The Backseat Babysitter

My latest adventure has not been one of mountains or waterfalls but revolves around a four letter word that my non existent boyfriend doesn’t want to hear come out of my mouth. Baby. As in one of those things you have to feed and nurse and shit. I hope someone can learn from my Hell Week.

Now right about now you might be wondering what the heck babies have to do with travelling? Though I do know quite a couple fierce momma road warriors, but I am not one of them. And after this week the next time someone asks me if I plan to have children the answer will no longer be “maybe”. I am not a person of large means so it’s not uncommon for someone to ask how I can afford to travel. I can’t, not really. But I do know how to use the internet. Which is how I ended up with this baby on my lap.

I’d been scrolling the gigs section of craigslist for… anything. You can’t be picky when your only other option is to hold up a sign. I’ve done everything from weeding to cleaning to serving and occasionally I’ve picked up some entirely new skill. For instance last year I learned how to power wash a house. I only found two available gigs that fit my bill. One landscaping gig moving small rocks, which I did not land on account of having a vagina. This happens often. And an ad for a short term babysitting gig a couple of times a week (this turned into all week).

It’s not like I’ve never nannied before but it’s been a while since I watched an infant. A long while. I practically raised my nephew until he was two years old. Okay, so it’s been more than a decade.I was honest over the phone and in person that I most of my experience was with toddlers and elementary aged children. Somehow I still landed this position.

It was arranged that my employer would kill two birds with one stone. I would babysit three times a week at the child’s grandmother’s house. Her mom is going through some medical issues and needs help cleaning and doing laundry which I would be paid additional for. I would be a bit more of an all around helper than just a babysitter. Oh and did I mention this woman also hooked me up with a side cleaning job for her Air BnB business. I had just managed to get three jobs through one person and a craigslist ad within 24 hours of arriving in town. I almost felt bad about my success in a city where locals are struggling to find a steady job.

I digress. I was told her mom lived on the outskirts of Asheville so it would be closer to where I was staying. A week later I found that the outskirts of Asheville were goddamn the outskirts of Asheville.. I had been expecting to be in the burbs but I drove straight into farm country. Candler is just a town over but a world away. The house is located on a hill in a picturesque scene of rural North Carolina. Complete with a giant frosty the snowman and a donkey. Yup, a donkey. His name is Bobo. “Now I’m in North Carolina,”  I thought on the drive. A couple hours later I found myself petting Bobo and entertaining my charge while the cows mooed.

Things started off somewhat smoothly. Grandma and I chatted while she fed him his breakfast. We recapped my responsibilities and what days I would be coming to help. And then it slowly devolved from there. First off let me say Grandma is awesome. She wanted me to make myself at home and ordered me to take or do whatever I wanted. She made me lunch and frowned at me when I swore I was full and didn’t need want seconds. Later in the week I helped her bake Christmas treats and she taught me some new tricks. Knowing that I won’t be with my family on Christmas she’s even saving me a dish from her holiday dinner. She thanks me for everything and says I’ve been a huge help. But Grandma, is a backseat babysitter.

Like I said, it’s been a while. And in those years while my nephew has gotten to a height that is taller than my 5’7″ I have gotten rusty. I have been in some pretty sketchy places and done some extraordinarily insane things in my life but babies scare me more than anything. I’m scared their gonna hit their head on the end table, or trying to crawl under the end table, or pull the entire end table and the lamp crashing down. So admittedly that first day I was a bit timid. Okay, I was really timid. I wanted to take my time doing everything.

“This is how you do it”, she snatched the cloth from my hand and smushed his face clean with she the wet cloth. She wasn’t wrong about that. Don’t get me wrong. Nana has 7 grandchildren. She totally knows best. However being that this was my very first interaction with the child I wanted my introduction to be gentle. “This is how you do it” became the theme for the day. I spent the next couple of hours turning him around every time he crawled towards something that meant trouble. I soon learned this was the dog I food, the water bowl, the Christmas tree, the metal Christmas themed train set, and the decorative chimney cover with a snowman that stuck out just enough to capture his attention all day. Basically everything in the room house.

Nap time was the worst. This is the first time anyone that wasn’t family had taken care of him and he didn’t want to nap with this new stranger. No, he wanted to show how strong and awake he was. I wanted to let him wear himself out for a while before I tried again but found myself directed to try a plethora of angles and sleeping positions while he cried. I was rescued by his older brother. His teenage brother took him to cuddle after it was apparent that I failed on all levels. Just as he was falling asleep grandma decided that maybe he should just have lunch first. It went a lot smoother after lunch. Mainly because his brother took him again and he fell right asleep. When he woke up again we visited grandma’s donkey who was penned up with some of the neighbor’s cows. I learned a bit about what the livestock liked for treats. The baby was happy therefore I was happy. And then I smelled his diaper.

His mother had warned me that he was a roller. Unfortunately I can’t use the same burrito towel method I use on my cat. Changing this child’s diaper was hell. Grandma suggested I let him have the bottle or a toy to play with. This helped for about five seconds before he wailed like I was the scariest monster he’d ever seen.  His cries get even louder when it comes time to put his clothes back on.  The alligator roll is my birth control.

Things went smoother for most of the week. It turns out you actually have to care about babies. They have built in lie detectors that know when your affections aren’t genuine and they will make life hell for you until you love them. On Wednesday he was calmer and on Thursday he was a complete angel. I patted myself on the back. I’m getting good at baby training. But today. Today was the absolute worst. Because at this point I knew how to handle Mr. Cranky Pants. And while I was dealing with a 9 month year old’s ultimate temper tantrum the last thing I needed was grandma yelling out across the house every time the kiddo cried for more than three seconds. Which you can imagine can be quite often in 8 hours. Twice today as I struggled to get him to nap she insisted  that grandma would succeed better and to “bring him here”. Not only was I pissed cause she had yelled and caused me to disrupt him while his eyes were on the verge of closing but I also knew she was biting off more than she could chew.  With her current handicap but I indulged her as I lacked the energy to quarrel with her.

“Asshole,” as she called became more riled the minute she took him. She had one idea after another until I had to firmly tell her I was doing otherwise. She would not be creating additional burdens on me. Lunch time is now served promptly when she is napping so that I can feed him in peace. As someone who is passionate about food waste her insistence on opening several different items for him to take two bites each of was grating my every last nerve. Nevermind how hard it was to feed him with her constantly calling his name and focusing the attention on her instead of the hand with the spoon in it.

To top it all off twice this week I was informed halfway through the day, that I was needed to stay late. I was not asked.  After the first time it happened I kindly informed my employer that she needed to let me know beforehand so I could make times to do errands.  The next day she repeated that error and I missed a food pantry because  of it. This has probably been my biggest pet peeves with babysitting as a gig and it is a common one. Parents oftentimes don’t respect the schedules of their caretakers. To top it off I was paid for the week today and did not receive any extra for the additional time that was outside of our initial arrangement. I received some lavender perfume as a Christmas gift but I’d rather just have the thirty bucks I am due. I am a traveler afterall, I ain’t got room for a perfume box that might have been regifted cause who the hell still falls for that shit? That will be a discussion for next week.

So with my arms hurting from all the lifting, my head killing from the crying, my heart level racing from dealing with grandma all week. I am absolutely ecstatic to have the next week off of grandma duty and to be snuggling with the dogs I am watching. I like dogs better. 

Until next week.

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