By JAMIE PARSELL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
You won’t find a lot of stories about children in my column. No surprise there, I don’t have any. But my friends sure do and at times, I have gotten a glimpse of what life is like with little people. Full disclosure: These are only small peeks. I have no idea what it is like to wake in the middle of the night for a 3 a.m. feeding or shuttle children back and forth to school, ball practice, doctor visits and birthday parties. I am completely clueless, which makes any observations, and experiences that much more entertaining to my friends and family.
During the summer, I spent an entire week with a sweet toddler. Chris changed my name from “Jamie” to “Jomie.” An early riser, I could hear his little voice from my bedroom. Who needs an alarm clock with kids, I thought? I didn’t mind. After years of waking up early for work, I can rarely sleep pass 8 a.m., anyway. At breakfast, I would drink coffee, while he munched on bits of cereal and the occasional Pop-Tart. We played on the beach and splashed in the water. His little legs made fast work on the shore line. Between his parents, grandparents and myself, we were always on toddler watch. He could move fast, faster than I thought possible. How two short little legs produce that much speed I will never understand. Future track star in the making, I am sure of it.
That was vacation and I was the family friend. I admit I missed my morning wake-up call. At home, back in Mercer County, I am more of the baby sitter. I watch the same little guy in the evenings sometimes. We read books, crash trains and pull wagons across the hardwood floor. But the moment of truth isn’t surrounded by toys and games. My moment of truth with Chris happened at the dinner table. We were matching bites — one for his stuffed animal and one for him — of mac and cheese noodles. He wasn’t eating his other food, but I was happy he was content with the noodles. Then he coughed. It was just a tiny cough. He had been a bit sick earlier in the week because of the change in the weather. He coughed again. I instinctively cupped my hands together. I knew what was coming, perfect timing. For 2.5 seconds, I was proud of my quick-thinking. Then I washed my hands twice. OK, three times. Chris said, “I am done now.” We went and played with the trains, dinner forgotten for the moment.
Chris isn’t the only little guy in my life. I also have two godchildren, Trevor and Jacob, who are no longer toddlers, but in grade school. The twins were born in the winter and because they were so small, they stayed at home a lot during the first few months of life. So, I did what any friend would do in that situation. I brought the party to their home. OK, not a party, more like movies and junk food. But my friend Carol needed a friend during those long winter evenings. Her husband worked the evening shift. She changed one wet diaper. I changed the other’s messy diaper. Later their mother and I would spend the weekends pushing their strollers through the mall. There were a lot of tears back then, fights over toys and fussy evenings.
Then there is Owen and Wyatt, Lauren, Carlie and new baby Macy, all sweet children, who share my life in little ways. I like being their baby sitter, their adoptive “aunt” and vacation buddy. Right now, I have the joy of spoiling them rotten, allow their moms and dads a break from “toddler watch” and giving them back as soon as I hear footsteps at the door. With each child, I see apart of my friends, the moms and dads who love and care for them every day. I can’t help but care for their little ones, even if means catching dinner in my hands.
It may not be enough, these little bouts of time with children, to understand the responsibility of parenthood. I don’t believe anybody truly knows until it happens. No book can prepare you for the greatest challenge. I got something better than the expert’s books. With friends, who are all good moms and dads, I have excellent role models, support and a host of free baby sitters.
Jamie Parsell is the lifestyle editor of the Daily Telegraph. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @BDTParsell.