As I mentioned in my last post, this past weekend Keith and I babysat our 2-year old niece. I was a nanny for a summer to a newborn when I was in high school, grew up babysitting, and have three younger siblings so I have a lot of experience with kids. But I don't think any of that could prepare me for an entire weekend with a super active, very sharp, hilarious, imaginative two-year old. Plus, the last time I was with a young child for that long of time was probably when I was a nanny at sixteen. And 12 years later, it is definitely far more exhausting.
I'm sure there are a few moms reading this and I hope you'll get a kick out my recap, but for all the young childless people like me, I also thought it'd be fun sharing what a child-packed weekend could look like. Our niece arrived Friday around 6 pm and I took her to a local food trailer park near Keith's office so we could eat dinner together, since he works such late hours. She was of course obsessed with the playground there, even though there were a lot of bigger kids pushing the smaller ones out of the way. She's a tough cookie and propelled her way up mini rock climbing walls (obviously with close supervision), ran across wobbly bridges that scared other kids her age, and at one point tried to do the monkey bars before I persuaded her toward the slides instead.
The challenging part of the evening was dinner. We ordered her grilled chicken tenders and fries (food trailers = not a lot of veggie choices), so of course she ate all her fries, burnt her mouth on the chicken and then refused to eat that. It kind of felt like my first fail of the weekend as an aunt, rather than just an accomplishment of getting her away from the playground long enough to eat anything. I realized she was out a little past her bedtime when the grumpiness started. A few tears and arm crossings later, and we were headed back home for bedtime, which turned out to be my favorite part of every day. She would pick out some books, we'd cuddle up on my daybed and then she'd insist on reading the books, upside down, aloud to me and her stuffed lion Lenny. The stories were often a variety of counting, elephants with things swimming in their bellies (?), someone eating her cookie, and then would end with a random singing interpretation of "ba ba black sheep" that only followed the tune but none of the same lyrics. Cutest thing ever! Seriously, if you have a black heart, I'm pretty confident my two-year old niece's made-up songs could melt it. Then kisses and hugs, tuck her into her pack and play, and she'd lay there for about thirty minutes talking to herself, singing, and continuing to make up stories aloud until she fell asleep. Is your heart melting yet?
On Saturday, she played in her pack and play until I came and got her at around 7 am. I may have woken at 6 am and laid in bed for a little over an hour unable to sleep because I was worried she'd start crying, but she seemed perfectly content when I went in to get her. Keith and I switched off duties each of the two mornings we had her, so while Keith got ready, I'd get her dressed, brush her teeth (who knew little teeth were so cute?!), and go through the morning routine of her looking at all her clothes that were packed and her pulling out every bow, before I could persuade her toward one outfit and hair piece. Then Keith would run around with her and start breakfast while I got cleaned up and ready. We had planned to take her in her jogging stroller Saturday morning for a 8-mile run. Unfortunately, it was actually a bit chilly in the morning and the stroller had one flat tire (we had to stop at gas stations to refill it three times to get home), so I only made it about 4 miles with her. She and I stopped at a coffee shop to defrost and Keith continued on with the run. That's when the meltdown of the weekend happened. I ordered us both hot chocolate, and while standing in line, she pointed out a cranberry shortbread cookie she wanted. Once we got everything, she refused to drink the hot chocolate or even touch the cookie. I figured out by the end of the weekend that she was scared anything hot might burn her mouth, so once I started calling it chocolate milk (and put some ice cubes in it) she'd sip a little. The cookie however was the big issue. I guess she had pointed to a different cookie, because she started crying when I offered it to her, wouldn't talk to me, crossed her arms, started kicking the table, and tried to lick someone else's old frosting off the table. She kept telling me "call Kate" and getting very frustrated when I'd ask "who's Kate?" After about fifteen minutes of back and forth, and a few more tears on her part, I finally figured out call Kate was actually cookie, had her point out a new one, and all was right again when she had that large frosted orange pumpkin-shaped sugar cookie in her hands (and down her shirt, in her hair, and all over the table). As an aunt, I am not afraid to remedy a situation with sugar. As a mom, I'd probably handle it differently. Ok, maybe I would. I can't guarantee that.
Fortunately the cookie incident was the only major meltdown of the weekend. Other than that, I found her to be obedient, sweet tempered, and an overall happy child. We drove out to a pumpkin patch in Marble Falls in the afternoon, she talked and sang the whole way, and it was a rare gorgeous afternoon in Texas. The farm/pumpkin patch was perfect! There was a field of flowers you could cut to bring home in a vase, hay rides, animals to feed and pet, jumping pillows (like bouncy castles without walls), homemade ice cream, and of course tons of pumpkins to choose from. Our niece did everything, including standing on all the pumpkins to choose the ones she wanted. She impressively even jumped on the bouncy pillow thing, even though there were other bigger kids on it that kept tossing her about, and Keith and I stood nervously nearby to kiss boo boos when she fell. Yes, she's a bit clumsy and I kissed a lot of boo boos last weekend. I also blew a lot of runny noses (Keith even used his undershirt at one point when tissues were scarce), wiped a lot of dirty fingers and faces with wet-ones and did a lot of potty stops to keep her in clean undies all weekend long. I got broken in on the embarrassing potty scenarios early, that you hear about but as a childless person never thought really happen, when I took her for a potty break at the food trailer park Friday night. It was one of those deluxe 6-stall actually clean porta potties, and I had to keep one of the stall doors open to kneel down and insure she didn't fall in the toilet. Which resulted in her asking me very loudly, while someone washed their hands and a few waited in line for open stalls, "Alanna, are you pooping?"
On Sunday, Keith had to go back to work which meant that she and I spent most of the day running away from make believe dinosaurs, pretending drink coasters were sandwiches and pasta, kicking around a basketball in the front yard, jumping on the couch with Lenny (her - not me), eating lots of nanas (ie bananas), and singing plenty of made up songs. By the end of every one of the three days we had her, I was completely exhausted. And I may have started feeling a little sick on Sunday resulting in a full-blown cold this week. Other than that, Keith and I had a lot of fun and are thinking only one kid is the way to go (we already thought that but are now pretty set). I know that kid will definitely have a lot of fun with all of his or her cousins, especially the sweetheart we hung out with all last weekend.