Jam of the week: "Ventura Highway" by America
While working on the Monday edition of the Daily Freeman-Journal on Sunday evening, I got a request that many would call a small courtesy, but one that struck fear in the deepest reaches of my soul: Attending to the needs of a toddler for five minutes.
I haven't spent much of my life around young children. I grew up in a small family that was geographically removed from almost all of my mother and father's sides of the family. My sister is two years my junior and much of my job involves talking to those older than me. Even my young cousin, Mike, was well into grade school by the time that him and my aunt Diane moved close to us in Illinois.
With that context, a friend asked me to watch her grandson for five minutes while I was on break. I'm sure she could tell I wasn't entirely up to the task from my stammering, but I accepted.
Not that I took it personally, but that kid did not like me. I can't say I blame him. My beard is getting a little unkempt and I was sort of talking to myself the whole time he was crying next to me. Quickly realizing I wasn't going to talk him out of his sad demeanor, I began a frantic search to find things to entertain a toddler from my journalist's supplies I have in my bag. As you can probably guess, that's not easy.
I grabbed one of the old draft prints of my lifestyles page and started frantically scribbling highlighters on the backside of the page. Kids like colors, right? I was an amateur Bob Ross, making happy trees with my green highlighter, a nice sky with my blue highlighter, and several birds that I doubt he appreciated over his bawling with my pink highlighter.
I figured, maybe he's a doer and not a watcher. I opened up all the highlighters and removed any important documents from his reach and urged him to go at it. It turns out you can lead a toddler to highlighters, but you can't make him draw.
Completely lost, I set the highlighters down and just shut up. It turns out, he had a similar reaction to what most people who don't like me do when I shut up. He stopped crying. I expect my temporary babysitter of the year award will arrive in the mail soon, but in the meantime I would appreciate if you included that title on all submissions to my email address.
Kidding aside, I sat for a couple minutes in total silence, watching him in the corner of my eye so he didn't fall out of his chair. That would have really hurt my running for the 2013 babysitter awards season.
Grandma returned shortly and triumphantly with food. I'm not exactly sure if you can compare the happiness of an adult unburdened to the unbridled joy of a child gazing upon fresh breadsticks, but I think were were about tied. She thanked me profusely and took her grandson back with her, but not before she complimented my masterfully done highlighter landscape work.
I later found a note addressed to me, thanking me for watching him. The note was decorated with highlighter scribbles all over it. I couldn't help but laugh at the appreciation for my rushed attempt to calm a toddler. You're welcome, and I hope this column doesn't make you feel bad for asking for a favor. I go into work every day with the fact that I do new things every day as my motivation. Sometimes those new things terrify me, but in the end, it's for the better.