While I never quite relish my job at Childwatch, I can’t bring myself to hate it. Nothing ever happens twice, and the writer in me comes at every day just hunting for story opportunities. Like this one. Again, names are changed to protect the almost innocent.
I often have the dubious pleasure of bringing children into any one of the three racquetball courts at the Y to play. If you’ve ever played this whopper of a game, you know that a racquetball court is an indoor affair, just four high, sturdy walls and a shellacked wooden floor. Needless to say, sound echoes tremendously in the courts. So while I’m able to relax a bit and interject only when there’s a problem, I have to deal with... let’s do some complicated math here...
7 children(10 rubber balls+ 4 hula hoops+2 corn poppers)
divided by my patience
times some figure or formula involving the loudness of a sound, how many decibels are added when echoes are involved, and how much louder all of it is when enclosed in a cube with glass and drywall sides
And all that equals a combined decibel level on par with a jet engine at 100 feet. Okay, I’m exaggerating. Maybe it’s a little less.
Until everybody thinks it’s a wonderful idea to scream at the top of their lungs at the same time.
I digest. Today it wasn’t as bad because there were only three kids in the gym with me: Tommy, Sarah, and her little brother Max. “Attention-deficit Hyperactivity Disorder” does not begin to describe Tommy. He reminds me physically of a hummingbird: tiny, wiry, bright red hair. If you manage to catch him, you won’t be able to hold him for long. The apocalyptic amount of energy contained in that tiny body will vibrate him right out of your hands. So what I’m really trying to say is that Tommy didn’t spend very long in the racquetball court. Then it was just Sarah, five going on a bratty fifteen, and her long-suffering and gentle little brother of three.
For a while they were content thwacking racquetballs back and forth in that awkwardly adorable way that only children with undeveloped fine motor skills are. Then Sarah pranced over to me and (literally) flung herself into my lap. She didn’t like me; I didn’t like her; we both knew it. But Sarah liked being under the seasoned and veteran eye of the Childwatch Overlord even less. So to me she would cleave, as long as Max found entertainment in striking at a ball, missing, and hitting himself in the face with a racquet. Which was, bless his heart, a lot longer than I’d have thought.
Sarah, using me as her personal lounge pillow, immediately began regaling me with stories (how true they were only she knows) about herself, her friends, herself, her family, herself, her dog, oh and did I mention herself. Usually I can get away with only pretending to be attentive, but Sarah must’ve had some sort of radar installed that went off whenever she detected any flicker in my attention. She’d yank on my shirt and bleat “Are you listening to me?”, then ask me to repeat back to her what she’d just said.
Sarah’s mom, pay attention to what your child is learning from you.
In this way we passed the next several minutes. In a moment of weakness, I raised my hands to my face and rubbed my eyes. I expected to hear another shrill reprimand from Sarah, but instead she seized my left pointer finger and shoved it in my face.
“What happened there?”
A band-aid decorated the tip of the finger in Sarah’s grip. To be honest, I don’t know how I’d gotten the bloodless but incredibly painful laceration on the pad of my finger, but I offered the best explanation I could to Sarah, otherwise I’d be fielding questions thrown at me from further and further out of left field.
“I got a cut. It must have been when I was using a knife to cut up chicken for supper last night.”
“Are you a mom?”
Left field; am I right?
“Wh–what? No. What warped and twisted path of logic dropped you at that gem of a conclusion?” This level of vocabulary and abstract idea-making may have been a bit above Sarah, but she has special ways of making one’s life miserable who dares to talk beneath her. So I err on the side of caution. She seems to grasp the gist of it anyway; for all her snottiness, she’s a bright kid.
“Yes you are. You were making dinner.”
“Just because I make my own food doesn’t mean I’m a mom. Your logic is faulty.”
“You make food for you and your kids. Duh.”
Brilliant volley by Sarah. Let’s see if Kate can return the hit.
“Do I honestly look like a mom to you?”
“Don’t answer that.” I clapped my hand over her mouth.
Ooh, a point for Sarah.
Sarah laughed and shoved my hand away. “How old are you?”
“Hah! You’re old! You must have like six kids!”
“Yes, no, and you’re very mean.”
Game, set, match, Sarah.
It’s kids like Sarah who keep her own mistaken judgment about me from ever being accurate.