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Friday, October 16, 2015

Worst. Babysitter. Everrrr...

Back in the 90's, I worked a couple of years at an alternative K-12 school in my college town. Most of the older kids who attended this school had had a hard time in public schools for one reason or another, so they were a demanding bunch, but the 3-6 year-olds in the Early Childhood Program where I spent most of my time were different. They were there because their parents were cool. Most of these parents led so-called 'alternative lifestyles' like living off the grid, having a religion that wasn't mainstream in Indiana, and/or being gay. 

It wasn't uncommon for me to be asked to babysit, so I spent many an evening hanging out with little ones in their homes. I've always had a way with kids... which is to say that I pretty much still am a kid myself in a lot of ways, so it's generally just good fun to play. Unless the kid is a twerp. But these kids were not twerps, so I genuinely enjoyed spending time with them. And things always went well... well, almost always. Which brings me to my spooky tale:

Worst. Babysitter. Everrrr...

Once we'd sent the parents off to their off-the-grid, earth-worshiping queer Halloween party (to which I secretly wished I was cool enough to have been invited), and Little Ben and his older brother Asher (who was six) and I had the house to ourselves, we convened with great gravity at the dining room table to map out our gameplan. 

We had only about an hour before their ungodly early bedtime, so the question at hand was not "what do we feel like doing" but "how can we wring the absolute most fun out of precious little time."

"Well, we have to play the tripping game," Asher said.

"Tipping Gay!" agreed Little Ben.

The tripping game was a brilliant piece of pedagogical methodology which I had developed on the playground at school in order to deal with the fact that the children would often attach themselves to my legs, sometimes two or three at once, which was well and good for those so attached, but made guard-dogging the rest of the herd rather difficult for me. Eventually I learned to recognize the determined look on the face of a child who was about to attach, and simply to reach out with my foot and quickly kick their little legs out from under them before they could get hold of me. They are so close to the ground already, you know, that no harm was done. In fact, they loved it. Everybody wanted to play. The entire class of twelve or so would run at me at once sometimes, screaming "Tripping Game!", and like the lithe ninja that I was in my early twenties, I would trip each and every one of them to the ground.

"Okay, tripping game," I told Asher and Little Ben. "Then what?"

"Hackey sack," said Asher.

"Right," I said, "Excellent. Tripping game, hackey sack, then..."     

"Storytime!" cried Little Ben.

"Right," I said.

On to business. I spent the next twenty minutes kicking the crap out of my two buddies in the basement. Then, when I judged them to be sufficiently bashed and bruised, I broke out my handy dandy little woven bag of beans and we spent another twenty minutes throwing and kicking that at each other. We were just tiring of bending over and picking up the hackey sack when Little Ben got confused and decided it was time for more tripping game. He came in low and hard for my leg just as I punted the hackey sack, and so he got punted too - in the face - with my shoe. 

"Tipping Gay," Little Ben explained through his fingers, which were clasped over his nose, from which blood was gushing.

I didn't know a three-year-old had so much blood in him. By the time we got the gory geyser to stop, we were up to our knees in a drift of red Kleenex in the bathroom. 

"Okay, storytime," said Asher.

As always, I spent the first half of storytime interviewing the audience regarding exactly what sort of a story they were after. I have always found that just a little persistence in pre-story questioning goes a long, long way in the making-it-up-as-you-go phase. In fact, a perfectly successful storytime can consist of nothing but a nice long set of questions about who's doing what when, where, why, and how. On this night of course, the audience was emphatic about the story being scary. As scary as humanly possible. 

"Will it have monsters?" This met with two unqualified yeses.

"Will anybody die?" Again, double yes.

We discussed the nature and inward and outward characteristics of the monsters in depth, and carefully laid out a plot, the course of which would see these monsters utterly destroy a well-developed, completely innocent, pure, and true hero. When we had arrived at a workable scaffolding for the story, we turned off most of the lights in the house, prepared a suitable sofa-cushion fort, and began. 

I proceeded to spin those kids a story so terrific and horrific that I managed to give myself goosepimples in the telling of it.

The story went over-length. Only when the hero was well and truly, totally, splendidly dead and the gleefully murderous monsters had danced a long, gruesome victory dance by flickering firelight did I put the kids to bed.

Eventually, the parents returned. They were wasted-drunk, so I just bid a quick goodnight and was on my way. No report of the evening's activities.

The End.

(As an afternote, when word got around in alternative-PTA circles that my idea of good supervision of children was to beat and bloody them and then frighten the wits out of them so fully that they had horrible nightmares and woke their poor, wasted parents in the wee hours, I found that the frequency of my babysitting gigs fell off a bit.)

Really The End.

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