Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Art of Babysitting

As Yogi Berra would say, this was deja vu all over again.

It was February of 1981. A first time father was left with the task of babysitting his then 6 week old son. It was his first attempt at flying solo as a parent.

Pacing the floor in the "P" line 5th floor apartment, his debut was a disaster. The baby cried and all the tricks he knew, which were almost none, proved futile. This was so much harder than advertised.

A frantic call was made to the dance studio where the new mother was trying to exercise away the physical reminders of the last 9 months. The laughter on the other end of the phone was infuriating, and when the young father's words were repeated to the assembled, it was almost too much for him to bear. "Come home right now, and you are NEVER going out again".

Were it not for the efforts of a pregnant friend who lived down the hall, who knows whether the overwhelmed dad, or the marriage, would have survived.

Last night a now very much older, if not much wiser, man and his wife returned to that building. On the same "P" line but 2 floors higher, a 7 month child awaited. His parents knew not of the ghosts that lingered in these hallways.

The email from the baby's grandfather outlined the do's of the evening. Instructions were given on how to hold, where to go, what worked best. If all went according to this plan, there would be kicking of the arms and flailing of the legs in glee.

As if such assistance was necessary.

This was almost too easy a task, especially for two. Come up with something harder.

The first part of the evening went without hiccup. The 21st century pictorial of events forwarded to the anxious parents showed their son contentedly looking at the universe while at the pizza parlor, almost angelic in his interaction with his toys on the floor and, in the final piece de resistance, beautiful and quiet, sound asleep in his stroller. Along with this last photo was a self-congratulatory message: "We are good."

But then he woke up.

Where was the shut off button on this thing? Where was the pregnant neighbor down the hall? Where was that list of tricks the grandfather had sent?

Turn off the lights. Turn down the sound on the TV. Turn on the lights. Turn up the sound on the TV. Lie with him on the bed. Get up from the bed. Read him a story. Give him a little more bottle. Change his diaper. Rub his back.

What time was it and where were his parents?

Could that call possibly be made telling them to come home, and if they laughed would they be told that they were not going out again, NEVER, ever.

Finally, there was quiet. The young exhausted ward lay on the couch from back to front, his head ever so slightly leaning over the edge.

The key jostled in the hole and the front door opened slowly and quietly. The sight of their glorious young child resting peacefully, if slightly awkwardly, in such an unexpected spot, was almost overwhelming.

I couldn't tell them the tale of ghosts of 1981. I was just thankful that the dance studio long ago closed its doors.

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