On Friday night, I babysat four kids under the age of four in order to give my best friend a much-deserved night out. Since two of the kiddos were mine, I was feeling confident I could manage.
No, I was not drunk. I’m just a good friend.
After a successful dinner, the older kids were running around giggling like maniacs and it was pretty much the cutest thing ever. I fed the baby and he quietly fell into a milk coma: mouth slightly agape, face concentrated in slumber, a little hand wrapped around my thumb.
Baby boy was deposited in his bassinet, and the older kids’ and I headed upstairs for a potty break. When I flipped on the bathroom light, the bulb flickered and went dark. There was enough residual daylight streaming through the window, so I just made a mental note to remind my friend the bulb needed replaced, and didn’t think another thing about it. Hands washed, and we returned to the living room on the first floor.
When we got there, I noticed it was strangely quiet.
Hadn’t the TV been on?
My laptop was running on the battery, the kitchen light was off, and the radio was silent.
My first thought was that we were being stalked by a mass murderer who was waiting for nightfall to kill us. Naturally.
I recalled the dead bulb from upstairs and wondered if we had blown a fuse. I mustered all the courage I had and headed into the basement fully expecting to be taken out at the ankles as I descended the steps. Killers go for the Achilles heel, or so I’ve been told. The fuse box showed no signs of a short, so I sprinted back up the stairs like my life depended on it, because it did.
It wasn’t storming. There weren’t strong winds. WHY oh WHY was the power out?!
I started to sweat, but wanted to remain calm for the oblivious children who were playing trains.
“PUSSY!” my daughter yelled.
Don’t call me names! I’m frightened! I cried.
“That’s my Percy!” my son wailed, as he yanked Thomas the Tank Engine’s Percy away from his sister.
Simmer down, Stephanie. You’re the adult. Maintain control.
I needed flashlights.
I noticed a neighbor outside, so I stuck my fat head out the window and a little too desperately called to him, “Do you have power? Do you have any idea when it will come back on? Do you know I’m babysitting four kids all alone? That’s not an invitation to attack us.”
He confirmed that he was also in the dark, and had heard a substation exploded, and then said a bunch of other things I didn’t hear because the realization that a murderer wasn’t our biggest problem was dawning on me: pretty soon it would be pitch black in the house and what in the HELL was I to do with four kids and no electricity?
I would have been the first to die on the Oregon Trail.
Fortunately, the neighbor’s lovely wife brought a battery-powered lantern over for us: “You need this more than we do.” Her words were kind, her eyes said, “You’re so screwed.”
The kids and I put on our PJs and awaited the inevitable: the black-out.
I thought it best to be on the same level as the sleeping baby, so we made our way back upstairs, snuggled together and watched Madagascar on my laptop.
You got to move it, move it!
OK, this isn’t bad.
You got to move it, move it!
Everything was going swimmingly!
You got to—-
Until the DVD froze.
A slew of curse words flew into my mouth, but I swallowed them in the name of innocent ears. I re-started the movie. All was well.
Until the DVD froze. Again.
MOTHERFU—PIECE OF SH—SONOFA—
Again, I censored myself and began a creepy narration à la Caillou of my emotions: “Okay kids, I am feeling very frustrated right now. Does everyone know what frustrated means?”
Three small faces stared back at me, willing the return of their movie.
The movie was back. Order had been restored.
Until the laptop battery died.
I tend to sing when in a blind panic, so I proceeded with “I’m gonna lose it, lose it!” The children clapped along.
I explained through gritted teeth that I would be right back; I needed to retrieve the iPad from its spot on the couch downstairs. I positioned the little lantern in the hallway so that the kids wouldn’t be in complete darkness and I wouldn’t break my face falling down the steps. My daughter was none too pleased with this set-up, as I hadn’t obtained written consent to leave her side.
Taking the steps two at a time, I reached the iPad in record time, and immediately heard a BOOM! followed by wails.
The kids were not injured. The lantern was not so lucky.
My soon-to-be-2-year-old daughter had found a way to speak her truth. In an effort to impart her feelings of abandonment, she spiked the lantern to the ground like a football in the end zone at the Super Bowl, smashing it to pieces.
My son: “I wanna go home!!!!!”
My daughter: “Mummy no leave!”
My friend’s daughter: “So, is the movie over?”
My friend’s son: “Zzzzzzz…”
The stars must have aligned at that very moment, because this sad excuse for a Girl Scout was able to reassemble the lantern by the waning glow of a flashlight. Feeling pretty fly for a white guy, I popped my collar, tripped over a child, and put a Mickey Mouse game on the iPad.
What’s up now, electricity?
Finally, the kids’ increased yawns and incessant eye rubbing meant that sweet slumber would soon be ours. Eyelids fluttered, sweet voices quieted, and squirming bodies stilled. So…close…
I wish I could say that the rest of the evening was smooth sailing, but my daughter was a psychopath and when my friend and her husband returned home, as all parents will understand, their toddler interpreted their arrival as a green light to go bat shit crazy. I had done so well keeping everyone alive and stuff, and that’s what my pals came home to. Oh, well. At least they got a night out, right?
Like any good story, there is a moral here: an Apple (device) a day will keep the murderers away. You’re welcome.
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