My brother and sister-in-law had a daughter the same year we got Mikey, so even though they’re about 18 months apart, we’ve been going through growing pains together. They like having us as vanguards of what to expect, and sometimes dread, as the Adorable Ones become the Terrible Twos. By the way, research has shown that Terrible Two is a misnomer. The temper tantrums, whininess, refusal to listen, and general awfulness is understood to be a longer period, beginning before the second birthday and ending, if you’re lucky, around age four. It’s like running a marathon, and then being told, oh, one more.
When Mikey first came to our home, my parents talked to my brother and I and our partners, and said, “Don’t forget about date nights.”
“We don’t want to go on date nights,” we all laughed. “We don’t want to miss one moment with our baby!”
Eyes narrowed. “Don’t neglect your time with each other. Don’t forget about sex, birthdays, and date nights. Find a baby-sitter.”
I’m 42, but when my parents narrow their eyes, I jump.
Sometimes, friends watch Mikey, which is nice because they’re frequently friends with children his own age, so he’ll have more fun with them than he’d have at home. Everyone wins. We have offers we haven’t even cashed in yet–his friend Lanyon’s folks are volunteering to watch him over Valentine’s Day so we can get romantic, and his friend Charlotte’s folks for Christmas gave us a gift certificate to our favorite local grill and an offer to baby-sit anytime.
As wonderful as our friends are, if you need regular help, you have to pay a professional. We joined Care.com and put up an ad for childcare. Just so there were no surprises, we told them straight that we weren’t. If that discouraged anyone, thank God, because we quickly had a hundred applicants. Of those, we had some strict guidelines from the State of California about who can watch who was, at that, time our foster son, which were basically the same qualifications as we had to fulfill: She had to have her background checked through a system called LiveScan, she needed a car with current insurance, she needed a recent negative TB test, and she needed to have certification in First Aid and CPR. Add to that a couple requirements of our own about availability, experience, and geographic proximity, and only about 20 or so of the applicants fit the bill. We interviewed them all.
Some didn’t show up. We ruthlessly decided that one of the things we wanted in a nanny was physical presence, and they were dropped from consideration. There were a couple of candidates who, because of their personality, infirmity, or age, couldn’t get down on the floor and play with Mikey. They were also cut. After that, like most things, it comes down to chemistry.
Us: “We don’t believe in spanking.”
Blank stare from the applicant. Cut.
Us: “Actually, we don’t go to church. Any church.”
Blank stare from the applicant. Cut.
Finally, we narrowed it down, and we hired two nannies who have been alternating days, picking up Mikey from preschool and playing with him until we get home. They have been fabulous, and we’ll never know how much they’ve helped our marriage by letting us get out of the house when there are parties and dinners and nights just for the two of us. The only thing about having a village raise your child is you don’t know where certain lessons are coming from. I know Sally teaches him Spanish, and Alexis teaches him French. I know Britishisms come from Ian, and from his preschool come funny little expressions like “I’ll make a h
appy choice now” and “Daddy, we only do potty talk in the potty, please.”
Last week, Mikey was helping other kids with their lunch boxes. That’s his self-appointed job at preschool. A new little girl, two-year-old Ella, asked for help with hers while he was busy with another one.
“Just one second, Sweetheart,” he said, according to his teacher.
We don’t know where the hell he got that. Humphrey Bogart?