My husband recently turned 37 and to celebrate I decided to take him to a restaurant in our neighborhood that serves a 96 ounce steak. We did not order this steak, but I just wanted you to know that there is a place on the health-crazed, kale-obsessed Westside of Los Angeles that will still serve meat in massive quantities, and for this I am thankful. I digress. The only problem with my plan was that none of our regular babysitters were available. In these instances we have one of two choices.
One, cancel our plans. This is what we typically do because truthfully we would rather be in bed watching Netflix and eating popcorn than dressed and out in public trying to find things to talk about other than our children. Ain’t parenthood grand? Or two, we ask our friends. I don’t typically feel comfortable with the second option though. It’s not because I don’t trust my child-free friends to watch my kids (except for the one whose solution to every child-rearing problem I discuss with her is to give them NyQuill – you know who you are), but more so because I don’t want to inconvenience them. My kids can be real ball-busters and I don’t feel right about asking someone to give up their hard earned weekend doing for free what babysitters make really good money for these days. For this night however, I decided to bite the bullet and ask one of my best friends to watch the boys, and she said yes! She even offered to make my husband a birthday cake! If we were to ever go the “sister wives” route, she’d be first on my list.
When the night came, I walked her through the basics and tried to be as thorough as possible without going overboard and making her regret the decision before we even left the house. Our youngest was already in bed so I told her what to do if he woke up (pacifier, then bottle, then rocking, then praying he’ll get bored and fall back asleep).
For our five year old, whom she has known since he was a few weeks old and is keenly aware of his manipulative mastery, I didn’t need to remind her that no matter how many times he tries to convince her otherwise, he cannot eat cookies/candy/cake/ice cream immediately before bed. Oh, and that if he says he’s already brushed his teeth, he’s lying. I went through the normal bedtime routine and told her that because I have done a piss poor job of keeping him “sleep trained” since he became old enough to get out of bed on his own, she would probably need to stay in the room with him until he fell asleep, but that it only takes about five minutes. Other than that, I couldn’t think of anything I was forgetting to tell her.
I was wrong.
When we arrived back home, I was three drinks in and feeling fantastic. There had been no phone calls or frantic texts. Both the boys were asleep. My husband loved the restaurant. We talked about many things other than our children. And, we still had cake to eat. Success!
That is, until my friend started talking about the books she read to our eldest. As soon as she said the words “Disney stories” I knew we were in deep shit. In my rundown of the nighttime routine, I had neglected to mention probably the single most important thing. When it comes to those “classic” children’s stories, you must, I repeat, MUST edit the crap out of them. This wisdom only comes from trial and error. It’s not something a layman would ever think about, why would they?! The books are in my kid’s room so any reasonable person would assume they’re fair game! “Which ones did you read?” I cautiously asked. “Well, first we read ‘Snow White’, where the fucking queen tries to KILL her with a poisoned apple.” Oh boy. I have skipped over the whole “killing” part for the better part of three years in this story. As far as my son knew, Snow White was just a very deep sleeper. But seeing as how pretty much every game he plays with his friends now involves some “bad guy” getting killed by a superhero, being let in on Snow White’s near demise isn’t the end of the world.
”Anything else?” I prayed she wouldn’t say it, but I started to feel my booze buzz deteriorating into a full-blown hangover as soon as the words left her mouth. In slow motion I heard, “101 Dalmatians too”. Shit, shit, shit. First of all, I honestly have no idea why anyone ever thought this story was a good idea. There’s a woman who kidnaps and then KILLS PUPPIES to make FUR COATS! Not to mention the fact that these atrocities ultimately lead to a “happy ending” where the poor human schmucks end up with ONE HUNDRED AND ONE dogs to take care of! How this became one of the most beloved children’s stories of all time is a real head scratcher to me. But then again, in many Disney stories the parents end up dead so I guess ole Roger and Anita fared better than most.
My son loves this story though. I should say, he loves the version we read him, where Cruella kidnaps the puppies so she can sell them to the circus. It’s not much better than the “real” story, but I just don’t think a five-year-old needs to know Cruella’s true intentions. But now the truth was out, and it was my fault. The repercussions of this were three-fold. One, my son begged her to let him sleep in our bed because he was scared. To her credit, she didn’t give in, but she sure did spend a hell of a lot longer in his room than five minutes before he fell asleep. Sorry, friend! Two, we now have nightly “Cruella checks” where we must make sure she isn’t outside his door. I fight the urge to tell him she would only be interested in our dog anyway. And three, I will probably never ask a friend to babysit again for fear of forgetting one little detail that could derail it all.
So, let this be a cautionary tale to all you parents out there. If you are lucky enough to have a friend who will babysit your kids on a Saturday night, for the love of god, please don’t forget to tell her about editing the damn Disney stories.