I know I got two kids of my own, but you’d have to be off your rocker to think I’d make a good babysitter.
In all the years with the kids, I think Minnie mighta left me alone with them a half-dozen times, usually for no more than an hour. Because the truth is, even when they were babies they could outsmart me.
When they were really little they’d howl and cry if Minnie was out of their sight, so I admit, I got off pretty easy in the lookin’-after-kids department. But it’s been a few years since our kids were really little, and I guess because Minnie did all the work, I seemed to remember takin’ care of them was pretty easy.
Which I guess is how I ended up volunteerin’ to babysit our neice Cathy’s little fella, Little Jim. What happened was, Minnie and Joan and Cathy were all goin’ to this wedding shower for somebody’s daughter they knew. Usually that would leave Little Jim home with Cyril, but Cyril picked up a weekend job drywallin’ a house in Scotchtown.
So the day before the shower, they were all talkin’ in the kitchen about how the baby’s father wouldn’t watch him that weekend (they’re on-again/off-again, and buddy’s a dink), so Cathy’d have to stay home from the shower.
G’waaaaay, I said. You drop him off here and he can spend the afternoon with Uncle Billy.
Really? Cathy said, right excited. That’d be great!
But I could tell by the way Minnie and Joan kind of exchanged a look they thought I didn’t know what I was gettin’ myself into.
Now, when Little Bill was young, he’d usually find some way to hurt me every day. Da? he’d say, and when I turned to look at him, he’d bonk me in the eye with one of his blocks, and I’d be rollin’ around on the floor cursin’ my face off and kickin’ the carpet while he laughed so hard he peed himself.
Another favourite he had, even when he was only three years old, was he’d look right worried, say – What’s that? and point somewhere I couldn’t see. As soon as I turned my head he’d haul off and punch me as hard as he could between the legs. Minnie would come in the room, find me on my knees, hands cupped to my crotch, throwin’ up, and she’d say – Did you get Daddy again? And the little bugger’d laugh like crazy.
So anyway, I figured all I had to do with Little Jim was make sure he didn’t throw anything at me or punch me in the bird and I’d be all set.
Cathy drops him off and they all head to the shower. Minnie told me – he can eat anything he wants, but don’t feed him any chocolate. It makes him right hyper. You got ‘er, I says.
For the first half hour we sit on the floor in the livin’ room and play with the big bag of dinkies he brought with him. You never met a kid so full of questions.
Where do cats come from? If I plant a pickle, will it grow into a pickle tree? Why does my baby toe got hardly any nail? Do you got somethin’ stuffed under your shirt or is that your belly?
And I’m answerin’ each question the best I can, and I don’t know if he’s used to people puttin’ him off when he asks about everything, but just the fact that I was answerin’ him, he seemed to think I was the smartest guy in the world.
I was gettin’ sore sittin’ on the floor, so I got up in the chair and told him maybe I could read him a story, since his mother packed a few story books.
I read all these books a million times, he said. But maybe I could ask you some questions about them.
Fire away, buddy, I told him, my chest kind of puffed out because he thought I was so smart.
OK, he says. Why don’t the three little pigs just all live in one house?
Well that’s a good question, I said. And I guess what happened was, I got so carried away with bein’ smart for a change that I came up with this whole big story about the pigs. I reclined the chair back and put my hands behind my head and I told him all about how one of the little pigs got a wicked stomach problem that gives him horrible gas, and another little pig works in a bank and is always flashin’ his money around, and the third little pig is always gettin’ into fights with people who say the Toronto Maple Leafs stink. And for good measure, I threw in this part where they got into a big fight at a bar one night because there was this girl pig they were all fightin’ over and the third one didn’t like how close she was dancin’ to the rich one and the cops were called and everything.
And the whole time I’m tellin’ this big story, Little Jim is drivin’ his favourite dinkie in a big loop – he goes around the coffee table, over by the front door, out into the kitchen, and then a few minutes later zooms back in around the coffee table again. Every once in a while he’ll pipe up with another question – Did the cops arrest the pigs?
And I guess it was while I was explainin’ about how one of the cops went to school with the rich pig’s father that Minnie and Cathy and Joan came back and found Little Jim sittin’ on the kitchen floor, movin’ his dinky back and forth on the floor to make a noise, with a chocolate cookie stuffed in his mouth and half the bag already gone.
I guess he didn’t sleep until Tuesday.