Best Friend's Baby
One consequence of being a parent is that other parents call you when they
need someone to baby sit for them in a pinch. Its what scientist
call a symbiotic relationship; I watched your kid, youre gonna watch
mine. Theres a delicate balance to maintain in this kind of
relationship. Invariably the call to watch someone elses baby
comes Friday afternoon just as Im about to make big plans for the
weekend...Who am I kidding? The only way I make big plans for the
weekend is if I call them before they call me.
Were going out of town for two days, my best friend says over the
phone. Can you watch Molly for us?
I smile to myself. My best friends baby is his dog.
Well take good care of her, I say with all the gravity I can
muster. My friend is one of those people who doesnt have any
human children of his own but who is willing to watch mine. In fact,
he actually thanks me when I let him watch Skylar. Thats
why Im not printing his name. I dont want any unscrupulous
parents cutting in on my Good Thing until Ive milked it dry.
Other than Molly has four legs and a tail sharper and deadlier than a
Ginsu knife, an outside observer would hardly be able to tell that this
wasnt your garden-variety baby-handoff. First, he drops her off
with her own toys and food. We parents seem to think we have to
account for every moment of entertainment and nourishment while were
gone. Second come the rules. No canned food with her kibble
and dont feed her at the table. This illustrates the wonderful
tolerance parents have for each other. No judgment is made about
whether or not Ive screwed up my kids by feeding them at the
table, but Im certainly not to take that risk with his child.
I negotiate to find my limits.
Can I give her cookies?
My best friend briefly considers this. I have done right in
consulting him first. Okay, he allows.
The third stage is the long goodbye. And, just like a baby, Molly
doesnt understand a word he says to her. Ill be back
soon, he says as he walks out the front door. A baby would barely
wait until the door shut before starting into a four-hour crying fit.
Molly sits and stares at the door without moving until dinner.
Are you hungry? I ask her.
She stares at the drab pellets I offer her. I can see that Molly would
rather have something other than the same dinner shes had four hundred
and fifty-seven times before. While I eat, she watches with longing
boxer eyes as I give handouts to my two dogs but none to her. I am tempted
to give her something...no, no, I promised, I tell myself. So I grab
my almost empty plate, put a few bits of meat on it, and lay it down on
the floor in the other room. Im not feeding her at the
table, I explain to Rebecca. After all, the important thing about
stand-in parenting is following the rules as closely as you can.
Molly, it turns out, is not the sweet, behaved young darling weve
always seen at my best friends house. She doesnt listen at
all, jumps on the kitchen door, and loves to rough-house at 2am.
Once she saw where all the cookies came from, she stood vigil there until
she was able to attract Skylars attention and show him which drawer she
wanted him to open. As Skylar opened the drawer, he squealed with
delight and proceeded to throw cookies across the kitchen. This
became his obsession. Every time he found himself on the kitchen
floor, he motored over to the drawer and began to empty it. And
every time Molly was right there with him.
Finally, Mom, Mollys other parent, arrives to take her home. She
says the obligatory, I hope she wasnt any trouble, and I answer,
just as obligatorily, No, none at all.
Mom looks at the full food jar. She wasnt hungry, was she?
I guess she missed you, I say.
The truth is, you just cant tell parents whats really happened while
they were away. They dont really want to know that their baby ate
forty-plus cookies in two days, because if I told them that, then Id
have to also tell them that it was their baby who was the one who egged my
baby into learning how to make a supreme mess that resulted in that
Its times like these when I wonder what theyre not telling me about
what Skylar does when I not around.
Im most thankful I wont ever find out.