Paul, my close friend Tania’s husband, likens me to that old lady from Dr. Seuss’ “Cat in the Hat.” She comes to babysit the children but manages to fall asleep and worse still, stays in beddy bye land as the Cat reaches into his big bag of bad tricks and wreaks havoc on the house. This comparison is in reference to how Paul’s children – three lovelier girls you’ll never find, if you asked me – tear at each other over trifling things at his house, but play together peacefully at mine, even as I snooze for most of the afternoon.
“But other children don’t fight at my house either,” I tell him. For some reason, they all know better than to put me in the position of refereeing fights and arguments.
Amanda must have told them about my “putting outside the house policy.” As far as she’s concerned, all misdemeanours result in being kicked out of our apartment.
“Does she listen to you though?” once asked a friend, whose kid was coming over. “Does she think you’re serious about putting her outside?”
“Of course she knows I’m serious because I’ve done it before when she refused to listen to me.” Amanda screamed, cried and pounded and pounded on our front door. I let her in after two minutes to ask whether she was going to reoffend. She said no.
Other people’s children though, are usually so well behaved at my place that their parents scarcely believe it is their children whose flawless behaviour I am describing.
“But didn’t she cry when she woke up?” asked Melissa, Amanda’s best friend’s mother of her youngest, whom I’ve had on many occasions.
“Nope,” I tell Melissa, who looks at me in amazement. ” I guess she took one look at me and decided not to cry.”
When we first became friends, Melissa complained of her youngest sounding absolutely authoritarian and demanding like me. I have this trademark grunt that sounds like a snort that has deterred no children, least of all Amanda, from patting my head like a house pet. “Good mama cat,” she likes to say, before inviting her friends all have a go at patting my head.
More surprisingly still is that children want me to babysit them. I don’t get paid for this but their parents and I have a reciprocal arrangement that allows us adults to have some time to ourselves. Puzzlingly, among all the people their parents know, they feel happiest left with me. This reason to this, I’ve still yet to figure out.