Posted by: laughs4dads | November 15, 2010

Built-in Babysitters

There’s a stand-up comic named Rita Rudner who used to tell audiences why she was in somewhat of a hurry to get pregnant:  “I want to have children,” she would say, “before my parents are too old to take care of them.”

While it was never our intention to turn our parents into babysitters on any kind of regular basis, Barb and I did expect them to be a sort of baby hotel where we could drop Casey off on our way to vacations.  This expectation dissolved rather quickly, at least on one side of the family.  Early on, we left Casey with Barb’s father, Stanley, for about an hour, which would have been fine, if Casey had not woken up from her nap.  And cried. Stan looked a bit frazzled when we returned.  We decided not to leave Casey with him for longer periods of time.  Indeed, when we finally did leave Casey with my parents for a week, Stan came with us on vacation.

Now, let’s talk about my parents.  My mother happens to be one of the great neurotics of our time.  She is a nut for organization and scheduling.  For instance, in my parents’ kitchen, there was always a menu of the week’s dinners posted ahead of time.  This was intended less for notification than it was for my mother’s planning purposes.  Her entire life is so tightly scheduled that unexpected events can not only throw off one day, they can put her out of synch for a month, during which she will be a wreck while trying to get back on track.  Suffice it to say that the word “impromptu” exists in her vocabulary only as a concept to be dreaded.

My father, on the other hand, was a very calm man who was mostly unaffected by things that went on around him.  This was because he was mostly unaware of what was going on around him, due to a hearing impairment which he had turned into as much of an asset as a handicap, once he discovered that a hearing aid could be just as useful tuning people out as tuning them in.

Here’s how a typical conversation would go between my parents and me:

ME: The baby’s really walking now.
MOM: Oh, I can’t wait to see.
ME: Speaking of which, why don’t you come up Friday instead of Sunday?
MOM: We can’t.  We’re having blintzes Friday night.
ME: So make blintzes Sunday night.
MOM:  Oh, er, uh, why do you do this to me?
DAD: So when do you think the baby will start walking?

It was with these two people that we left a six-month old baby while we went on vacation.  The results were predictable.  It was over a year before they would take Casey again (presumably, it took my mother that long to get back on schedule).

This time, they stayed at our house for a weekend.  We thought this would be easier, since Casey would be in comfortable surroundings (and besides, she could no longer be adequately contained by a Porta-crib).  My mother, however, leaves her natural habitat only with extreme reluctance and, most likely, a vial or two of Valium.

In order to relieve her anxiety, I promised to write down a few pertinent facts, like how to work all the appliances, directions to places, Casey’s schedule, the rules (as best I understood them) to some of her games, lyrics to the songs she liked, and a glossary of her budding vocabulary.  This turned out to be a thirteen-page document which, I’m afraid, had the opposite of the desired effect on my mother. 

“Here’s everything you need to know,” I said proudly, presenting the neatly-bound volume.

“My God,” she said, leafing through the pages, “I’ll have to put on my reading glasses every time I do something!”

“Did you write down everything we need to know?” asked my father.

Upon our return, my mother seemed surprisingly calm.  We found out later this was because Casey had uttered the word “grandma.”



  1. And she turned her on to chocolate, despite our explicit instructions not to give her any solid food besides a frozen bagel!

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