“You know how you’re not married?”
“Yes,” I replied.
“And you know how I’m not married?”
“Well, we could get married to each other.”
“That’s a great idea!” I responded, gazing lovingly into Nick’s gorgeous, brown eyes.
“But your mum won’t let you get married till you finish school. And not just primary school, but high school, too.”
Nick made the unexpected proposal one Sunday afternoon while we were watching the animated movie Shark Tale together. He was seven at the time.
“What did you tell my son?” his mum demanded.
“Relax. I told him he had to finish school first.”
“And university, too!” she said, “At least by then, he’ll be pushing you round in your wheelchair.”
Now that was uncalled for, don’t you think?
A lady’s man
“Hellooo, ladies,” Nick drawled, swaggering into the kitchen one day.
“First, I’m going to give mum a kiss and cuddle,” he announced, “and then I’ll give Hari a kiss and cuddle.”
No wonder his mum and I constantly fought for his affection.
“How's my gorgeous boy?” I’d say.
“Excuse me, but he’s my boy. I’m the one who gave birth to him!”
“But I’m the babysitter,” I retorted, as we shoved each other out of the way to get to Nick’s cuddles.
Fortunately, we never forced Nick to choose between his mum or me (babysitter extraordinaire); however, when he was around 10 years old, he put our squabbling to rest when he publicly announced his top three best friends:
Need I say more?
Of course, his mum wasn't impressed and refused to concede defeat, but it gave me the trump card I needed.
Jen, on the other hand, quickly quashed any rivalry between her mum and me by omitting both of us from her top three list.
“I'm your mother! We're supposed to be best friends.”
“And what about all the things I do for you, girlfriend,” I gasped in mock despair, “I feed you, take you to the park, read you bedtime stories, buy you presents...”
I rarely resorted to emotional blackmail, but this was justified. I mean, I was the babysitter, after all. And I'd given both kids 12 years of my life: what better role model could they have asked for?
I've long considered Nick and his sister Jen as “my” kids. In addition to feeding them, taking them to the park, I regularly dropped them off and picked them up from school, attended their school concerts, swimming/athletics carnivals - and at the end of the day I'd hand them back exhausted (clarification: I was the one who was exhausted).
Despite the emotional blackmail, though, we’ve had a lot of fun times together. And along the way I adopted their friends Rach and Aaron, who shared some of our babysitting adventures.
The Babysitter Chronicles – Part 1
“Are we there yet?”
“Do you even know where we’re going?”
“I feel car sick.”
Thus began our grand adventure one night during a simple dinner expedition to Pizza Hut: me and four kids, Jen and Rach (both 10), Aaron (8) and Nick (7).
That doesn’t look right, I thought, driving into the empty carpark. The building was closed and the lights were out, so I decided to keep driving. Surely there’d be another Pizza Hut somewhere along the Princes Highway in Sydney’s southern suburbs.
“Where are we going?”
“To find another Pizza Hut.”
“That one’s closed.”
“I don’t know.”
We drove for another half hour and ended up at Miranda, but no Pizza Hut in sight.
“Where are you taking us?”
“Why didn’t we just stop at that first Pizza Hut?”
I sensed potential mutiny and had to find somewhere suitable to feed four hungry kids. On the return leg, a small shop caught my eye: Big Tony’s Pizza.
“We’re having dinner here,” I announced.
“But it’s not Pizza Hut.”
Their protests were quickly muted when they spotted the guy behind the front window flipping pizza dough into the air.
It barely kept them distracted until our pizzas arrived, followed soon after by a double scoop of ice cream for each of them as an added bonus.
“Do you know how to get home?” asked Aaron.
“I thought you’d be able to tell me?”
“Can’t you look at the street directory?”
“I don’t have one.”
“I know, we can call mum,” Nick offered.
“I don’t have her mobile number. And they’ve gone out, remember.”
A worried look spread across Aaron’s face. “But how are we going to get home?”
“Well, you all should’ve been paying attention instead of complaining in the car.”
“But you’re the adult!” Jen pointed out.
“Yeah, I’m telling mum on you,” said Nick.
Kids can be so mean.
Postscript: We returned home without further incident, despite our initial detour. And for the record, yes, I did know how to get them back home. I was just messing with their minds...
New Zealand 2008
New Zealand 2006
United Kingdom 2004
Athens Olympics 2004
Beijing to Athens 1994
I acknowledge the traditional Custodians of the land on which I work and live, the Gubbi Gubbi / Kabi Kabi and Joondoburri people, and recognise their continuing connection to land, the waters and sky. I pay my respect to them and their cultures; and to Elders past, present and emerging.
© 2023 HARI KOTROTSIOS