ba·by·sit -play \-ˌsat\ba·by·sit·ting
<intransitive verb: to care for children usually during a short absence of the parents; broadly : to give care for.>
Daniel Webster. I have a lot of respect for this man, especially because of all his help through High School and College. What with those gosh-darned confusing words such as, principal and principle, as well as many other confounding words, his old reliable dictionary was a life saver during those much loathed term papers.
I must, however, take umbrage, (look it up), with a word for which he provided the most inaccurate of definitions. Babysit. Folks, I am unfamiliar with this term. It suggests sitting while looking after a child or baby. Now, I am sure many Nannies in the early 19th century truly did “SIT” over some precious cherub-faced infant, its darling tiny face barely visible under the soft flannel and lace which swaddled him whilst she pushed her pram around the parks of London. After that rigorous task, tea was had.
I refer you to the latest unabridged Webster dictionary, and you will note the definition is most similar to its original one, way back in time. If this is, indeed, the definition, I must confess that despite my looking after my two daughters’ five young male offspring, I must not have actually baby-sat.
Now, while I certainly have wiped what appeared to be pea-soup from their noses, as well as cleaning unimaginable contents from their diapers being careful to keep said remains away from a drooling panting dog desperate to devour them. I have disciplined siblings who seem to want to see the other bleed, just for the fun of it, or, more importantly, to demonstrate who’s car it is really, with a clean shot to the head. I have fished cars from toilets already full of shit, much to the delight of two tiny cheering devilish onlookers. I have leapt into action to retrieve a small rock sucked into an even smaller mouth while the older brother gleefully looked on. I have slipped on the kitchen floor cartoon like, arms flailing in smashed avocado, raspberries, oatmeal and sweet potato. I have trudged 2 miles back furtively canvassing each inch of sidewalk to find and recover a shoe casually discarded by a little darling during a walk in the stroller because they cost more than my finest pumps. However, I have never actually sat. I have salvaged an entire 1/2 of a PB&J from the jaws of an awaiting dog poised to snatch same from a taunting evil high-chair bound 1 1/2 year old. I have careened around a kitchen floor on a matchbox car desperately lunging for the countertop. (Real entertainment for the kiddies.)
But I never actually sat. Not for a single moment. Not once. I swear. I have held the tiny hand of a toddler, walking him along what appears to be a sidewalk safe from death-traps, only to have him trip, tumble and bust open a lip, which, of course, instantly bleeds profusely, while his mother drives up and demands…”What the hell happened?” I, obviously, was not “sitting” as earnestly as I should have.
Now, accompany me down memory lane back to when my mother actually baby sat my own daughters. She SAT. Really sat…in a chair. Not on the floor with zooming cars over her legs nor as a human jungle gym. My mother sat at the kitchen table genteely playing with clean kitty cat puzzle pieces, after which, graham crackers and milk were offered. Crumbs were quickly whisked away with her swift and immaculate blue handi-wipe. A walk may also be in order, (weather permitting), where their tiny hands never slipped out of my mother’s to dart into the street to pick up a worm or smashed bug. At least once a week, Mother’s antique demitasse spoon collection was brought out for oohs and aahhs during careful handling and inspection. Each girl had her own tiny china tea-cup with hand-painted Beatrix Potter’s bunnies and mice. Nobody spilled milk and nobody ever smashed any foodstuffs ANYWHERE! Toilet time was also a tidy antiseptic affair with an allotted amount of bathroom tissue squares and lots of hand washing afterwards. Launching a matchbox car off a sibling’s head? Jumping on the sofa? You can’t be serious…. children were not allowed on the sofa lest they squish the cushions out of shape. There was also the most treasured of days where mother would allow her coveted jewelry box’s contents to be looked over and touched, very carefully.
My Mother, Baby-Sat. I have yet to do it. Until I do, I’ll just keep doing whatever it is I do….cause I just love doing it!