Babysit­ting for vam­pires

The Review - - Opinion - Mike Todd You can steal Mike Todd’s life force at mikec­todd@gmail.com.

After the first day, when Kara and I re­turned from work and walked into the house, my mom and dad were sunken into the couch, drained of color and barely re­spon­sive, ap­par­ently the vic­tims of a vam­pire at­tack.

“What’s go­ing on over there? Are you guys OK?” I asked over the din, try­ing to pick out my dad’s voice on the other end of the line.

“Zack! I got your leg! I got your leg!” our son Evan shouted in the back­ground.

“It’s, uh, it’s go­ing fine. You know. It’s go­ing OK,” my dad replied.

“Let go! Let go!” Zack screamed.

Then a great, clang­ing, ex­tended crash hap­pened in the back­ground, like a dump truck had dropped a load of cof­fee ta­bles and cow­bells on our liv­ing room floor. My iPhone crack­led as the ear­piece tried its best to faith­fully re­lay the go­ings-on.

“Ev­ery­thing’s OK, ev­ery­thing’s fine,” Dad said, though it was un­clear which of us hewas try­ing to con­vince.

“Thank you so­much for do­ing this. Sorry about all the youth­ful ex­u­ber­ance,” I said. “Youth­ful ex­u­ber­ance” is a eu­phemism to de­scribe the be­hav­ior of chil­dren who would get kicked out of a fam­ily of ba­boons for be­ing too wild. As a par­ent, it’s your job to rec­og­nize the early stages of youth­ful ex­u­ber­ance, so that you can stamp it out be­fore it’s too late.

At that mo­ment, my par­ents were in the process of sec­ondguess­ing their de­ci­sion to vol­un­teer for child­care duty. They’d of­fered to help me and my wife Kara bridge the chasm be­tween the end of sum­mer camp and the start of school, a gap­ing twoweek pe­riod de­signed to make work­ing par­ents ques­tion their life de­ci­sions, an­nu­ally.

We’d all thought this would be a great op­por­tu­nity for my par­ents to spend some qual­ity time alone with our two boys, aged 5 and 8. We live four hours from my folks, so for them, get­ting to spend sev­eral full days with our kids is a rare treat, like fried Oreos. Won­der­ful, but also bad for you.

“This will be great,” we all agreed, with­out knock­ing on wood.

After the first day, when Kara and I re­turned from work and walked into the house, my mom and dad were sunken into the couch, drained of color and barely re­spon­sive, ap­par­ently the vic­tims of a vam­pire at­tack.

Our chil­dren, the lit­tle crea­tures of the day, had stolen my par­ents’ life force and used it to make them­selves stronger.

“Mommy! Daddy! My puppy likes Grandpa!” Zack yelled, as he re­peat­edly bounced his stuffed an­i­mal on my dad’s head.

Up­stairs, Evan was run­ning laps up and down the hall, scream­ing some­thing about Poké­mon and prob­a­bly do­ing one-armed pushups.

“We need a nap,” my mom mum­bled.

Nor­mally, Evan and Zack are sweet, well-be­haved kids, but I have a new the­ory that chil­dren can­not han­dle a change in rou­tine with­out test­ing ev­ery pos­si­ble boundary along the way, just to see what will give and what will hold, which is why sub­sti­tute teach­ers should get haz­ard pay. My par­ents held, but they nearly over­dosed on youth­ful ex­u­ber­ance.

The next day, when Kara and I came home, the kids were qui­etly read­ing books with my folks. The day after that, they ran up to tell us how much fun they’d had at the play­ground. The color had re­turned to my par­ents’ faces. By the end of the week, ev­ery­one was in a groove, and all that qual­ity time ac­tu­ally did hap­pen. It’s a spe­cial thing to see your kids and your par­ents to­gether, bond­ing, es­pe­cially when no­body is try­ing to grab any­one else’s legs.

“Maybe we can do it again next year,” Mom said as she packed up her suit­case on the last day. Or at least she­was prob­a­bly think­ing it. I’m al­most sure of it.

Next week, Kara’s par­ents are tak­ing their turn. On the first day, maybe they should wear scarves. Or riot gear.

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