Category Archives: Guide

The Art of Babysitting: the lowest paid high-risk job in the world…

Spare the rod, spoil the child—

Boys will be boys. And so will men…

This could have been possible without the help of a few like minded individuals, but it would not have been nearly as fun to put together. I just hope that that enjoyment shows on the page. It’s also nice to have the blame for conjuring up such rotten behaviour shared. What was omitted of course, will stay that way.

19171_281714681040_1679334_nThere is no such thing as a perfect mother or a perfect father for that matter. So it stands to reason that babysitting, as an art form is impossible to master. This doesn’t mean that an attempt to do so is futile, it just means the odds of success aren’t exactly weighed in your favour. We do live in the age where man has voyaged to beyond the unquestionable fathoms of the deep; leapt from the edge space; we do have Usain Bolt, and children are being born at a much younger age, year after year, but like the babysitter, parents are doomed from the start it’s an insurmountable mountain that must be negotiated from the moment they arrive to bring joy, warmth and happiness to them, and it is their responsibility alone to confuse and disturb them. The humble babysitter however, has no enduring claim, other than to provide little-more than a form of cheap entertainment; a gift if you like, from the parent to child, as a pay off for abandoning them to seek out entertainment of their own.

So, what follows is rule number one, of one, in multiple parts: not exactly the key to being a good babysitter so much as it is the key to surviving babysitting…

You see, the problem that most of us encounter whilst looking after a couple of mitching-snipes, is that we still think of them as children. This is not the case, it is a basic thought-error and wild under-estimation from which trap, should you fall into it, a lifetime of therapy could be necessitated. Children, under the supervision of a babysitter must be thought of as miniature-creatures, since they regard us at best as pretend people. We don’t really exist in the sense that we have powers to anything but occupy space or heaven-forbid we actually tell them to do anything they ought be or not be to-do and this is something a miniature-creature can work out by simply exchanging looks with a sibling, or ogling us.

Within a moment of surmising we harbour weakness, they will begin to determine inappropriate actions amongst themselves and begin to divide the bibs they intend to plant on us whilst nabbing the regulars of acceptable behaviour in the bud, one nip at a time: they truly believe that anything goes. You may as well resort to pirate talk straight away; but arrghhs and it meb’ees will only hold them at planks-length for so long, because they are scheming little terriers who love nothing more than to leave you sunk and drowned whilst they strip your quarter decks and fetch you a kop of the unfortunate variety across the cheek, up the bracket or if you’re really unlucky, right in the mouse-trap leaving you shivering up and down whatever timber you have remaining…

This is where your counter-planning must begin if you’re foolish enough to enter Amityville without any. You must muzz, before being muzzed, because you are vulnerable within seconds of being seen. The rule starts here. You must be sure to keep your movements to a minimum. A for limp example, will be noticed uncannily, because while you are hanging up your coat, items of furniture will be being moved with the express purpose of clipping it, regardless of the room you enter and they somehow manage this without uttering a single syllable. Therefore, if you do have a limp pretend the affliction bothers the other leg, or both, or if that’s too much, a pair of baggy trousers will suffice.

Naturally, if you manage to navigate the obstacles without so must as an inconvenience to your balance, never put it past a creature to shimmy in with a nudge or two of your own. Sometimes as a defensive strategy, an accidental clip round the ankles of your own works wonders to keep them on the other foot. I knew of one brood strategically placing roller-skates around the house when breaking in a new babysitter, so it’s important to remain focused.

Any successful completion of a booby-trapped path can earn you respect, but you have to be quick to register any sleight nods of approval this fetches you because it’s as stealthy as their next move…

If they can’t topple you through material mischief alone, they will be forced to barter with you and ask you seemingly innocuous questions that you freely submit to answering. This can be dangerous, as they use this information to be beastly. Remember, these are not children. And you my dears, are not real.

So when they ask you if you’d like a cup of tea, return the compliment and suggest that you will make it; being careful not to trip over the rocking horse that has by magic appeared by your right foot and the marbles by your left and proceed to the kitchen, whenever possible, alone— but should that be impossible— by making positively sure that you lead whether you know the way or not. Knives and other stabbing instruments have the unlikely habit of becoming unhinged and accidentally lethal at this point. You should make sure there is nothing suspicious about the kettle, and make doubly sure you don’t find yourself standing in a small puddle of water before engaging it.

Just in case you’re still a little apprehensive, I’d recommend a startled leap away from the counter. This is a cunning ploy. Not only does it grant certain observations to be made, it give you a chance to draw your own conclusions as to the motives of your creatures. If they launch themselves back and hurt themselves, so much the better, you can inform the injured party that it was in fact their sibling that caused the wounds, so by creating a diversion whilst finishing up with the tea. If they merely stand firm with a look of excited wonderment on their faces, you know you’re in for the long haul. Not only do they have their code to protect, but they are, in all actuality, going to make pretty certain that you never leave the house alive.

This is when you must plan pre-emptive revenge if you’d been in a rush and had forgotten to before accepting the appointment. For my guarantee, comprehensive enlightenment is always sought, and I employ the services of a master. Her insight into the ways of the sneak are beyond reproach, therefore her advice, beyond question:

  • Turning one child against the other by favouring them; preferably the older child…

  • Threats and bribes…

  • Feeding them huge amounts of tryptophan to induce sedation

  • Winning them over by allowing them to do things expressly forbidden by their parents under the guise of deal-making and secrets; staying up late and watching TV…

If however you do not have the heart to drug your tiny adversary, and you just want them to know who’s boss make their tea the Mongolian way and use salt instead of sugar. This is when you can start to turn the tables back on them; regardless of its shape. Reverse psychology on a creature is a powerful tool. Not only will they seek personal compensation for damaging their palate, they will also chuck a little hurry-durry your way. Combine this with a sneaky aside to the untainted sibling by suggesting his brother, or sister is a wimp and you’ll be granted an honorary high-five on the spot. If you play your cards right the brothers, or sisters will spend the next little while exchanging names and daring each other to drink the tea at which point, one of them will, have rush to the toilet, and be sick…

With one down it’s easier to work on the other one. This can be achieved by suggesting he is beastly, and he should apologise immediately, and keep him company if that fails, you should use the ‘golden ticket’ method:

  • Show them a horror film or ghost story; anything that deals with keeping all limbs on the bed, under the covers and keeping quiet so ‘it’ will not find their next victim…

I remember to always keep a copy of Scream handy, and simply tell them it is the new Casper film. They will be horrified by the antics of the unfriendly ghost; and go to bed.

With the job done, it is important to reflect on what has passed. I tend to believe that in order to be a good babysitter, you must think in the language of kiddish monsitous if this means you have to put your self to bed early for being naughty so be it: for it is quite possibly the lowest paying high-risk job in the world.

With the ultimate goal of ensuring that everyone is alive and the house is intact when the parents return; even when the odds are stacked against you, it’s not entirely unfair to know the rules for playing a little hard-ball now is it?

‘Children sweeten labours, but they make misfortunes more bitter.’

Francis Bacon: ‘Of Parents and Children’

Nothing’s changed much in 500 years has it?

The Art of Kitty Maintenance…

Such temperate palms doth pitter like rain—

Our misery is their entertainment…

I’ll forgo the usual introduction and instead reproduce a cartoon I found in the hope that it will at least seem to justify my labours as much to you, as it does to me. And of course, make them appear all the more sane: kitty maintainanceWith the exception of a few pursuits I could be pressed to lay a hand on without overly taxing myself, I can honestly say that owning a cat is one of the trickiest. The word itself: pursuit, perhaps sums up the very relationship we have with our feline friends better than any other. Let me assure you, I’m in no way making allusions to that sound they make when they’d like to make us think we are causing them botherations I am deadly serious. The word pursuit is perfect; implies a chase and more often than not, it is we who are doing the chasing.

I like to think they prefer it this way, because no matter which way you look at it, there is an inevitable run around that occurs from day to day which can leave you wondering where your next breath will come from. This is something cats consider beneath themselves, for they are animals which have indifference hard-wired into them; they are the same creatures which can sleep for three days then fall forty feet onto solid ground and land gracefully: panting therefore is something they gaze upon with a kind of indignation reserved for the owners of lesser pets. I’ve little doubt that in their minds, such behaviour would no doubt spoil their whole aesthetic. It inevitably comes down to the simple question: who owns whom? For it’s a simple truth that, as much as we would like to believe otherwise: it’s thems which does the owning which unnaturally brings us full circle to the original point of pursuit

Cats need to be tackled— something easier written than done, but there you have it. There is no other way of putting it: their outward gaze may be one of calm, knightly almost but underneath beats an epicentre of cruelty and uncompromise. This is something I have noticed over the years and despite the odd exceptions— tackling gets you respect. It also allows you to retain a little dignity, once you realise any hope of clinging onto all of it is sadly unrealistic.

Cats operate on an entirely different biological clock you see, but this is all part of their tactic to confuse and befuddle their owners. They’re the peace-time equivalent of P.O.W.s wanting to get home by first irritating their captors. Autumn, since she is my case-study, has long since been banned from watching anything that might encourage behaviour of an overly irritating manner, because like many of her kind, she doesn’t need any.

She has just the three settings:

  • Sleep

  • Play

  • Eat

Sleep time for cats is a curious affair. They can be in a vegetative state for hours, be curled still and dreaming of catching sparrows and offering them as gifts and still become alive at a moments notice to create havoc and make us cry. This is where they differ from us. We wake up and generally plod about and walk into things for a few minutes, whilst spending the next few hours trying to remember who we are.

It’s also the time they boast the ability to operate in all three states simultaneously. When they sleep they dream; when they dream, they are invariably thinking about food. When they want food they think it’s cute to get our attention; firstly by playing and then by making the most unremitting sound imaginable: some of them not dissimilar to a crying baby. This is where they differ from dogs, who haven’t the ability to produce more than a half dozen utterances; whereas cats have a resonating chamber granting the them powers of production over something in the region of a hundred-odd noises designed to register a frown, wake the dead or put you off whatever it was you were doing at any time of the day or night.

Luckily, cats will sleep on average, a full twenty hours a day if for no other reason, so they can be fresh to disturb their ‘owners’ whenever they damn well please. When they are not however, they are hunting lap and don’t be fooled into thinking it’s an act of love. Altruism and cats do not mix: it’s because your lap is warmer than the floor, or invariably the chair or bed it was sleeping on. You only have to ask yourself how many times you’ve left your chair only to return and find a cat’s curled up or contorted on it sporting a big grin as though born there… It’s all part of cats’ sleep time.

Play time is next, and there is only one lesson here to be learnt. Cats play when they want to play: Period… There are no exceptions. Autumn for instance barely moves. She does occasionally stretch and sigh; looks good doing it too; and though she’d never dream of doing the two simultaneously in case it affected her balance, she rarely plays. A couple of times a day though, usually at about the time she feels she deserves to be rewarded with food, she goes a little do-lally-tat. This is the only time she really ever shows herself up: as much as I worship her little paws, she is perhaps the most ungraceful creature alive. She’s got the art of lazing about and extending her little legs down to a tee; and looking beautiful goes without saying; but her landing, leaping, running and methods of evasion leave a lot to be desired.

So when she’s tear-assing up and down the stairs because a video tape has just tried to bite her; or she’s mistaken the central heating for something unfriendly with that startled look of abject horror in her eyes: she flies— which is all the more remarkable because she’s a bit of a waddler at the best of time; speed her up and her back legs resemble those dwarfed-horses. But when she’s calmed down and realised there is nothing to fear from the crisp packet in the corner, she becomes far more sociable: at least this is what she’ll have you believe.

Being cute means give me attention, and it’s all part of their ‘not to be messed with’ policy. Yes— they play mind-games too. The spasming out they do is an ulterior act, made out for their own ‘peace of mind’ just to have you chase them around the house and just to convince themselves they’re still the ones running the show. When on the face of it, it’s the only running they ever intend to do. This is one of the few times we are in accordance with them why run, when we could be eating. And with hunger, comes the most familiar cry in the cats arsenal. It is easily the most disturbing:

Take me to your feeder

It’s as close a translation as I can manage but yes it’s there to inform us that it’s time to eat: the final piece in the great triumvirate of the kitty universe. It’s also their favourite time of the day, and quite possibly the only time of day they truly make you feel as though all their love is a bit of a sham.

There’s little you can really do to null the emotional trauma they inflict upon us at feeding time, besides preparing a little; and the easiest way to do that, is to be your pet. As hard as it may be; when you hear the thud of a cats’ imperfect landing at three in the morning and wide awake, beckoning you for strokes and companionship to brace the outdoors it’s best to turn the other cheek and instruct it back to bed…

Your success in this instance will be nil and your cat will never tire of repeating herself. She will do her best to trip you up so you fall down the stairs and hurt yourself, and run away feigning fright at the tumultuous racket that ensues but she’ll be back; just about the time you want to hit the sack again pretending she hadn’t just tried to kill you and that she really is your best friend.

She’ll wriggle about and purr and lick and yelp a little if she can be bothered, but deep down she’s thinking only one thing, and that is that ‘you’re an imbecile!’ And when she’s had enough and you’re just about ready to nod off on the downstairs carpet she’ll hop onto all fours, give her head a flick, and ignore you.

This is not letting them know who’s boss. Not that I can really speak I get up two or three times a night when hear Autumn’s ungainly thud on the floor and every time give her exactly what she wants.

But this is where I am taking the sports to a much higher level. I am using her own tactics against her; I play to her strengths at least I believe it to be that way. If she wants love when it’s inhuman to expect it: I won’t play ball when she gets her ‘munching’ face on…

You must be cruel to be kind. Or in the case of felines in general cruel to avoid having misery thrust upon you, since it is their main goal in life.

So just remember: cats are not your friends. Why do you think that they are not mentioned once in the bible? They are sharp and cunning even the thick ones! So play the game by their rules and the two of you can live harmoniously,

If you give them an inch

They’ll own you…

And they say there’s no rest for the wicked…