MONDAY: The Babysitters

BY ANGELA MICHAELS

Copyright is held by the author.

For my parents

“C’MON MARGE, we gotta get outa here before she changes her mind.” Marge strained the seat belt across her ample girth while Irving pealed out of the driveway, tires screeching.

She looked fondly into the backseat; the grandkids were buckled into booster seats. Then she frowned, “Um, kids, what do you have on your laps?”

“Our multisport utility helmets, Grandma. Mom said you were taking us to the park.” Devonte replied.

Marge raised an eyebrow. She wrapped her arms around the cooler bag on her lap, holding it steady.

Irving stomped on the accelerator and ran a red light, cigar clenched between his teeth. To his credit, it wasn’t lit, yet. “So, what’d she send this time?”

Marge peered into the cooler bag and removed two ice packs. “Um, apples, milk, wraps, and these brown things.” She held one aloft.

“They look like turds,” Irving spat.

“’ola bar.” Chimed a voice from the backseat. “Mommy make.”

Marge twisted in her seat, “Do you want it?”

“Yucky.” Georgie pouted.

The verdict was in; these poor kids had to be saved. “To the doughnut shop, Irv, and step on it.”

“So what’s with the apples and milk? She think we got nothin?” Irving glared in the rearview mirror.

“You know, those apples are organic. No pesticides, no GMOs. And the milk’s actually made from almonds. Lactose free.” Amelia was in fourth grade, and at the top of her class. They were all so proud of her.

“What the hell’s a GMO?”

Marge looked into the backseat. “What’s a GMO, honey?”

The child shrugged. “I dunno, that’s what Mom says.”

Leaning across the driver’s seat, Marge pointed, “Look, we can go there for lunch.” A large inflatable clown sat on a low brick building, framed by golden arches.

“’ook! Fwench fwies!”

“Can I get nuggets? With sweet and sour sauce?”

“Please may I have a chocolate shake?”

“Of course you can sweeties; Grandma will take you there soon enough. If you’re good, we can even get ice cream too.” Her cell phone beeped. “Slow down, Irv, you’re passing it.”

A hard left across traffic and they were face to face with the drive thru menu board.

Irving rolled down the window and barked out his order, “That’ll be two extra-large coffees, and a dozen doughnuts — chocolate and rainbow sprinkles.” Paused long enough to chuck the contents of the cooler bag into the trashcan.

He looked over at Marge as he drove to the cashier window. “So, what does she want this time?”

“Oh, the phone, I almost forgot.” Marge scrolled through the screen. “It’s to remind us that the kids don’t eat anything with food dyes. No sugar. Or glutens.”

“Really?” Irving handed rainbow sprinkled donuts round the backseat. Watched them tuck right in. Those poor kids, deprived, that’s what they were. “OK guys, who wants to go to the park?”

Amidst doughnut-muffled yells of affirmation and squealing tires, Irving burned down the road.

***

At the park the kids raced ahead to the playground, while Marge and Irving sauntered behind holding cups of coffee. “It’s so nice to watch them play, isn’t it Irv?”

“Yep.” Irving slurped his coffee. Looked around. “Where’s the little one?”

Marge paused, coffee halfway to her lips, “I dunno. Kids, where’d your brother go?”

“He’s up there!” they pointed to the tallest climber. A small figure waved from atop a wooden structure.

“Ah, and so he is. And he’s doing so well too, look at the little tyke, hanging upside down.” Marge sipped her coffee, and looked around for a bench to settle on.

The phone beeped and Marge glanced at it. “She wants us to take pictures of the kids. Says to go play on the grassy knoll. The climbers aren’t safe, kids could fall.” She squinted at the screen. “Something about slippery paint and unsafe substrate. Whatever that is.”

“You don’t say.” Irving lounged on the bench, cigar smoke wafted across the playground.

Amelia ran up. “Grandpa, Devonte pushed me off the swing. I bumped my head.” She rubbed the growing goose egg.

“Go push ‘em back, that’ll teach ‘em.” He patted her on the head. “’Atta girl, go get ‘em.”

Marge winced as Georgie tumbled off the climber. He immediately sat up and started throwing sand at the others.

Irving leaned against the bench and waved his cigar, “You know, this babysitting thing’s child’s play.”

11 comments

  1. JAZZ

    I got the ‘old’ school vs. ‘new’ school versions of child rearing.
    But something didn’t ring true: Here we have a cigar smoking, Paleolithic dinosaur of a grandfather whose traits must surely have been known. Would you have trusted him..?

  2. Brian Henry

    I’d trust him! Besides in real life, moms don’t get to not trust their parents. they have to let them look after the kids or face a family rupture. So trust or not trust, it usually ends up irrelevant.

  3. Random Writer

    If we look at the “5 essential story ingredients” posted by Nancy in last week’s e-weekly, this piece doesn’t measure up. We get the orientation – we get a glimpse of what both the children’s lives and the grandparents’ lives are like. But — crisis…is this the snack pack? and the response is simply to throw it out and buy doughnuts? There’s no escalation – the grandparents are pebbles (though it could be argued the children are putty — throw ’em at a wall of junk food and play structures and they pretty quickly took on the impression of both those things!). There’s no discovery — the grandparents aren’t interested in learning why their daughter parents the way she does; they reject it without even thinking about it — and no change — they’re as set in their ways as she is in hers and we get no inkling that either party is ever going to adjust in any way.

  4. Angela

    Thanks for the comments! Just to be clear, this is humorous satire, a poke at modern uber parenting and old school, and how nothing ever changes 🙂

    Disclaimer: no actual children were harmed in this fictious piece 😉

  5. JAZZ

    Brian,
    Where on earth did you get the idea that “..Moms don’t get to NOT trust their parents”
    Given that rather disturbing logic, says you wouldn’t lift a voice, to say a drinker, a smoker or, God forbid a toker, looking after your kids because it just wouldn’t go over well and may cause a family rupture.
    Let me toss a coin on that one………..

  6. JAZZ

    Angela,
    I got your point about the differences in parenting and your absolutely right that nothing ever changes…….”…Back in my day” will play out forever. However, Satire should be a little more OTT, otherwise Grandpa just comes off as an old fogey and not a character to amuse.

  7. Michael Joll

    “The Babysitters” is funny. “Uncle Buck” is funny. And neither is remotely realistic. Who cares? Did “The Babysitters” put a smile on your Monday morning face? If so, job done. If it left you feeling like you had just finished a jar of pickled Scotch Bonnet peppers, that’s sad. Don’t take all criticism and critiques to heart, Angela.

  8. Scot

    Mr. Joll,
    I find it interesting that your comments on this story:
    “Don’t take all the criticism and critiques to heart” is followed by your own critique in the very next story:
    “……a bit too much of the passive voice…eliminate the verb “to be”
    What’s it to be..?

  9. Michael Joll

    Scot,

    Like I said, don’t take all criticism and critiques to heart, not all OF the… Etc. Small word, big difference. Not all criticism or critiques are helpful. And discard mine if they are not. I won’t be offended.

  10. Ayam

    I enjoyed this satirical look at the gulf that often divides the generations when it comes to child rearing. Nice story 🙂

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