Spoiler alert: children, do not read
Because I have such a great track record as a nanny, my aunt and uncle enlisted my babysitting abilities a few weeks back. Whilst they spent some time on the beach, and went to Disneyland/world (which I know because they brought me back the best of Mickey shirts), I was large and in charge.
A&U have four kids – ranging eight years between them (an impressive feat if you ask me) – two teenagers, one in-between, and one still in single digits. And during the beach run (which is probably deserved every other week), I was to stay with, deliver, cook for, clean up after, and homework check their offspring – and other activities that come with watching kids who aren’t yours.
Throughout the almost week, I realized much of parenting is not sleeping and making kids hate you. “No, you can’t have that delicious Fruit Roll Up before bed,” “Yes it’s waking up time … already.” I was sucking the fun out of everything and I knew it. But hey, it was a school night and how could I let bad things happen on my watch?
I also realized that kids have social calendars that are more full than my own. Sports tournaments, parties, meetings, practices – and all on top of the homework and speeches they were to be writing.* In the city, “close” is 15-minutes away – long enough that’s impractical to drive there and back in an hour’s time. So what do I do while they’re bettering themselves? Sit around and wait like a chump? Yep.
It was a future glimpse into a life I feel unsure about.
Pants on Fire
My first night there, oldest girl cousin lost a tooth. Glittering with excitement, she asked for a plastic bag, popped in the tooth, and put it under her pillow.
And then I panicked. I’d never had to creep into a child’s room before, especially not to steal their body parts.
I texted my aunt for the going rate of a tooth these days, which is $1.50-$2. Had I had an even two dollars, it’d been hers. It would have actually been preferable, as dollars don’t cling. But, of course, my billfold netted the dollar fifty instead. We’ll call this mistake number one.
Mistake number two came from my being tired; I’d left at 7ish that morning to make the two-hour drive. (In self-employed days, that’s 4 a.m.) I wanted to sleep, not wait until it was quiet enough for tooth napping. So I waited until 10:30 and searched for the non-creaking parts of the stairs. She’d been in bed a solid two hours, what kid isn’t asleep by then? (Spoiler: one who’s waiting up for the tooth fairy.) I opened the door, brushed past the Justin Bieber/One Direction posters, and walked in.
Despite my stealth-ness, she was still awake. She saw me, jumped three feet, and I threw out a crap line about looking for the dogs.
It’s an event that likely plagued me as the creepy cousin who watches kids while they sleep … though she didn’t mention it the next day.
Round two couldn’t take place for hours, lest I become a cereal weirdo. An obvious lie might work once, but she’s 10; she’d either figure out the ruse, or have social services knocking at their burglar alarmed door. Instead I worked out a less idiotic lie: that the tooth fairy didn’t get the message since A&U were away, or that weather had altered the fairy’s flying routes. It was a real load of manure, but I needed an out in case the second attempt was just as awful.
After a night of not sleeping, I woke at a painful 5:30 for operation tooth fairy part B. I listened for the rhythm of sleep-breathing, assuming that, if she did wake, I’d say it was time to get up. (“What do you mean you sleep until seven? It’s 5:30 and you’re late!”) With the money glued to my hand (after an unfortunate clink), I stuck my hand under her pillow. Ninety seconds and an entire arm length later, I found the plastic baggie she’d been trained to place the tooth inside. (Best idea ever, aunt.) The pillow was moving, young cousin’s head jolted at my smallest movements, but she slept on. I made the transfer, and bolted as quickly as quiet could move.
It was the most terrifying event in my existence.
How do parents do this for each deciduous tooth? How did she not wake up while her pillow rotated? How did this uncouth practice of purchasing teeth come to be? (And what would anyone, especially a fairy, want with teeth?) Probably like any event that is solely based on lies, people become numb to the motion, blindly following through.
Though to be fair it’s not the lying I have issue with, it’s the nighttime creeping. Probably even that gets easier too. How else would the tooth fairly legend survived?
*As Macaulay Culkin once said, “Fractions, wolf.”