Let us turn our attention to the task of babysitting with triplets. I had that opportunity last week when I went to Arkansas where two of my sons live. The son and daughter-in-law with the 3-year-old triplets and two older girls hadn’t had a break for a while, so I told them I could hold down the fort for a couple of days.
Speaking of forts, the siege of the Alamo lasted only 90 minutes, but I was confident I could last longer. I said I could handle the kids most of one day, all of another and then part of another. I think it was 51 hours in all.
I already had lost one of the triplets the day before when I was babysitting for just a bit. We were all in the upstairs playroom, and then Quinn ran out. I followed no longer than two minutes later and couldn’t find her anywhere in the house. Anywhere.
I checked in every room and closet, all of which are locked with child-proof locks that I struggle to open. The garage door was still down and the front door’s deadbolt lock was intact. I went back upstairs to find the other two hiding from me in the tepee, but no Quinn.
I went back and repeated my search and started praying. Then I started yelling, “Grandma has candy! Do you want candy, Quinn?” No answer. I prayed harder.
Back at the tepee, I enlisted the two little tepee dwellers to help me find Quinn. I kept yelling promises of candy. And, yes, I was willing to give up several of the Dove chocolates my daughter-in-law had bought me.
In what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only five minutes, Quinn’s sister, Isla, yelled, “There’s Quinn!”
She was hiding and either asleep or pretending to be asleep under the big pillows on the couch. Crisis avoided, and I confessed to their mother later.
So Rule No. 1 in babysitting with trips, as we call them, is to never let any of them out of your sight. And that’s hard. What follows as a consequence is that you never sit down and you are constantly herding, which is usually as successful as herding cats.
Rule No. 2 is never take a bathroom break. I should have known this from my own experience in raising seven kids and the recent experience of a friend who was babysitting with one of her grandchildren. She waited until her bladder was about to burst and left the child building with blocks while she ran to the bathroom.
In her words: “I was only gone two minutes. Two minutes!! And when I got back, he had gotten into the refrigerator and broken nine eggs on the floor.”
In my case, I came back from the break to find the triplets eating the trash. They thought it was so funny! Isla has a laugh that clearly means, “I got you, Grandma!” The lock to the trash is broken, so they had opened it up and pulled out an almost empty hummus container. Quinn was sitting on the floor going at it with both hands, then licking it off her hands and arms.
The rule, of course, means you also can’t drink anything while babysitting. No Diet Dr. Peppers for you.
Rule No. 3 is to get up early and then collapse early. It helps to stay on Eastern Standard Time, so when you get up at 4 a.m., it is really 5, and when you collapse at 8 p.m., it is really 9, barely respectable times for those in their 60s.
Rule No. 4 is to keep everything valuable, breakable or messy behind a locked door or in a zipped plastic bag. Luckily, Luke loves a good container and if something isn’t locked or zipped, he insists it get done. I wonder at what age he will realize it is locked and zipped against him.
Rule No. 5 is to lower your expectations. My goal was to keep everyone alive, healthy, fed, unhurt and away from permanent magic markers. I successfully did that. I don’t think I taught them anything (except that they move faster than I do), nor did I impart any wisdom or teach them a usable craft or trade, but they were alive, healthy, fed, unhurt and unmarked by permanent ink when their parents returned.
Oh that’s right. Rule No. 6 should be that you keep pop-up books away from 3-year-olds. There actually was a fatality. Pop-up Elmo was ripped limb to limb and trunk from legs when I left the Elmo pop-up book out.
The way I look at it, he had a good run, and when babysitting with the numbers against you, the demise of Elmo wasn’t the worst that could happen.
Elzey is a freelance writer with the Register & Bee. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (434) 770-2473.