We have a calendar in our house upon which everything in our schedules that matters is recorded. Several weeks ago, I wrote down a "girls' night out" for Friday, July 6th in honor of a friend who is great with child (child number four, who she insisted had plenty of adorable clothes and did not need a shower.) I don't take many nights like that away from my family--I prefer to spend my evenings with my husband (or these days with my beloved blog--tee hee) doing something together or reading in the same room if I'm not folding laundry. But everyone needs a night out once in a while with their friends and this seemed like the perfect excuse to organize one. I even planned to leave Bronwen home. Let it be known, I am not one of those moms who can never leave her kids with a sitter. I spend amounts of money every month on teenage babysitters so that Jared and I can go out on a date, so that I can get my hair cut, and even just to get some errands run in the summer time. But we don't generally leave a young baby with said teenage sitter for several months and that time seems to get longer the more kids we have (since the sitter has more kids at home to take care of.) I rarely leave Bronwen home even with her daddy because she is so easy to take with me and it seems fair to take her if I'm leaving the three hooligans with him! But I thought that this would be a great opportunity to do so.
Then, early in the week, Jared started talking about taking Kimball and Henry up to a friend's cabin over the weekend. Naturally, I wanted them to go, but what about my night out? We determined to get a sitter and after debating it for a while, I decided to leave both Bronwen and Ian at home. She's a good baby, I thought. Eats well, goes to bed well . . . . for Mommy, that is.
So tonight I pick up my favorite babysitter, Rachel. She is up for the challenge and thinks that she'll love having me leave the baby since I never have before. I tell her that tonight it is OK to break the rules-- she can let Ian watch Toy Story and eat popcorn and ice cream in the living room and to go ahead and be loosey-goosey on bedtime for him. Just do what works with the baby's schedule. Ian, who is disappointed that he is not going in Daddy's truck with the big boys (his fascination with that truck is for another day), is appeased with the novelty of eating in front of the television and so close to bedtime. I have just nursed Bronwen, who goes to Rachel all smiles. I tell Rachel that we are going to dinner in Sacramento and then plan to swim at a friend's house, but that I will check in after dinner to see how the baby is doing. We all hope that Bronwen will take a bottle for her, which would be another novelty of the evening. You see, with this fourth baby I have violated my policy and have not imposed a bottle regularly on her in order to avoid these problems. Nursing a baby is just so much easier and immediate and with three other kids to handle, preparing a bottle is never very convenient--so I never do.
5:15 pm I head off to the Cheesecake Factory (yummy) for dinner with 11 other s and we have a marvelous time. During dinner, the babysitter called twice. The calls went something like this:
Call #1 6:15pm
Rachel: Is it normal for her to be fussy right now? You said she wouldn't be hungry until 7:00.
Me: It is not unusual for her to be fussy right now--it is her fussy time of day, come to think of it. If you want to try the bottle on her, go ahead. Or lay her down for a few minutes and see if she takes a cat nap and/or sucks her thumb.
Rachel: OK, I'll try that.
Me: How is Ian?
Rachel: He's watching Toy Story. He's fine.
Call #2 7:30pm
Rachel: She won't take the bottle but she's not fussing anymore.
Me: OK, we are leaving the restaurant anyway. Just don't worry about feeding her and I'll run home, nurse her, and leave again. What's Ian up to?
Rachel: He's still watching Toy Story. He's fine.
Me: I'll be home in 20 minutes.
Naturally, it takes longer than that to get home. I pass at least 4 CHP officers who have pulled people over for speeding and I don't want to be their next victim. I'm 2 miles from our exit when she calls again:
Rachel: She kind of won't stop crying and she won't take the bottle. What should I do?
Me: I'm almost home. If she won't stop crying there is nothing you can do. Put her in the crib and walk away so that you don't get too frustrated. I'll be home soon. What's Ian up to?
Rachel: He's watching Toy Story for the second time. I think he must have started it over again when it ended.
Me: Why don't you put him to bed while she fusses in her crib. I'll be there soon.
When I arrive home, Bronwen is definitely fussing but not wailing. I pick her up and she smiles a big bright smile at me. Her eyes are red and blotchy, a curse that comes with her mother's otherwise good complexion. I play with her for a few minutes and determine that although she is hungry, she's not hysterical and all is well. Rachel looks a little worse for wear, but says she's fine. Ian is reading a good night book with her. The baby eats exuberantly, spits up everywhere (which is her trademark,) and smiles some more. So I sit her on my lap and say to her as if she is five years old,
"Bronwen, Mommy's going to leave now. I'm giving you back to Rachel and I want you to be nice to her. Smile and laugh and be nice or it will be your bedtime. Ok? If you are nice to her, you can stay up for a little bit longer."
She looks right at me as if she understands every word. I hand her to Rachel and she doesn't squall, which I figure is a good sign. I tell Rachel that she can go to bed anytime after 9:00 and to call me if she's inconsolable, then I go to swim. (Those of you who are thinking that I am cruel and unusual, please note that it was 102 today and nothing sounds better than a swim. And everyone is really doing fine. Plus, I to miss out on talk--or, truth be told, any party whatsoever.)
We go for a swim and at 10:00 I hear my phone ring again.
Rachel: She's not sleeping. She won't go to sleep.
Me: Is she crying?
Rachel:No, she's happy, but she's just not sleeping.
I'm thinking, "Then what's the problem?" until I realize that she has been with this sweet little high-maintenance for five hours now and maybe needs a break, even if she is happy. So I tell her I'll be right home and dry off.
As I pull up, I can see Rachel standing near the window, watching for me, the baby cuddled to her chest. She looks like a pro, but her position gives me the clue that she is ready for this to be over. As I walk into the house, she lays the exhausted, now sleeping baby down in her crib. Rachel looks tired. She looks beat. Rachel smiles and says, "She's asleep now," with great relief. Wouldn't you know it, I got home just in time!
There are plenty of times when we hire a babysitter and all she has to do is get the kids ready for bed, read a couple of stories to them, turn off the lights and then go watch TV for four hours while getting paid $6 an hour. Not bad most nights. But tonight, Rachel earned every penny. She might not be so anxious to watch Bronwen again--she's discovered that older kids are easier. But with all of her phone calls and my drop in at home, I discovered something that she might not know about herself: she does just fine with babies. She might have found it unsettling that the baby wouldn't do everything on the schedule I suggested, but she handled everything perfectly and called when she was unsure. She got both kids to bed (and asleep) and even managed to clean up the kitchen. And even though she may not be in a hurry to watch a baby again, I will not worry as much the next time I leave her. She's been broken in and survived. Now if I can just get Jared to train Bronwen to take a bottle . . .