When it comes to kids, there’s a reason I stopped with daughter Mindy. Spouser and I are not what you call “kid friendly” folks.
Sarah Palin said a crying baby is a sign of life. When I go to a restaurant, I’ll ask to be seated away from life (screaming infant) in preference of a quiet corner more like death.
If our friends ask us to watch their spawn, you can bet your last buck we’re not available. That is, until my friend Leslie begged me to watch her 8-year-old boy, Woody, while she was at the dentist getting a root canal.
“So,” Spouser says, staring down at the kid with a cowlick that could put Alfalfa’s to shame, “want to drag race down 10th Street?”
I had requested Leslie drop off the tike in a straitjacket and leather mask like The Silence of the Lambs’ Hannibal Lecter.
“Drag what?” Woody asks, grabbing our cat by the tail.
“Put the kitty down!” I shout. “Let’s color.”
With 20-year-old crayons pulled from our kitchen drawer, Woody sits surfboard straight at the table with his hands folded in his lap. He hasn’t been this well behaved since his first trimester. Something’s strange.
“Don’t you want to make a pretty picture to give your mom when she gets out of the dentist’s office?” I ask politely.
“I want a spray can,” Woody pouts.
I can see where his future’s going. “So you would rather paint letters on our house, or set the couch on fire, or jump off the roof into the swimming pool?” I ask, tempting him with a few of his favorite activities.
“No,” he replies, shaking his head from side to side.
Under normal circumstances, Woody would be tearing through our house leaving a trail of destruction like a small tornado in sneakers. Spouser and I share the opinion that roughly eight years and nine months ago Leslie had a fling with the Tasmanian Devil.
“What’s going on?” I ask.
“I didn’t mean to do it!” Woody wails, wringing his grimy little hands.
“Good gosh!” I screech. “Count the cats!”
“It couldn’t be that bad,” Spouser says from behind his newspaper. “They’re probably all okay.”
I’m running around, checking to make sure all living things are still, in fact, LIVING. Our older cat Jenny Craig has climbed on top of the refrigerator and is leering down like a gargoyle. The three kittens daughter Mindy rescued, which we still have a year later, are huddled together under the ottoman in the den.
Coffee cup suspended, I stare down at Woody. “You’re not getting a spray can of paint,” I say. “We don’t even have one.”
“Oh, yes you do!” Woody pipes up. “In the garage, there’s blue, black, yellow and white, too.”
Spouser’s newspaper falls to the ground, just as I drop my cup onto the kitchen counter. We fight each other to make it into the garage, and then Spouser and I stare at the bright yellow and blue geometric shapes, mostly dried, running down the side of our new white garage doors.
“The black can wouldn’t work,” Woody says matter of factly.
“Good thing,” Spouser replies.
“Think my mom will like this picture when she gets back from the dentist?” Woody asks, forehead furrowed.
“The kid is serious,” I say in disbelief, lobbing an empty spray can into the trash. “I don’t even know when he got in here.”
“When you were in the bathroom,” Woody notes.
Leslie’s a good friend, but this is the LAST time I’m watching Woody.
“She’ll have to pay to fix this,” I whisper to Spouser.
“Don’t worry about it now. Let’s just make sure he doesn’t get into anything else while he’s here.”
“Here, where?” I say, looking around. While we were busy examining his artwork, we lost track of the little monster.
“You go this way; I’ll go that!” Spouser says, pointing east.
In only minutes, Woody has managed to find the iron, plug it in, and is pressing Spouser’s white work shirts on our sofa, leaving crusty iron prints burned into the fabric.
“STOP!” we shout in unison.
“You get the handcuffs and keys from my lingerie drawer,” I say. “I’ll get your belt to tie up his feet.”
“Good idea,” Spouser agrees.
“We’ll play ‘Cops and Criminals’ until your mom comes back,” I say. “Woody, you’re about to do some hard time.”
“Hooray!” he shouts, clapping his little hands.
Disclaimer: No kids were harmed in the making of this story. The discipline method is NOT actually recommended for children, only spouses. Reproduction is strictly prohibited (in our home). No solicitors. No alcohol, pigs, or horses. No anchovies, unless otherwise specified, nor carbs after 9 p.m. No further babysitting services will be rendered now or in the hereafter. All decisions are final. No bribes or Canadian coins will be accepted.
Gina Tiano is the author of Life in the Bike Lane, available at Amazon.com. Post your comment on this column at www.valleytowncrier.com Columns can be found by typing Gina Tiano in the search bar or by clicking the opinion tab.