Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Meet Your New Mommy

this past saturday night saw me babysitting my niece and nephew at my sister's house in the lovely south bay. usually this job is reserved for my parents, who adore and spoil those kids mercilessly, but as my folks had an engagement that evening, my sister, Tatyana (Tat for short), had to call in the reinforcements -- auntie milla, who swooped in from her urban environs to play mommy of the suburbs.

and mommy i did play. i even maneuvered my sis' mini-van -- after first strapping the rugrats safely inside -- through the suburban oasis that is palos verdes to get the kiddies their dinner. and as we walked through the parking lot and toward the panda express where we ate, i felt all my maternal instincts bubble up whenever a car drove by us too closely, causing me to mush the kids against me and hold their little hands even more tightly. then on the way back to the house, i rallied the two little troops to sing along with me to the christmas carols that sprang from the car radio.

even more surprising was what a disciplinarian i was, all "no sugar before bedtime" and "wash your hands before dinner" and hell, we even said grace before we ate as is customary in that household. i guess i assumed i would spoil them like my parents do. one of my mom's favorite sayings is: Grandparents and grandchildren get along so well because they have a common enemy.

the only enemy these kids had were each other. my niece, Paulina, is a preteen, prepuberty nightmare, a know-it-all commando who constantly challenged me for control. (my parents tell me i was just like her at that age.) my 5-year-old nephew, Derek, whom i've dubbed 'boob-boy' because of his penchant for feeling me up at every opportunity, is a sensitive and sweet little fighter, whose boundless energy frightens my sis' deaf dog, the 12-year-old collie Spock.

i'm sitting on the couch with the DirecTV remote, overwhelmed at my TV viewing options when Derek runs out of his room crying. apparently, Paulina was trying to help him with his preschool homework. "what happened, derek?" pseudo-mommy milla asks. "shee hutt my feewrings." it was too cute; i couldn't hide my smile. i gathered him into my arms and he promptly rested his head on my chest. Paulina came out a moment later with a rolling of the eyes.

and so it went, with my asking Paulina to be more sensitive to her little brother and her threatening to call her father and accusing me of loving Derek more. but i remained resolute and never once bristled, forcing the kids to apologize to each other and kiss and make up. ten minutes later, the scene repeats itself. ah, parenthood.

yes, parenthood. it was saturday night, primetime in hollywood, and i felt so content being with these little tykes and their little problems in the 'burbs. it made me -- dare i say it? -- kind of, sort of long for kids of my own. that's not something that needs to arrive today or tomorrow, just...eventually. i always assumed that it would happen eventually, but turning 30 next year tends to place a baby on the brain and an ear on the clock.

not that one night as a babysitter has reinvented my wheel and turned me mommy minded. the mere thought of living in the suburbs with a mini-van gives me a rash. there's still plenty left to do before tackling this whole parenting business. and when that time comes, i'll go faithfully and willingly into that final frontier. how that will all work itself out, i can't even fathom. it'd be great if it were all nuclear-style, with a husband and a house, but i'm not opposed to going at it alone if that's what necessity dictates. in this life, it's more important for me to be a mother than a wife. i am a nurturer by nature. and though i've never been one to blindly love all children, my blood is my blood and my love is my loyalty.

my tipsy sister and her husband arrived home at 1:30am to find me passed out on their couch. those fuckers were exhausting, but i worked it out -- by night's end, the kids were fed, bathed, burped, tucked in and kissed goodnight; the dishes were done, house was tidy, and the mini-van was safely parked in the three-car garage.

"how are the kids?" Tat asked while hanging up her coat.
"alive," i replied, "they didn't walk into any rakes."
"rakes? what?"
"i don't know why i had this irrational fear all night that they would turn a corner and walk into a rake, like something out of a cartoon," i said.
"you're crazy," Tat said while hugging me goodbye.
"i must be, because i want to do this again. call me when you need a babysitter next time instead of calling mom and dad."
"yeah. really," i said before hopping into my car and heading home.

i walked into my place past 2am to find my furry baby sleepy and yawning, with that relentless tail of hers still wagging. Juice, whom i always referred to jokingly as "my birth control," suddenly looked different. i sat down with her before going to bed and petted her shiny, clean coat, kissed her wet, salty nose, and marveled at her sweetness and good doggy manners. i thought to myself, "i did a damn fine job here, and one day i'll do it again."

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