Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Adventures in Babysitting: Playing with Trains

[I spent all of November writing a terrible, navel-gazing "novel" for National Novel Writing Month. The "novel" itself is basically a pile of crap, but I'll be sharing select excerpts on the blog.]

Babysitting was my ticket to wealth back in high school. I had all the neighborhood moms in my figurative rolodex, and made sure they knew I had no life to speak of that didn’t involve supervising the shit out of their kids (sometimes literally, if they were potty training). In addition to my lack of a social life, I also friggin’ loved playing with kids’ toys.

This is me with any toy.
Most adults hate playing with children. They only play with their own kids so they don’t get called into their kids’ therapy sessions in 40 years to explain why they were so negligent. They might play a few rounds of peek-a-boo with nieces and nephews that they never get to see, and they might indulge a friend’s child by reading them a book or throwing a ball at them. But they don’t enjoy it. They never enjoy it.

 You should be aware that this is what I looked like back then.

Hell, now that I’m an adult, I would never willingly play with a child; they’re bad at sharing and their games are so infantile and repetitive. Seriously, have you ever played dollhouse with a little kid? They make the mom put the baby to bed, then wake it up and feed it, then put it back to bed, etc. Why be so boring when you can make the dolls do literally anything? You can make the dad cheat on the mom in the attic while she’s downstairs cooking dinner! You can make the mom push the grandma down the stairs! You can borrow your brother’s army guys and have them attack the house, swat team style!

So many possibilities. But none of them are plausible when playing with an actual child, because actual children are dumb and boring. Now that I think of it, I don’t think I actually enjoyed playing with the children I babysat. I just liked playing with their toys while they watched or tried to steal them from me.

One of my favorite families to babysit had two older boys who entertained themselves with television (the holy grail of babysitting gigs) and a younger boy who I played with. I honestly have no clue what the older two were even named. That’s how nonessential they are to this story. I’d go over there, switch on the TV for the older kids, then set up shop with a box of wooden train tracks and the little boy.

Question: Can trains be molesters?

Okay, I don’t remember the youngest boy’s name either. We’ll call him D’Brickashaw. D’Brickashaw and I would spill the wooden train tracks on the middle of the rug and sit there for hours building intricate train configurations, all in silence. He didn’t know how to talk and I didn’t like talking, yet we worked harmoniously. People who build train tracks in the real world should take a page out of our book, because we had no disagreements about track placement whatsoever. (That could be because I did all the work and he was content to just sort track pieces into piles and roll train cars over the tracks I built. What can I say, I’m a natural born leader.)

According to D’Brickashaw’s parents, I was the best babysitter ever. Somehow the little boy was able to communicate to them that I rocked his world, in not so many words—in zero words, in fact. So they kept inviting me back, and I kept building fantasy worlds for his Thomas the Tank Engine. They told me I should become an engineer; I briefly considered it, but I ultimately chose a different career track (see what I did there? Train metaphor.) when I found out that engineers aren’t people hired to play with toys. Babysitters are.

What's your favorite kids' toy/game to play with?

1 comment:

  1. I still babysit, actually (super grown up for sure) and I love playing with the toys that I loved as a kid, if that makes sense. I bought them Hungry Hungry Hippos and often suggest playing it. Same story with Connect 4 (until the oldest one - at the ripe old age of 6 - literally beat me, almost twenty years her senior, three times in a row).


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