Proud Auntie pretends to be a parent, also known as babysitting

This Saturday, I watched my niece, known here affectionately as Smoochers, from about 3:30 p.m. until bedtime (just before 8 p.m.). I’m a card-carrying Proud Auntie, and the chance to spend a few uninterrupted hours with her was too good to resist. It was also a perfect opportunity to play “Pretend Parent”—a game non-breeders who are considering maybe one-day possibly having spawn of their own like to play with other people’s children.

3:30. On the nursery floor. Smoochers started crawling earlier this week, so we made a game of putting her favorite toys in different corners of the nursery. She crawled over to the drum—Bam! Bam! Bam!—and then crawled over to the inchworm that sings and wiggles, and then crawled over the to the toy that shoots colored balls out of the top and plays music. Everything a child owns seems to either make music, light up, or move. Or all 3. After about a half-hour of crawling, clapping, singing, and wiggling, I was tired. Like, bone-tired. I was out pretty late the night before, Friday nigh shenanigans as usual. I thought that taking an hour nap earlier in the day would’ve recharged my batteries, but I could tell I was fading fast.

Pretend Parent Lesson #1: A baby’s stamina can chew you down like a 9-month old with a teething toy. Every hour you spend with a conscious baby is like an hour of cardio kickboxing class.

4:30. Time for a walk. In Florida, the absolute worst time to be outside is between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. That said, those of us with orange juice and saltwater in our veins persist in exploring the blinding, scorching outdoors while the sun still beats down on the land. Knowing that a quick walk would reset my Snooze button, I plopped Smoochers in the stroller and headed out. We had a great time, looking at the trees and feeling the refreshing breeze cool our faces. (Smoochers lives with her parents further north than I do, and it actually is a few degrees cooler there.) But as I rounded a corner I noticed she’d gone very quiet. I peeked through the sun-shade and found she’d fallen asleep.

Pretend Parent Lesson #2: There is no greater brain-teaser than this: Do I let the baby sleep now and risk her not being tired later, or do I wake her up and risk her being overtired later?

I let Smoochers dream until we got back to the house, then I slowly woke her up. Because she is the most awesomest baby ever, she was delighted to be awake and instantly wanted to play. She played with her drum, her inchworm, her singing turtle, and the one that shoots balls out of the top. (That one’s my favorite, because the spring is way too powerful and the balls quite often fly out the tube and then drop in front of Smoochers—or land on her head. Both result in giggles from both of us.)

She bounced in her bouncy seat, she bounced on the floor, she bounced on my belly. She bounced until it was time for a bottle, and then she started to fall back asleep. Oh no, kid, I whispered to her, not yet. We finished her bottle in front of the TV, because Sprout is scientifically programmed to brainwash little minds into slave-like subservience. She could not look away. She could not sleep. She had to know what happened next on Kipper.

Pretend Parent Lesson #3: Sprout is your friend. I know you hate Thomas the Train and The Wiggles. Me too. Doesn’t matter, because your kid loves’em. Also, Kipper has the sweetest, strangest voice ever.

6:00. Bath time. This was my favorite part of watching the little raspberry. She loves her bath time. She was quiet and happy, and giggled every now and then and even reached for my face a few times. I kept dripping warm water on her and rubbing her pink skin, marveling at how wonderfully smooth babies are. We didn’t play games or sing songs, we just sat there and communicated. I talked, and Smoochers made faces and blew raspberries. She’s very good at blowing raspberries.

When she was done, I wrapped her up in her hooded towel and sang her favorite after-bath time song. It’s a silly song, but it makes her bark out her odd like grunting laugh…and that’s what I live for. I’ve found that when you are a card-carrying Proud Auntie, you have absolutely no shame…or dignity. I’ve found myself standing in the middle of a crowded store and busting out with Smoocher’s rump-shaker favorite “Bootie bootie bootie / Bootie to the left / Bootie to the right / Bootie Bootie / Bootie all night.” She laughs hysterically every time, and hers is the only laughter I hear.

7:15. Bedtime bottle. Bottle in front of the TV? Nope. Sprout had turned against me, prompting wiggles and giggles. When she wasn’t doing the Squeak-squeak-squeak with Chica, she was pulling herself up on the couch pillows. Climbing Couch Mountain, I called it. Cute, but not getting her any closer to dreamtime…or me closer to dinner.

Pretend Parent Lesson #4: Bite-sized food is not only good for baby; it is good for you, too. Bite-sized sandwiches can be scarfed down while Baby noms on organic prune-and-berry Puffs.

We gave up on Sprout and went into Mommy & Daddy’s bedroom, where Smoochers’ bed is, too. I laid her on her parents’ bed, stuck the bottle in her mouth, and leaned my head down so she could twirl my hair. She fell asleep when the bottle was empty, but would suck urgently if I tried to pull the nipple away. So we stayed like that for awhile. Okay, maybe actually this was my favorite part. Smelling her clean-baby smell, her fingers tangled in my hair, my cheek ever-so-gently brushing her belly.

8:00. Sweetbay sweet reward. Cold, roasted chicken (I don’t have time for ovens and I hate microwaved food), perfectly vinegary-y coleslaw, and a red potato salad. I tucked in to the grub, and once the food was gone and the dishes were done I settled on the couch to crochet a baby blanket for my nephew (I know, I’m a very blessed Auntie) and watch Law & Order SVU. I woke up when Mommy & Daddy came back.

5:00 a.m. Smoochers wakes up. Pretend Parent is a great game. I’m glad I get to play it with Smoochers. And I'm glad her mommy was home to wake up with her.

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