Earlier this year my fiancée and I parachuted into parenthood, taking full-time guardianship of my three nephews for a month while their parents were away.
When my sister asked us if we’d “watch” her three boys while she and their father travelled to New Mexico to take a month-long course, we didn’t say yes right away. New Mexico is a long way away from their small-town home in the interior of British Columbia, and a month is a long time to be away from your mother when you’re only 5, 9 or 10.
And neither of us is or has ever been a parent. My fiancée claims to have done some babysitting 15 or so years ago, and there was that one time we had the two older boys over for a sleepover at our apartment in downtown Vancouver–we had Mr Noodles for dinner and watched YouTube cartoons on my laptop–but that was the extent of our childminding experiences.
This was an entire month, in their house, with mornings and school and afterschool activities and friends and homework and lunches and bedtime and snack time and laundry. Unlike our tidy, child-free apartment, their home was a living organism demanding constant vacuuming. Their basement, should you gather the courage to go down there, is 60 per cent LEGO, 35 per cent NERF and 5 per cent sticky. Oh, and they have rats for pets. True story.
But we did say yes eventually. We parented hard for a month, and nobody lost any limbs, not even any of the rats. We did have plenty of realizations, though. Here are just a few of the many lessons we learned during our 30-day trial parenthood:
Sleep is a precious, precious commodity that I have been squandering my entire life
Why are they awake, playing cards and screaming at 5 AM? Can a 5-year-old have a gambling problem?
Cutting vegetables or fruit increases appeal by 10,000%
Call me Uncle Fruit Ninja.
Socks don’t need to match
Stripes on the left foot, Batman on the right? Close enough. And good thing, too, because there’s somehow only three matching pairs in the house.
Rats are cute but messy
No really, they are! Also smelly. Not unlike kids.
Kids aren’t great at dodgeball
And I’ve still got my throwing arm.
Well, I “relearned” it, technically.
Curious George was straight up abducted!
Did you know this? I read that book six times and am pretty certain that dude with the yellow hat is a bad man. Also, why is every nurse “pretty”?
Fortnite is a helluva drug
They’re addicted, I’m addicted, and we’re way over our 1-hour screen time limit for the day. “I hope Mom and Dad never come home!”
Time and temperature are murky concepts for kids
This is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand you can manipulate their schedules and wardrobes and they won’t even know it, but on the other, you’ve got to manage their schedules and wardrobes and they don’t even care.
Just about any screen is an incredibly effective babysitter
They may be zombies after 45 minutes, but surely it’s worth it for the silence.
A bedtime is not a suggestion
Tired children are unhappy children, and unhappy children are monsters. EVERYBODY pays the price the morning after a busted bedtime…especially if they’re gambling at 5 AM?