Concentric circles of irony frost the universe, like the coils in your fridge.
Irony would be the Dalai Lama marrying for money, not love. Irony would be Hugh Hefner marrying the Dalai Lama.
And irony is me babysitting my granddaughter while taking parenting tips from the two daughters I raised from birth…changed, fed, washed, wiped, combed, dressed, lullabied, coached, scolded, financed, entertained and – most of all – taught to walk, talk, swim, ski, snorkel and tell a joke in tense situations.
Taught them how to drill a penalty kick, finesse a 5-iron, the right way to flip a flapjack…a million things a dad does without acknowledgement.
And now they are teaching me how to babysit my cherub-faced granddaughter, the one I call Catty Cakes. The one they dress like Pippi Longstocking.
This lack of faith comes with the territory, of course. Kids never trust their parents about parenting. I mean, who knows you better?
Plus, parenting is ever evolving – lousy now with apps and gadgets and new ideas about exactly when bacteria colonizes the baby’s intestines.
When I was a young dad, the only gadgets we had were Peter Pan night lights. You flicked on the nightlight, shut the door. Now, there is all this CIA equipment – nanny cams with motion-activated sensors. My lovely and patient older daughter even has high-powered drones.
That is how, when I babysit Cakes, my daughters monitor me from the living room while I serenade my granddaughter with Irish war songs, and give her a bottle of milk, while her little head rests in the crook of my arm.
Is there anything better?
Have to admit I do a pretty fair job. Of course, having raised four kids, I put babies to bed hundreds of times.
On this night, I kiss her milky chin and put Cakes in her crib. She lays her chestnut curls on the pillow, does a quick spin move so she’s on her tummy, thrusts her butt in the air and gently goes to sleep with a pacifier in her mouth and one in each hand, a family tradition.
In a way, it explains my fondness for Blanton’s Single Barrel.
Anyway, as I come down the stairs, triumphant after my inaugural put-Cakes-to-bed moment, a small grand jury awaits: Rapunzel and her fiancé (Uncle Truck), and Suzanne (the silver cloud), who has been brought in as additional backup, presumably because she has fostered some 70 infants, in addition to raising three kids of her own. The lovely and patient older daughter is still there too, as is father Finn – they haven’t yet left for dinner.
So, basically there are five people critiquing my performance, as I put one 15-month-old down for the night.
“Just one note, Dad,” Rapunzel says.
“Wow, just one?”
“You need to use your indoor voice,” she says.
I explain that I don’t really have an “indoor voice.” I came of age during REO Speedwagon concerts at Illinois county fairs, and my ears are pretty mushy. All I can really hear anymore is the blood pumping behind my eyes when my children offer parenting advice.
My hearing suffers too, from all the ballgames I’ve attended as a quasi sportswriter. Stadiums now pipe in music so loud that it singes the vellus hair in your ears and nose. You can’t have a decent conversation, can’t argue the merits of Ferguson Jenkins vs. Bob Gibson, a tenuous stance in the best of times (though, as you know, Jenkins was 5-3 in their head-to-head matchups).
Instead of talking, you just sit there nursing your $14 beer and losing your mind, as the whole world gets noisier and noisier – sports, concerts, talk shows.
As I lose my hearing, the world gets louder.
So, that’s my report on the dubious intersection of fatherhood, irony and babysitting. I’m hoping this might lead to future babysitting gigs. And future irony.
Sorry, I don’t have a website or even much of a resume. I just raised four kids, that’s all, and probably saved two of them from some sort of lethal situation – one when he choked on a hazelnut, the other when the little dude put his fingers in the cocker spaniel (not the front end, either).
Somehow I saved them both.
And now, for the same 50 cents per hour I charged in 1971, plus any cold beers I can sneak from the ice box, I am back on LA’s demanding baby-sitting circuit.
FYI, Saturday slots are filling fast.
The Gin & Tonic Society of Greater Los Angeles is still gunning for a Sept. 3 bash in the hills above the Rose Bowl. Please keep your calendars clear and your hearts pure as we approach this important event. Don’t RSVP yet – I don’t have that kind of memory. In fact, yesterday, I accidentally stored the lettuce down where I usually keep the chips and the crackers. When it came time for Smartacus to make a salad, we couldn’t find the lettuce. I mean, we looked everywhere. So this Gin & Tonic bash is probably tenuous at best. But we’d still love to have you there. Meanwhile, for books and the coolest gin glasses ever, please visit ChrisErskineLA.com, a sort of clearing house for such items. Splash a little watermelon juice in there with the gin and toast the approach of cooler days and football. Cheers!