Tuesday, October 9, 2018

I'm A Bad Person

My older sister and brother-in-law ditched town and their responsibilities for a little vacation and my siblings and parents were put on a babysitting rotation for their four kids.

Mine and Skylar's turn came last weekend. Friday evening to Sunday evening, to be exact.

Look. I don't have natural parenting abilities. I'm incapable of talking to children. I don't know what to say. I address 5-year-olds like they are middle-aged insurance defense attorneys. Every exchange is a legal transaction. When my 11-year-old nephew tried to haggle on bedtime last Friday,

Nephew: What if I just stay up for 30 more minutes?

Eli: You'll go to bed now.

Nephew: But what if I promise to clean my room tomorrow?

Eli: You'll go to bed now and you'll clean your bedroom tomorrow.

Nephew: This isn't fair!

Eli: I don't speak whine.

Nephew: But it's not fair!

Eli: Unless you have something of value to offer me, this negotiation is a waste of my time.


I just don't know how. I can't do the condescending little kid voice everyone else seems to naturally pull out when confronted with children. When I try to do it, it just sounds like I'm mocking them.

Skylar has the opposite problem. He speaks to his nephew, who is in high school, like he's a toddler. He calls him cutsie nicknames and pinches his cheeks.

For the above reasons, the young kids in my family loooooove Skylar. And they don't quite know what to think of me. Which, considering that I speak to them like they're middle-aged insurance defense attorneys, is pretty generous.

So there we were, Friday night to Sunday night, staying with my four really wonderful nieces and nephew, me wholly out of my element, and Skylar saying things like, "I wish there were MORE kids" while he made pillow forts and told the children that for every job that must be done there is an element of fun!

I'm telling you all of this just as a set up for the below. During my weekend escapades, I posted Instagram stories of our progress, including this:

Skylar, who was having the time of his life, had not actually even noticed that I seemed to be disappearing for an hour at a time. His total apathy for having a break at any point just made me feel like an even worse person.

And so, I cannot overstate how incredibly grateful I was to all eleventy million of you who sent me Instagram messages in response to the above story, telling me that if I'm a bad person for hiding in my car while pretending to run errands, then so are you and so is every parent you know.

I like to think that right now, across America, there are somewhere around 8 millions parents sitting purposefully in their cars in grocery store parking lots.

We finished our weekend babysitting. We said goodbye. The kids gave me polite nods. They gave Skylar weepy hugs. I got into my car. Just to the east of me I saw Skylar float away, holding ever so elegantly onto the end of an old umbrella.

~It Just Stranger


  1. A) I always go to the grocery store alone. I stop at Starbucks on my way there and sit in my car drinking my coffee and enjoying music uninterrupted for at least 15 minutes before I go into the store. Then I browse EVERY AISLE of the store to prolong the trip. Whenever my husband suggests I take my son with me I am literally out the door before he can finish the sentence.

    B) I am completing using the "What do you have to offer me" the next time my son wants anything (stay up late, extra electronics time, dessert . . . .).

  2. I need a Skylar Mary Poppins movie stat. One of my favorite Disney movies!

    I’m somehow a mix of the two of you. I talk to babies as if they’re adults but can do the cutesy kid voice with older kids. I’m not entirely sure how to talk to teenagers. But on a positive note I think talking to kids like adults tells them you take them seriously.

  3. I totally do the sit in the car thing! Usually with a milkshake or 44oz. drink I stopped to get on the way to the store. I sit in the store parking lot, listen to podcasts, and catch up on FB and Instagram before I head into the store to buy the 1 thing I’m pretending we need. If that’s wrong, I don’t want to be right!

  4. Sometimes on my way home from work I will pull into a gas station and play on my phone for 5 or 10 minutes before going home. And sometimes I tell them it is later than it really is and put
    them to bed early. I love my kids but sometimes I need to avoid them.

  5. I do this and I live alone. Sometimes I just sit in my car in the driveway for a few minutes before going inside to take care of the dog or do chores.

  6. Teaching kids proper negotiating techniques is not a bad thing--I'm not even kidding, I usually reward my kids with a good deal if they negotiate well with me. I want them to see the benefit of understanding the other person's priorities and tailoring their offer to match. And then they get stonewalled if they pull out the whine.

    I'm a lot more like Skylar most of the time, though. I'm the Primary chorister in my ward and it is super fun and I never want to be released and all of the kids are perfect little angels for me. And it's still a good idea to hide in your car sometimes.

    1. I love the idea of parents teach negotiating techniques, especially since it could arm younger siblings with tools to guard against older siblings manipulations.

      Also, being a primary chorister sounds like so much fun!

  7. At least you didn't have to stand outside the child's bedroom door holding it closed with all your weight so that they wouldn't come out of their room AGAIN!! One dear friend of mine who has 5 kids under 8, 4 of them boys, reverses the locks on the bedroom doors so she can lock the children in their rooms at night. I still can't decide....cruel or genius.