Mike and I had the rare pleasure of babysitting our nieces last weekend.
I say “rare” pleasure because their mother, Heather, is pretty sure we’re physically incapable of keeping the nieces alive for more than a few hours, so she generally checks to see if any other family members, neighbors, or friendly passersbys are available before she’ll deign to put them in our care.
I can’t really blame her. I’m afraid to leave my dog in her care, for fear their youngest will accidentally kill him and then claim she didn’t know dogs aren’t allowed to eat Playdoh rolled in ground beef and glass chips. It’s all relative.
The first thing I noticed when the nieces arrived was the permeating odor of bubble gum. Bubblegum being chewed, bubblegum-flavored lip gloss, bubblegum perfumes. Bubblegum isn’t a bad smell, but it clashes with our home’s natural aroma of Cabernet and apathy.
I heard a curious beeping outside, and noticed Alex, the oldest at 12, was waving a backing dump truck up our driveway to deliver her suitcases. She arrived for ONE night with 57 suitcases. She has a bag that holds nothing but lip gloss. Another suitcase holds only hair products. Curlers, flat irons, three bathing suits for the hot tub, 19 changes of clothes, a bag for nothing but perfume, a contractor bag for nail polish and a sack of junk food, because we never have the right kind of junk food.
My nieces only eat from the four major food groups – Chips, Candy, Pre-processed Foods and Capri Sun. Camden has her hand a bag of chips so consistently, that I’ve started to believe she was born with a left hand and a right bag of Cheetos.
We have some fun foods on hand, but our chips are fat free, which is totally unacceptable to the pre-teens. Mike and I are still living under the delusion that someday we’ll have our 25 year-old bodies back and the path to that glorious future is clearly Olestra-based snacks and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. The last time the girls visited I was excited to make them something they like – pancakes – until our Lite Maple Syrup crushed their breakfast dreams and set them firmly on the path to an unhappy life filled with bad marriages and prison food.
The thing that gets me the most when the kids are around is the constant noise. Our house is like a church compared to a house with kids. I don’t deal well with noise, so it’s a little like the Chinese have arrived to torture me into spilling government secrets. Before she’s in the door, Alex starts clicking through songs she’s downloaded on her phone, insisting I listen to a 10 second clip of each while she demonstrates her clear knowledge of the words and sings along. By the time she reaches the fourth song in the medley from hell, I’m rattling off my social security number and rank. And the worst part is, now, I know I’m doomed to sing “My my my poker face my my poker face” over and over in my head for the rest of the day.
Camden: How do you wake up Lady Gaga in the morning? Poker Face.
Adult conversation grinds to a halt. The sound of wise-cracking Disney teens with ridiculously clear skin and laugh tracks constantly fills the air. To my horror, I find myself admiring an impossibly pretty boy named Sterling Knight on Disney’s Sunny with a Chance, so I quickly tell Alex to switch to Sponge Bob Square Pants so I can remain faithful to my true love, Zac Efron. Sure, Sterling was born after I graduated high school, but he has the laugh lines of a much older man.
As ever-indulgent Aunt and Uncle, we take the girls to lunch, where they fill up on chicken fingers and brownies. Mike orders a martini, which isn’t all that odd except that Chuck E. Cheese martinis are so widely considered sub-par. Mike is clearly mentally slipping out the backdoor and I’ve been abandoned – left alone as The Responsible Adult. This is not a role in which I am comfortable, and now I have three kids to watch: Alex, Camden and Mike. I become bitter.
Next stop, home to hit the hot tub and then we’re back out getting manicures and pedicures – all four of us. It’s Mike’s first trip to the nail salon, and he loves it. He spends the first half of the pedicure making unintelligible jokes with the lady doing his toes. He is the one who is unintelligible. I think I can make out more Vietnamese than drunkese. We all learn the Vietnamese phrase for “goofy drunk white guy.”
By the time I come out of the Eyebrow Ripping Room, Mike and Camden are dancing in the middle of the nail salon, spinning each other around on chairs. Completely embarrassed by her uncle, Alex is trying to melt into her seat and disappear.
Nails shiny, we stop at CVS to buy All the Junk Food in the World and then go home. The girls spend the rest of the night getting hopped up on Mountain Dew and 55 different kinds of candies that end in “pop.” Bubble pop, Candy pop, Spring pop, Pop pop…
How are we repaid for all our kindness? Thank yous, hugs, construction paper cards… and my phone alarm going off at 1 am in the morning. Alex has reprogrammed all our phones to blare alarms in the middle of the night, preprogrammed all the car radios to go only to the top pop station (removing all our favorites), and now all our cells ring with “Get the phone, Uncle Mikey!! Get the phone! Get the Phone, GET THE PHONE!!!”
In the words of the Black Eyed Peas: Imma be, Imma be, Imma Imma Imma be – Imma be reprogramming my phones, Imma be puttin’ favs back in the radios, Imma be ringing my niece’s neck…