Banana it is! Previously, I wrote about babysitting my niece, Lila, at six months, and at 15 months. Now 20 months old, babysitting has become a far less frightening proposition– Lila has become an actual person, with opinions, and, even better, the beginnings of an ability to express them.
In the past, I feared that when she would start crying, I would have no idea why, and I wouldn’t be able to calm her. This time, charged with listening for the end of her nap, feeding her lunch, and perhaps even getting her dressed, I was still afraid that she would start crying–but, somehow, the thought that she might actually be able to help me figure out why she was upset, and maybe, just maybe, understand some of what I might try to do in response, gave me hope that even if the tears might still be a puzzle, it would be a solvable one.
Before having had any regular exposure to a baby, I imagined that infants could be rational from day one. That all someone needs to do is speak calmly, explain what’s going on, and everything would be fine. They would understand that you’re trying your best, they would realize they need to stop crying, or be patient, or fall asleep. Clearly, I was an only child who had never met a newborn.
Her mother had barely left when I heard Lila crying on the baby monitor. I waited a minute to see if she would soothe herself back to sleep, but it seemed pretty clear she was awake. I carefully opened her bedroom door and peeked in. She was standing against the rails of her crib, Woombie removed and in her hand, eyes wide open, waiting for a visitor. “Mommy?” she asked.
“Nope, Mommy will be back soon!”
“Nope, Daddy went to the gym!”
“Nope, she went with Mommy!”
Not blessed with a two-syllable name that can easily be mastered, I was still in the “recognized but unlabeled” category in Lila’s vocabulary. But, so far, she didn’t seem to mind that I had been left in charge. I lifted her out of the crib, and she immediately raced out to her parents’ closed bedroom door.
“Nope, she’ll be back soon!”
“Nope, he’ll be back soon!”
“Nope, she went with Mommy! Do you want lunch?”
“Lunch” was a word Lila instantly recognized. I followed her into the kitchen, lifted her into her high chair–and I couldn’t believe how much more helpful she was in letting me buckle her in than last time, just a few months ago, when getting each arm through the straps was a huge struggle. I pulled a banana from the fridge, and started slicing it, when Lila pointed to the fridge. She wanted more.
She nodded with excitement. Yogurt! Excellent. I carefully coaxed her favorite stuffed animal of the moment, Mo the Cow (short for Mooey!), out of her hands and onto the table (facing Lila, to watch her eat her lunch) and tried to explain that yogurt actually comes from animals like Mo. Not sure she followed. I opened the yogurt, got her a spoon, and started to feed her. But I hadn’t realized that spoon-feeding is just for babies. She grabbed the spoon and took over. That’s when I remembered I hadn’t tied her hair back with a hair band. Alas, yogurt in the hair is a forgivable babysitting sin. I quickly grabbed a bib, just in time for the first drops of yogurt to fall from the spoon. I asked Lila if I should put some banana slices into the yogurt. She looked at me, perplexed. I showed her what I meant. Still confused. I stirred the banana around. She took a spoonful and tried it. A winner!
Eating the yogurt, banana, half a piece of toast, peanut butter, milk, and two sections of a clementine (yes, lunch with her uncle was an unlimited buffet…) took an hour and a half, and her parents were home before I could even get to changing her diaper or getting her dressed, but the best moment was when her mommy asked her if she had a good lunch with her Uncle Jeremy.
I had earned my very own label! A successful lunch, indeed.