Today was one of those little unexpected gifts that you sometimes get before Christmas Day has even arrived.
Meelyn, Aisling and I went to a local church's mother's group today to babysit from 8:15 until 1:30 while the children's mommies went Christmas shopping, or, in the case of a few with whom I clearly and immediately identified, home to take a nap. This is the same group that we caregive for approximately every two weeks and it brings in a small amount of welcome money, but since we're with the same children every time, it also brings the simple pleasure of being around young kids for a few hours.
Now don't get me wrong: Babysitting for pre-school aged children is not always a task that has me jumping up and down and pumping my fist in the air with a big "YESSSSSS!" There's one little boy in the room in which Aisling and I work who has the habit of slapping or pushing or pulling the hair of any child who so much as looks at a toy that he once sneezed on three weeks earlier, to the accompaniment blood-curdling screams of MY TOY! MY TOY! MINE! MINE! He also narrows his eyes, plants his feet and utters a defiant "NO" to any request given him: I swear I could say, "Little Jimmy, come here and I'll give you your weight in M&Ms and let you beat the holy heck out of Little Tommy" and that wee divvil would still say "NO" even as he started making his purposeful way across the playroom to where Tommy was peacefully playing with the Brio trains. Thankfully, Jimmy wasn't there today.
The other three children in our classroom are a constant source of amusement though and they all love me and Aisling and offer big hugs and sticky kisses when they see us. We have two small girls, Mari and Charlotte, and a little boy named Keenan and they just couldn't be cuter.
Like today, for example, Keenan wanted to get into the foot-propelled Little Tykes car and drive it around the room. He's about two and a half, still fairly speechless, and came up to pat me on the knee, point to the car and say "Drive."
"You're going to drive the car?" I asked.
"Where are you going?"
"Work," he said firmly, and climbed into the car, placing a toy blow dryer on the seat beside him.
"Okay!" I called cheerfully as he rolled away. "See you tonight! Call me! Dinner's at six!"
"'Kay!" he said over his shoulder. He made one lap around the room and then pulled up back in front of me, smiling from ear to ear. "Home!" he announced.
"Well, hi!" I exclaimed. "I'm awfully glad to see you. Come on in, dinner's ready."
"Hug," he said, and threw himself on me, giggling. I hugged him back, relishing the squeeziness of his warm little body and the sweet smell of his hair. Cute!
Keenan released my legs and went to climb back into the car. "Work!" he said with that same ear-to-ear grin. He drove off in the car, hair dryer still in place (he later took to referring to it as a gun - maybe his dad is a police officer?) and made another round, where we repeated the whole home-dinner-hug process. We did it about fifteen times and the frequent repetition never diminished his delight until he got distracted by soap bubbles.
The toddler playroom at this church stocks bubbles in these handy little non-spill bottles, which is the only way I will consent to play with them unless I am outside on a summer's day, sitting in a plastic chair under a shady tree with a garden hose and a raincoat nearby: stickiness is not a tactile sensation I'm particularly fond of. Naturally, the children love them, and since the bubbles are there to be played with and it isn't my carpet, Aisling and I obligingly blew bubbles to the intense gratification of the littlelies.
There's just something about the combination of soap bubbles and wee toddling childerns that can make a person laugh out loud, you know? First of all, the babies just get drunk on the bubbles and stagger around, flailing their arms and saying, "Bubbles! See? I get bubbles! Bubble on your nose? You eat bubbles? Bubbles yucky! Look, BUBBLES!!!" and that's enough to make you a little giddy yourself, even though you know it's just some cheap dishwashing detergent and a little wand thingie.
Charlotte and Keenan were the only babies left in our room when the Great Bubble Extravaganza began, so they had plenty of room to move. All that space didn't prevent them from crashing into one another occasionally, which made them both tumble over, their mouths O's of surprise, as if it hadn't just happened thirty seconds before.
"Bubbles! Look! Up! Get bubbles!" they were both clamoring, clapping their fat little hands with the sweet dimpled knuckles. They were turning around and about and catching the bubbles mid-air and stomping them when they landed on the floor and then all of a sudden *BANG!* They'd whomp into each other and sprawl onto the floor, good-naturedly commenting, "I fall down! I go boom!" Ah, the innocence of youth! Because on the rare occasions when I fall down? I cuss a blue streak.
Nothing like cute babies to bring in some Christmas cheer. They're better than spiked eggnog.
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