Adventures in Babysitting – Saturday
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My weekend in slices:
Saturday Night was was Skating Night at BonaVenture Family Center, which is really just a Pee Wee Rave without the E.
The boys wanted to go skating. We’d done the educational thing, we’d eaten a heavy lunch, we’d taken naps, so you bet, let’s kill that stored up nap energy at an arcade. Oldest Nephew (11) had even dressed for the occasion and looked rather fly in a grey tracksuit with matching shoes. Being the self-sufficient one, he got himself some blades and he was gone, wheeling around the floor, hopping off to rest, socially interacting. He’ll be a smooth one, but still respectful and polite.
Middle Nephew (5) will not be skating and stuck his hand out for money. It was something we’d been working on that weekend, asking instead of demanding, and just like that the lessons were out the window. Must have been the jungle rhythm, of Justin Beiber. Didn’t matter to me, I don’t carry cash as a rule, but Dear Huband (DH) being the nice one took him over and got $7.00 worth of tokens. Middle Nephew got 30 tokens, and made a beeline to those machines that spit out tickets when you do stuff – could have been injecting trapped junkies with meth for all I knew. My only job was watching the coats and Wee Nephew (18 months). Not more than 10 minutes later, Middle Nephew was back with several strings of tickets, his apparent hard-earned game booty. DH mentioned something about the kid having a gambling problem. I started straightening the tickets.
Oh – don’t touch those BECAUSE NOT MINE! There was some kind of fury, like I’d shredded his favorite blanket and he was never going to forgive me (that’s another story). I couldn’t tell him I wasn’t stealing his tickets because NOT MINE and NO LOGIC CENTER WHEN YOU’RE FIVE, so I let him snatch his stupid little tickets so he could cram them into the stupid counting machine and take off for the Redemption Counter to buy his stupid prizes.
All the crap you’re not allowed to buy in souvenir shops is for sale at the Redemption Counter – blinking pacifiers (for your budding rave kid), blinking bunny ears (for your budding rave Playmate), plastic porn moustaches (I can’t even go there), and all manner of cheap, penny and nickel crap that kids can buy with their own tickets obtained from games played with their parents’ money. Middle Nephew came back five minutes later with exactly 4 peppermint candies. $6.00 of tokens for 4 candies I could have swiped for free from any reception area in the country.
Having spent all but one of his tokens, he stalked games with that doubloon for almost 2 hours, watching other kids play, seeing how the other games worked, and he finally settled on an air hockey table. He even managed to con some other kid into playing with him. Little kids can do that – give you big eyes and insist your place is secure in Puppy Heaven if you help them out. We’re all suckers like that. Middle Nephew lost his air hockey game, but he put up a good fight, and felt good enough to beg for more money. DH was tapped, so he loitered around the table, probably hoping someone would take pity and hand him another token. I like to think he’ll become a heavy at that table when he gets older and hustle kids for their tickets to feed his peppermint habit.
We ordered pizza reminiscent of the seasoned rounds of cardboard found in the finer Italian carryout restaurants. Of course, Middle Nephew had just unwrapped a peppermint and popped it in his mouth. When you’re that little every item between the teeth and teeth resembles a poorly concealed medicine ball. I handed him a Styrofoam cup and told him he’d have to spit out the candy to eat his pizza. He gave the five-year old equivalent of “My dear woman, surely you jest.”
I gestured to the cup, “your mint should go in here, otherwise your pizza will taste yucky.” Speaking their language – I’m so on top of the lingo. Again the incredulous look – like I was really going to steal his slimy, cootie-infested candy. I gave up and handed over a piece of pizza. He either agreed with me or experiment led to experience because I found that mint later, abandoned in a cup.
Then Middle Nephew decided he wanted to skate. I’d been warned by his older brother that Middle Nephew wasn’t a skater, but I’d been yelling at him all day so I gave in. Over to the counter, hand over a shoe, back to the table to lace. Shoving little kids’ feet into stiff roller skates is like squeezing your hand through a cuff collar you’re too lazy to undo the buttons on. Also he had this cut on his foot he was super proud of but it hurt when he walked on it (allegedly) and it hurt more when shoved past the boot leather. We wiggled, he whined, we finally got the laces in the holes and tightened when the announcement came –
“It’s time for that game where we take our skates off and run across the floor like lemmings heading for the cliffs!”
Our eyes met. Middle Nephew looked at me with big brown eyes, wide and expectant (“Get ’em off now! Run! Play! Freedom!”). I shook my head (Really, dude? Do you hear my knees disintegrating?). He began to cry (“My life is an endless series of crushing disappointments”). A part of me died (“Achievement unlocked: make a five-year old-cry”). I undid five minutes of my life and told him to go win even if it meant poking out someone’s eye. It was some game where kids run acoss the floor in their stocking feet and bigger kids attempt to hit them with pool noodles. Occupy BonaVenture? He didn’t win, but he took his defeat well. The game continued and it gave me time to redo his skates and by the time we were finished, skating had resumed.
Ten minutes past before I saw him again. He was clinging to the wall for dear life, inching along the rail as if there was a 100 drop to dragons and spiders and brussel sprouts. Middle Nephew said something I couldn’t hear over the music and his speech, which is a cross between English and Ancient Nubian, but pointed at a kid scooting by something that looked like a kid-sized walker on wheels. I’d seen those things at the skate rental and they wanted something like a pint of blood and four ounces of my liver. As I am an anemic drinker, I gently encourage Middle Nephew by saying he was doing great and I’d almost missed him he was going by so fast. Whatever, I’m not a nurturer.
I don’t know how he got off the floor but five minutes later he was back at the air hockey table, watching two bigger kids play. In the interest of full disclosure, I never lost track if him, and when the Husband panicked, I pointed in either the direction of the duck shoot game or the air hockey table. We closed the place, shoehorned everyone back into the car and headed home for more arguments, baths, pajamas, and only 20 minutes of convincing the baby that sleep was totally in his best interest.
So, parents do this all the time and we still have a surplus of people?