On the Challenges of Babysitting


So I watched Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai today as part of a motley crew comprised of three adults, one senior citizen and two point five children—the latter being comprised, in turn, of a ten-year-old, a seven-year-old, and a four-year-old.

(That there were at least four of us above the age of twelve reassured me: when dealing with underaged human beings, I tend to feel beleaguered if the ratios aren’t overwhelmingly in favor of the adults. Five to one seems to me to be ideal.)

The children were remarkably well-behaved, but that didn’t stop me from developing a rare migraine thirty minutes into the hour-and-a-half-long drive to Roxas Boulevard. This was because: (1) children are naturally loud; (2) children get naturally louder around other children; and (3) all this natural loudness gets amplified in an enclosed vehicle whose acoustics are enhanced by the forbearance of suffering adults. (At least one suffering adult at any rate, given how my companions appeared to be enjoying the whole thing.)

After several fraught minutes punctuated by bursts of hysteria prompted by the four-year-old’s excitement over horses, calesas and tents, we finally arrived. And for various reasons owing to full bladders and the need to claim the senior citizen’s discount, I found myself unceremoniously abandoned with the three children.

For a minute, we looked at each other rather uncertainly—during which time the ten-year-old sized me (and the situation) up and then expressed her assessment by very firmly holding on to the four-year-old’s hand. I responded by asking, a tad too brightly: “Shall we have dinner then?”

At the stall, it was decided fairly quickly that we would all have hotdogs. The question of beverage was slightly more tricky.

“Er, what do you want to drink?” I asked.

“Just water.” The ten-year-old told me solemnly.

“Just for you?” (I asked because it had never remotely occurred to me until that point that children might actually prefer water to soda.)

“For all of us.” The ten-year-old replied somewhat reprovingly.

“Right.” I said, a tad too brightly. Then refusing to be daunted by such precocious discipline, I turned to the cashier and said: “Three bottles of water and one can of Coke Zero, please.”

Purchases accomplished, we maneuvered our way to a crowded table where the children promptly divided their attentions between eating their food and watching the giant overhead screen. I divided my attentions between eating my food, watching the children, and praying for the return of the other adults—whose silhouettes were quickly recognized by the seven-year-old who (rather too) promptly went off to fetch them.

“Are you okay?” Co-adult Number 1 asked me while covertly examining the general well-being of the two point five children. I nodded, relieved that with the show about to start, the children’s attentions would be held and their silence assured.

What I’d completely forgotten, of course, was the long drive back home.

Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

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