The Hillstroms from church needed a babysitter and my daughter couldn’t do it after all. She wouldn’t export her runny nose and annoying cough into the already stressed Hillstrom home.
Linzy was going to meet her husband Matt for marriage counseling, and their six active kiddos needed energetic supervision.
So I approached their country home, not knowing what to expect. I had never been there; never helped out. I was a little sketchy on all their names and I was out of my comfort zone.
First, we plunged into backyard hide-and-seek. Between games, we paused for show-and-tell breaks, like when Riley showed me his recent bow-and-arrow injury and Jojo pointed out the onions poking up in the garden. Then we returned to our crouched positions under the pine tree or behind the bikes in the shed. I huddled with the little ones, who squirmed and rustled and ruined the hiding places. Then we started all over again.
Suddenly, everyone grabbed their bikes, trikes and scooters and soared freely along the dusty, rural road. I strolled the baby, ready to redirect the parade if a car came along.
I employed my former public school teacher’s voice and relied on 20+ years of motherhood to cope with minor scuffles and occasional sibling rivalry.
“Linzy is a good mom,” I thought as I served the meal on the stove to her happy, helpful kids. The able dish-doers scaled a wooden bench to reach the sink and finish the cleanup.
Next, Annie informed me of the house bedtime rules with a serious, spaghetti-stained face:
“You read us stories. And we can snuggle with our blankets. And then we brush our teeth.”
As we wrapped up the bedtime routine, I thought:
“When was the last time I just played and read stories with my own children for 3 hours?”
It had been a busy, but pleasant evening.
When Linzy arrived home, I thought it was over.
But the next Sunday, I was assaulted with warm embraces and surrounded with sparkly smiles.
I was suddenly the famous, beloved babysitter of just one evening.
I had run around barefoot in the backyard.
I had read books and given hugs.
I had learned their names and the house rules.
And for these small things, I would be paid with loving looks for the rest of my life.
That’s a pretty good deal for a substitute babysitter.
(c) Lisa M. Luciano
Country Scene — Julian Schöll
Books — Robyn Budlender