrangements seemed extreme for a 3 year old.
I learned a very important lesson that babysitting adventure. I should not attempt to watch minors when I am learning a new knitting or crochet technique. I often take my needlework with me when I sit for my cousin. Usually, I am working on something simple and mindless. Something that I do not have to mind every few stitches. On this occasion, I brought an intricate pattern to the house to practice. I regret to admit that I watched the project develop more than I watched the children. Instead of cooking dinner, I bought a pizza and set the table. I instructed the Kindergartner graduate and the preschooler to eat the pizza while I continued to knit in the adjoining room. After about five rows, I checked on the children.
The pizza box had one slice remaining. I looked at the children and their little stomachs, briefly wondering – just for a moment – if they really ate 9 slices of cheese pizza. The trash can had at least three half eaten slices in it. I should off my confusion and cleaned the food mess that they made for me. All night long Lil’T kept asking me about my knitting project. But not in the manner in which one would expect. She would simultaneously ask me what I was making and guess at the same time.
“Are you making a blanket.“
“No,” I would respond without looking at her.
“Are you making a hat?”
“No,” I would answer.
Finally she asked, “What are you making?”
“I am making a sweater,” I looked at her and waited for a response. This seemed to satisfy her curiosity until the next time she asked. It took me a few times but I soon learned that it was a game. The series of three questions and two random garment guesses went on all night long until she complained of a stomach to avoid going to bed. I had not noticed her pattern of questions while I studied the instructions for the sweater pattern. Despite this, I would not be tricked into delaying her bedtime. I have her a glass of warm milk and sent her to her room.
The next morning, I laid in bed waiting for the children to collect me to make their breakfast. I know that this is an unconventional practice. Most parents make breakfast for the children before they awaken. Being a baby-sitter, I waited for the children to rise before I would. When I opened my eyes and checked the clock on my cell phone, I read . I was shocked that the children had not wanted breakfast. Then I remember my cousin’s warning.
I leapt up the stairs and headed for the kitchen. Nothing was out of place. The refrigerator had not been toppled over. The trash though it needed to be emptied looked the same as it had the night before. I imagined that the children were starving. I asked Lil’T, “are you hungry?” She answered in the negative. I searched for her brother. I found Trey chewing on something in his mouth. I asked him about the contents of his mouth and he laughed at me. The mischievous Lil’T matter of fact informed me that they had eaten pizza. Since I had not put away any leftover pizza, I asked her to explain. She shared with me that they had saved several pieces of pizza for their parents. When I pressed to know where the pizza had been saved both children smiled at me silently. Apparently the resourceful children has chosen to eat their stashed pizza rather than wake me to make breakfast. I really did not want to know where the hiding place had been.
Had I not been so preoccupied by my own kitting affairs, I would have accounted for the horded sliced. I vowed never to baby-sit while tackling a new needlework project again. When my cousin arrived home and I explained to him the shenanigans that had occurred in this absence, I referred to me as the “Substitute” while he checked his home for damages. He felt that we should not have agreed to baby-sit at his home since the children were on familiar territory and would use their tricks to avoid their regular routine. Instead of accusing me of not bathing the children properly, he smelled them and then checked the moisture level of their wash cloths. Trey passed the inspection. Lil’T on the other hand proved to be an adept trickster. I had observed Trey bathing himself, his competency in handling the soap and wash cloth led me to believe that his older sister would be able to bath herself alone. I was wrong. We determined that she merely splashed water around for 20 minutes using neither a wash cloth nor soap. At the time of her bath, I had asked her about the dry washcloth. For some reason, I accepted her explanation of “I didn’t need a wash cloth, I used the soap.” I attribute my failure to recognize the antics of a trickster to my preoccupation with the sweater that I was knitting. Once again, I had failed another of God’s lessons.