The old saying goes…

Back home we have a saying “a quien no le gusta el caldo, que le den dos tazas.”  Loose translation: whoever doesn’t like broth gets two cups.  That having been said, I’m not good with children; I am good with MY children, but that’s because I’ve been instrumental in raising them and I can vouch for their manners, the way they behave and I have the power to give them the “mommy glare.”  Having said this, I spent all day yesterday surrounded by other people’s children…oodles and oodles of them.

Have I mentioned that these children, for some strange reason, LIKE me?  Yes, I am completely stumped as to why, but there you have it…they like me.  They want to come to my house, spend time with me…it’s baffling.  J thinks it’s funny as he sits on the couch and observes the goings-on from a distance.  “Don’t look at me, lady.  They’re obviously not here for me!,” he seems to say, and he smiles like the cat who swallowed the canary…

I was doing one favor.  I ended up doing several.  A one-child situation expanded to (at one given moment) a five-child situation.  These are not the kind of children who sit idly and watch the clock tick…these kids are the kind that run all over the neighborhood playing highly-imaginative games and have so much energy that I’m pretty sure they’re asleep by eight o’clock.  TGG was like that; TGG plays with them and he, too, ends up ready for bed at an early hour.  These kids actually run, jump, leap, bounce, chase, climb…

I was like that as a child.  If you ever see my knees you will be sure that I was anything but a sit-down-and-be-quiet kind of girl.  I have what we like to refer to as Franken-knees, criss-crossed with scars so old that you’d think I don’t remember how I got each and every one of them.  I do.  Some of them were pretty mild accidents.  Others were so spectacular that there’s a long, convoluted, exciting story behind them.  Both sorts of stories end with “and then they took out the iodine spray.”  That I have aged to be the person who has on-hand a lifetime supply of antibiotic ointment, assorted bandages, isopropyl alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, etc., etc., etc. is not surprising…the moment TGG was born and I saw him vigorously pee on the obstetrician I was sure I’d spend a lot of time mending him.  I wasn’t wrong.

But, again, the only children I’m good with are my sons.  My nieces and nephews never really had a chance to experience me as an aunt.  They either lived too far or they preferred my more outgoing sister.  I couldn’t compete with her bubbly disposition because I was more of a “hey, wanna play pirates?” as opposed to “hey, here’s an action figure.”  I never have done the baby-talk thing; I’m famous for talking to children like they’re capable of understanding complex concepts, and I don’t do the diminutive thing “do you want a bookie?  Do you like your blankie?”  I might refer to things as blankies and such, but I don’t do the sing-song thing unless I’m trying to make TGG laugh his head off.

I was never Mommy.  I’m not even Mom.  The children (yes, even J) call me by my name.  My mother was horrified by this and she tried to correct it, but the kids have done it for so long that to them my name is more an affectionate term than a title.  I get Mothers’ Day e-mail from TGG where he expresses how much he loves “his L—” or J writes (with someone’s supervision, of course,) Happy L—‘s Day.  This is such a deeply ingrained thing that if TGG is ever in trouble, he is to call us and say “Mom, Dad…” and we’ll call 9-1-1.  That’s our “secret code” for trouble…parental titles…

Anyway…I was kid-sitting and I kept my young charge occupied by putting together a puzzle (Disney Princesses,) doing dishes, baking scones, coloring with crayons and doing a couple of crafts.  I also sat through Team Oomisomething, Victorious and then we went outside.  J, smiling like the Cheshire Cat throughout, came in and out of the room, asked for his snacks, interacted briefly with our guest, and then proceeded to observe the activities from the safe haven of the couch.  The kids (who are like nuts and bolts to a magnet) started gathering on our deck and ended up in our dining room, quietly working on some crafts.  The dining room floor was littered with plastic guns, Ninja swords, and so forth…

I mediated three arguments that started with the expression “shut up!”  I called everyone by their full first name, and asked the guilty parties to sit with me for a moment.  There were tears.  There were apologies.  There were moments when I wondered WHY I was in charge of the kids.  When TGG and my husband came home at five, they were greeted by what my husband now calls Troop 466.  Many years ago he was a member of Pack 466 with the Cub Scouts; he claims they ate a lot of Oreos and watched Batman on TV.  The man doesn’t know one single complex knot, but he speaks wistfully of those days sitting in someone’s basement with legs dangling from the couch.

This morning the doorbell rang while I was putting groceries away and my husband went to answer it; he then came downstairs and said “a deputation representing Troop 466 has come to ask if you will be available to play later.”  He was in earnest.  I bit my tongue.  He thinks this is funny because he knows I’m not good with children.  I told him to convey my regrets and that I had many errands to run.  The kids, or so I’ve been told, slunk away looking depressed.  TGG thinks this is hilarious; he says I’m stealing his friends.  I told him if he doesn’t quit joking about this I will scratch his car as soon as he brings it from the lot next Saturday…

I didn’t get two cups.  I got a whole stock pot.  It is official: I am the cranky lady that the kids love to hang out with for some strange reason.  Mothers of the neighborhood rejoice!

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