I had the distinct pleasure of babysitting my little nephews the other day. They are (now) 3 and 5, though then they were 3 and 4 (just two weeks or so ago!), and basically rambunctious and delightful.
I went in thinking, "Oh yeah, I got this, I know all about little kids." Not because I have ever been a particularly good-with-kids sort of person, but more because, I don't know, I have kids. At one time I had a 3 and a 5 year old. So I remember it. Sort of.
It's amazing how quickly you get out practice, though. How used to just sitting around and not doing a thing I am. I mean, I knew I would have to put them to bed, I remembered that much. But the rest? It's like I've forgotten the language.
When the little one was brushing his teeth, he shove out the toothbrush towards me and I laughed and said, like an idiot, "No way, I don't want you to brush my teeth, brush your own teeth!" And he said, "No, you're supposed to brush my teeth." And I thought, "Oh right. Duh."
And then we came to reading before bed. And it was very sweet. Each boy brought a book, and then they asked for more, and like a sucker I gave in. They brought their second books up on the bed and I gave them a quick glance (at least I remembered that much) and thought: OK, they're not too long, this would be a breeze. I remember that, so well, from when my own were little, and I would fear the long ones like they were some sort of prison sentence.
The one I thought wasn't long? This:
Gee, that will only take a few minutes, right?
Dear God. The little train went on and on and ON. Through the town, the country, the mountain tunnel, past the signal arm and the semaphore and holy crap, it seemed like it would never stop. And boy, did I remember that. Being tired—oh so tired!—and having them bring that book to read before bed, always some book that just went on and on forever. I remember wanting so much just to be off and quiet myself, but instead reading and reading and reading.
And it's funny. I mean, the book always ends. The time really is sweet, after all, whether it's with little nephews or small daughters cuddled up against you wanting to read the endless book. It's so weirdly like their growing up: sometimes you think you can't bear one more night of cleaning up wet smashed rice off the bottom of your socks. And then all of a sudden your kids are grown up. And it's not that you want to get rice smashed into your socks again. It's just…
It's not only that those trying times end. It's that you know they're going to end. And still you can't wait for The Little Train to be over. I wonder why humans are like that. Or maybe, more particularly, why I am like that. Why I can't see the endless book for what it is: a book with an end. Probably sooner than I think (though maybe not soon enough for me?).
Anyway, for those of you interested: The Little Train is freaking catnip to those in the 2 to 5 set. If you've got the stamina.