If you ever hear that I have been babysitting, know this: It was an absolute act of desperation on the part of the mothers. It means there was no other option.
And it does occasionally happen.
As in the case of Nicole, who had a doctor's appointment and called. "Are you up for a little babysitting? I won't be gone long."
"Gone long." Key words here, because that means "such an abbreviated time that even Ronda can handle it." So, I agreed.
Nicole has 3-year-old identical twin girls, Aslyn and Bree, who showed up with their 5-year-old sister, Zoe, and her best friend. The twins, though sweet and polite, are a basketful of activity, which usually leads to trouble. Most twins go hand-in-hand to find trouble but not these two -- they split up and find it.
As I battled the forces that be to keep them out of everything, I thought to myself, "I can make it for an hour and a half." They ran, they jumped, they screamed, they asked the questions over and over. I'm the kind of person who likes to answer a question from children with a concise economy of words. Aslyn and Bree are vehemently opposed to such a simplistic approach.
After two hours, Nicole texted that she had been detained. I took a deep breath.
Bree tugged on my leg. "Where's Dixie Dew?" Bree is captivated with her little four-legged cousin.
I sighed (I did a lot of sighing that morning), "She's in the closet, hiding."
"Why her hide?"
"Because she's scared, just like me." The twins looked quizzical but, for once, they couldn't think of another question.
Needing to escape, I decided I'd go for my morning run. So, I took all the kids out in the yard, told the 5-year-olds to keep an eye on Tornadoes A and B while I ran up and down my driveway so I could watch them.
But there was no escaping. The twins ran with me. For 30 minutes, they did not slow down. "Good," I thought to myself, "This'll wear 'em out."
In. My. Dreams. Nothing wears those two out. They're the wearer-outers, not the wearer-out'ees.
When we returned, they wanted to eat. I put them on high stools at the kitchen island and gave them food and drink. I needed to leave for an appointment when Nicole returned so I was going to dress. I left Zoe, who at 5 is more capable than me, in charge.
"Do not get down. If you get down before you finish eating, I am going to spank you." I made them look me in the eye. "Now, repeat back to me what I just said."
Aslyn grinned. "Don't get down, get spanked."
"That's right." I kissed her on the forehead. "Bree, what did I say?"
She shrugged and grinned. "I don't know."
That should have been my first indication that she had plans. "I said, 'Don't get down or I'll spank you.' Do you understand?"
She nodded. I said to Zoe, "If one of them gets down, come and get me."
I was putting on my make-up when Zoe ran in. "Bree got down."
As soon as Bree saw me come into the kitchen, she started scrambling to get back up in the chair.
"Bree, what did I tell you?"
She pouted a bit. "I not want spanked." See, she heard the spanking part.
You gotta do what you tell a child you're going to do or you're lost all control. Since I didn't have much to begin with, I couldn't risk losing what I had. I popped her lightly on the bottom which resulted in nothing more than a pout.
Three hours and 17 minutes later, Nicole returned. As she was herding them out the door, they screamed in unison, "Bye Ronda! We come back to see you!"
Yep, and that's what's got me worried, too.
Ronda Rich is not a child expert but is the best-selling author of "What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should)."