It is considered a universal truth that watching two toddlers means “you have your hands full.” At the least, it’s chaos; at the worst, a total and utter cluster. But despite the prevailing wisdom, we actually had a great time babysitting for our friends’ three and a half year old (Z) with our almost two year old.
We aren’t strangers to either taking care of our friends’ kids or Sprout hanging out with Z in particular. We did the babysitting kid-swap before, looking after another couple’s infant last year. Z has been over to our house a number of times, playing with Sprout while his dad Gamemasters (GMs) our gaming group. However, this was different from other times he had been over both because his parents weren’t present and we had to put him to bed. So we weren’t entirely sure what to expect.
The night started auspiciously, with Sprout and Z playing well together. I suggested going over to the park – Sprout’s utterly favorite place in the world – but Z was extremely keen on heading down to our basement. As his dad said, “That means you have good stuff.” Good to know our toy choices pass the muster of a three year old. They played with our toy kitchen – the build-your-own pizza is very popular – and the slide. It helped that Sprout is now talking enough for Z to actually have conduct a bit of conversation with him, instead of just talking at him.
While watching the boys play was enjoyable, dinner was where we really got the show. Chris made spaghetti Bolognese, which is just spaghetti with fancy meat sauce. Sprout shoved the pasta in his mouth as fast as he could move it from the plate to his little face. In contrast, Z proclaimed it, “The most delicious pasta ever” and then proceeded to eat very little. Instead, he launched into an extended semi-monologue on a variety of topics of great interest to a toddler. They ranged from the presence of honeybees in our yard to robots in his bedroom to squirrels (in general) to whether our toilet worked like the one in his parents’ house. (My answer: “Yes, it works the same, although we don’t have a little potty.”) Sometimes he covered all of those topics in the same breath. I’ve taught kindergarten and am a bit of a scatterbrain myself and I’ve never heard such a variety of topics covered in a half-hour. It was a hoot. We tried to follow as best we could, but sometimes we just let him bring us along for the ride.
The best part of our dinner-time conversation was completely incomprehensible to us. Z said something we couldn’t understand, garbled by pasta in his mouth and a lack of enunciation. Sprout didn’t seem to be paying attention up until this point, focusing on inhaling as much pasta as possible. But right then, he looked up and burst out laughing hysterically. Z then laughed loudly and made a funny noise, which set Sprout off laughing again. This entire time, Chris and I were just looking blankly at each other trying to figure out what was going on. Then we joined in the laughing because adorable toddlers laughing about nothing is too cute not to.
Handling the two of them gave me a little preview of what it may be like if we have a second child. As an only and socially awkward child, I never had those “look at each other and start laughing for no reason” moments that you have spontaneously with other kids around your age. It was so joyful to see Z and Sprout share that, completely separate from whatever the adults were doing. While Sprout would be the older sibling in a potential future situation, I could see him sharing that kind of resonance with a brother or sister. Even if he never has a sibling, I hope he continues to have friends like Z that he can have those moments with.
In the end, everything went smoothly, even bedtime. While I can’t imagine that would always be true with two toddlers – it’s certainly not been with a single one – it was a relief to see that it’s at least occasionally possible.