Okay, just stay with me for a moment while I explain.
Recently, I’ve experienced the joy of becoming an aunt to my high school friend’s children. Seriously, it’s the best. You have no idea how happy it makes me to hear my friend call me Aunt Ashleigh in front of my nephews. I love the little rascals to bits, but when your nephew is barely six weeks old and his mother deposits him in your arms for the first time, there’s a little bit of fear there. Okay, more like a lot of fear. Terror, actually.
What if I drop this poor sweet baby on his head?! Why would you entrust this precious living person to me to keep alive?! Are you crazy?! I don’t know how to keep a baby alive! I have cats. They’re happy if I clean their litter box, keep their food dish full and leave them alone.
That paranoid feeling felt strangely familiar to me, although I didn’t know how that was possible. I have no kids, no previous experience with holding babies. It wasn’t until I picked up a book another friend lent me a few months back that the correlation clicked; that feeling of insecurity I felt while holding my newborn nephew for the first time was the same feeling I get whenever I borrow a friend’s books.
Don’t believe me? Think I’m exaggerating? Allow me to enlighten you, friend.
You’re scared to eat or drink too close to them.
Maybe for different reasons, but it’s true. Have you ever tried to eat next to a baby? It’s impossible. Start learning the way of the Buddhist ascetics, my friend, because you will never bring another morsel to your lips again. That baby will demand everything you eat. Everything. Even if they don’t like it. They still want it so they can slobber all over it and then throw it on the floor just to gleefully watch the light fade from your eyes. If you have it, they want it.
Books are a little more polite. They don’t demand your food, but rest assured, dropping a sticky string of melted cheese from your pizza on the cover of your friend’s favourite book is grounds to end a friendship. It’s like babysitting their newborn and returning them with burns from dropping a hot meal on them. Horrifying thought, right? I can’t be the only one who’s afraid of getting food or liquid on the books I borrow from my friends.
Taking them outside the house is terrifying.
Just like babies, there’s a certain amount of security in keeping your friends’ books contained within the walls of an apartment or house. They can’t stray too far from you. They can’t get lost. If you misplace them, there’s only so many rooms they could be in, you’re bound to find them again with a bit of concerted effort. You can control the environment within the house. You can baby-proof every room. You can keep those books in a safe, secure place away from any dangers.
But outside? Once you step outside, all bets are off. You can’t control the traffic or the actions of every stranger around you. You can’t control the weather or any other outdoor hazards that are completely beyond your ability to contain. Heaven forbid you take that kid or those books to the beach or any other place with a large body of water. Instant. Heart. Attack. Suddenly, you’re a hawk with 20/20 vision and super-hearing, ready to dive bomb into that water to launch a rescue mission the second your tiny charge goes beyond arm’s reach of you.
Let go of that kid’s hand for a split-second and they could be running into traffic or diving into the gorilla pit at the zoo or being kidnapped. Let go of that book for a split-second and you may never find it again, at least not in one piece.
Did I mention water is scary?
Because it is. At least when you’re responsible for someone or something that belongs to somebody else. I love swimming but it’s a whole different game when you’re constantly glancing back up to the pool deck or your beach towel to make sure your friend’s book is still safe where you left it, away from any splashing.
Enjoying your swim is about the furthest thing from your mind when you’re hanging onto a squirming infant who could potentially drown if you don’t do a good enough job of holding onto them in that water. I mean, sure, they have a life vest on and water wings just for good measure, but can we really trust some flimsy rubber with air inside it over the protection of our secure, loving arms? I don’t freaking think so!
Bad weather is cause for alarm.
You’ve planned out a fun trip to the park with the little kiddo or a nice relaxing afternoon reading under a tree. You’re all ready to go, sunscreen and all necessary supplies for some fun in the sun packed… and then a sudden downpour unleashes itself upon you long after it’s too late to return home to grab appropriate attire.
The weather app on your phone called for clear skies! How were you supposed to predict this?! Now you’ve got a soaking wet kid shivering in their shorts and t-shirt and you just know their parents are going to be livid when you hand over a germy, sniffling, sneezing kid spewing boogers all over the place because you didn’t dress them appropriately and now they’ve caught a cold.
Likewise, your friend is going to be less-than-impressed with you when you return a soggy book with crinkled pages and runny ink. It’s not going to matter that you checked your weather app and tried to plan ahead. That’s not going to fix the damage done to their book.
It’s hard to give them back.
For all the anxiety and trouble they cause sometimes, you still love them and cherish the time you get to spend together, so when it’s time to give them back to their parents, saying goodbye can sting. It’s true for both books and babies.
When I’ve finished reading a fantastic book, I feel like I’ve bonded with the book. We experienced so much together. The book was there for the entire emotional roller-coaster I went through during my time with it. We laughed, we cried, we had many adventures and now the adventure is over and we must part ways. It’s heartwrenching, really. As I reluctantly deposit my new friend back in the hands of its rightful owner, I can’t help but think “Maybe I should get a copy of my own. Then we never have to say goodbye to each other.”
It’s the same story every time I have to give my nephews back to their mom and dad and say goodbye. We had so much fun together, we bonded as a family, we had tears and laughter and adventures and now that I’m saying goodbye, I’m thinking how nice it would be to have a tiny human of my own. Of course, I’m well-aware that I would likely change my tune after actually having a tiny human of my own. It’s not all fun and games when you’re stuck with them 24/7, but I can’t help that moment of “Aw, I want one,” from crossing my mind, anyway.
So does this mean babysitting your friend’s books is adequate training for babysitting their kids or even becoming a parent yourself? I think the answer is clear.
Yes, yes it does.
DISCLAIMER: That was a joke. Please don’t take me seriously. I never take me seriously. It’s bad for my health.
Copyright © 2017 A.A. Frias