In a modest Greenwich Village loft I clumsily stood, hands burrowed deep in the pockets of my winter coat. I awaited the verdict of a 2 year-old.
Anna Banana didn’t want to be taken to the library. Maman, pregnant with her second child, was on the verge of tears. I, the new babysitter (i.e. innocent bystander), anticipated direction from the child’s mother. The 2 year-old Anna, however, seemed to have more leverage over the situation.
Baby was insistent. Mother was pleading. Babysitter was bored with the scenario; I couldn’t fathom spending the afternoon in a small apartment with both Anna Banana and her mother. I spoke the words before knowing that it was I, in fact, who was speaking them.
“Sometimes,” I addressed the pig-tailed Anna, “we must do things that we don’t want to do. You can’t always get what you want.”
Both mother and toddler paused; the sudden stillness in the kitchen was palpable. Maman looked up at me in awe. Kneeling on the wood-paneled floor, her position seemed one of make-shift supplication.
“WHERE did you learn that?” she inquired, clearly impressed that I would possess such sense at the age of 24.
I stiffened; I offered an abashed smile, suddenly embarrassed. I had no analytic response, no explanation for my ground-breaking insight into parental pedagogy.
Its common sense, I wanted to tell her. It’s life. It’s a well-known lyric to a song by the Rolling Stones.
I quickly realized that any of these answers would offend maman. So instead, I demurred.
“Um. My parents, I guess,” I replied, quaintly. I wrinkled my nose.
“Are you sure you’ve never babysat before?” she continued, almost breathless.
Meanwhile, Anna Banana climbed into her stroller. “I want to go to the library with Liz!” she suddenly decided. Once content, the toddler proceeded to bite, quite calmly, into an apple roughly half the size of her head.
Thank God, I thought to myself. I was just pleased to flee the apartment, finally.