Friday, March 2, 2012

The Babysitter

Ten in the morning and I was still up. 

It is as if karma had decided to pay a visit. And as punishment for being super grumpy the night before, I was only given less than five hours of sleep.

But karma wasn't done yet. Before it left, the cosmic thought toyed with my biggest fear when my laptop's firewall suddenly got disabled. The system error slowed my operating system to a standstill.

And I woke up with a machine unable to shut down.

JC was able to convince me to go back to sleep. But just when I was about to cross over to dreamland, a power failure left me awake, and reeling from the mid-morning heat. 

"It's useless." I said, when power was restored. Having giving up a real chance for a quick nap, I went downstairs to smoke, and drink Lipton Iced Tea. While I was out in the driveway, my phone rang. I wasn't able to answer it. But somehow I knew the reason why.

"Anak iniwan sakin tong mga apo ko o?" My mom told me when I thought of dropping by her bedroom. I've learned that my sister went to school to work. Her husband too was out of the house. The young couple left Baby Lenin and Baby Diego (his 2-week old brother) under my mom's care. Both babies were in her bed with Baby Lenin lying on his back and smiling at me.

The sight of two babies and a helpless lola set off my parental instincts. I suddenly knew what to do.

"Akin ka muna ha?" I picked up the toddler just when his yaya was about to get him.

The household knows that my room is off-limits to everyone. Mom has her perks, and she gets to stay only when the maid is changing her bed sheet. But that morning, my room was Baby Lenin's new playground. With him in my arms, I carried my nephew to my bed. It didn't matter if the sheets were crumpled and the pillows were everywhere. The moment I dropped my nephew, he knew he was in a nicer place. At least in my quarters there was no clutter. He also didn't have to compete for attention.

I was already zeroing on his every move.

Baby Lenin wasn't feeling well. A few days before, he had a slight fever. When he was with me, he sneezed and coughed. The kid had runny nose, and his eyes were moist. 

I was on the verge of calling my boss to tell him that I'll be absent. If my sister doesn't care, and my mom unable to move because of the smaller baby, I'd bring my nephew to the pediatrician myself. 

But to do so would be stepping over his parents' diskarte. I'm not in the position to act as his guardian.

Even when I'm fully prepared to buy all his medicines.

So what I did was to turn on the television and have my nephew watch cartoons instead. Tom and Jerry was on Cartoon Network. As always, the duo were chasing one another - with the poor grey cat always at the mercy of the brown mice. For some reasons, Baby Lenin found it amusing to see a cat slamming on walls, getting kicked in the butt and the mouse being left outside the house during a snowstorm.

Talk about cartoon violence.

Normally, I would switch the channel to a child-friendly network. One that doesn't feature a cat being bullied by cockroaches, or a kid changing into different aliens. But all I wanted that morning was to be spared. Baby Lenin could be a little stubborn sometimes. 

Soon after, he did show some signs of restlessness.

Before he started picking more things inside my room, I decided to carry him back to the master's bedroom. Though my fuse can overcome a toddler's tantrum, I felt that my corner doesn't offer a lot of distractions. I was also thinking that bringing my nephew back to his lola would shorten my babysitting duties. His yaya would come anyway and I will be off the hook.

But to bring him there proved to be a miscalculation. The kid was already awake. No matter how I try to lull him, he wouldn't sleep. He insisted to be set free. 

Putting a toddler and an infant in one bed is like courting trouble as well. I was told the last time, the kuya was annoyed of his younger brother so much that he slapped him on the face. Apparently, the first-born hated how he suddenly found himself competing for attention. To avoid repeating the same mistake, I carried the kuya again - much to his protest - and left my mom's room. We didn't return to my bed. Instead, we went downstairs to where his crib was.

"Sabihin mo kay Amy Lee painumin na ng gatas." I heard my mom saying. "Nagugutom na yan."

Baby Lenin knows how to say "didi" when he wants to eat. Immediately after I placed him inside his crib, the yaya rushed to prepare his soya milk. For all the times I've seen my nephew, I didn't know he likes it when someone lifts his bottle. I wasn't aware too that he tells you (with head gestures) when he doesn't want to drink anymore.

How time flies. The last time I really took notice, Baby Lenin was still struggling to stand up.

I was only able to babysit my nephew for less than an hour, before his yaya took over. I was willing to spend a little more time, (after getting used to the baby) but she insisted that my lunch is ready. The bonding I had, though brief and almost fleeting was enough to open my eyes to the finer things I've been missing lately. 

These past few months, I've been coming home too late and too exhausted to even say "hi" to my nephew. I only get to see him at dawn, after the nightly pillow talk with my partner. It is during those early hours of the morning when my mom gets up for her toilet rituals. I would then be asked to look after her apo. Baby Lenin would roll around, would try to get up to move to a more comfortable spot, or would curl beside me when I wrap my arms around his plump waist. But he is always sleeping and he doesn't know it was me all along. For him, I guess, I'm just the distant uncle he gets to know less and less as he grows older.

I'd like to think that I've been given a chance that morning - to catch up, reinforce the ties, and make him known that I'm still around. That I would always be the tito who would - in the fullness of time - extend my hand and make sure he, and his younger brother will live a life far better than what me and my sister had.

"Ampunin na lang kita?" I said to Baby Lenin while he was in my room. My nephew just smiled, definitely unsure of what my words meant.

I may have said some things and did some things I may not spare some thought everyday. I may have had looked after my nephew in the past, without fully realizing its significance. But for a moment, while saying hello to our bundle of joy, and seeing him smiling and knowing I was there,  

March, 2012
Circa 1982

It almost felt like, babysitting me.


JC said...

awww spend more time with your nephews kasi they're only going to be cute for a year or two. pasaway na yan pag naging toddler. haha.

so kyoooooooooot the pictures :D

Mugen said...


And you will always be their Uncle Baabaa. =)

kalansaycollector said...

cute. :)

Justin said...

Buti ka pa, you're living with your nephew. mine is in the province. namiss ko tuloy siya.

Your nephew looks like you :D

blagadag said...

i enjoy reading and re-reading this story. hawig nga kayo ni lenin.

Leo said...

I miss my uncles. :(

iurico said...

i love your entry! I guess i always have a soft spot for entries about "family."

Anyway, i agree! The baby pictures are too cute!!!

Garpppy Garp said...

Awwwww... So cute. Ahihi. :) Masarap talaga mag-alaga ng bata. Ikaw talaga, kapatid, sabi nga namin ni Silday na meron kang maternal instinct, di ba? LOL. Ako din I took care of my niece when she was old. Hayyy... if only nabubuntis ang mga bading. LOL. :)

Nate said...

@kuya joms: ikaw na ang sweet na uncle.. and my gosh, baby lenin looks just like you in that picture..

parang anak mo lang si baby lenin.. :)

~Carrie~ said...

Ang cute ni baby Lenin :)

Garpppy Garp said...

Oo nga. I agree with Nate. Kamukha mo sobra si Baby Lenin! Haha! :)

ZaiZai said...

cute story mugen. magkahawig kayo ni baby lenin, mas matangos ka nga lang :)natuwa ako sa name ni yaya, amy lee talaga :)

daniel the jagged little egg said...

Awww I can relate. Grabe akala ko iisang baby lang yung nasa dalawang pictures.