I’ve found a new babysitter.
Her name is Dora. Dora the Explorer.
Dora landed on the scene a month ago, on one of those wicked mornings when I couldn’t extract 15 uninterrupted minutes from my toddler. I needed 15 minutes – I could have worked with just 10 – to finish an article that was due ASAP.
Elle, however, is accustomed to this ritual and privy to all of my tricks. She didn’t want markers. She was done with the modeling clay. The books were tossed onto the floor. The puzzle pieces too. (We’ve gone through this entertainment scenario a hundred times, on a hundred similar mornings.)
This particular morning I knew I had no choice but to take a different line of attack. On came the television.
Miracle of miracles, I got my 15 minutes, PLUS a bonus 15 minutes, during which I cleaned up the breakfast dishes, put my contacts in, brushed my hair, and got out of my pajamas. It’s impressive what a time-deprived, full-time working mom with part-time childcare can do with a spare 30 minutes.
I love Dora.
Yet in the weeks that followed, my adoration for this sideways egg-headed cartoon character waned.
“Watch Dora?” Elle started asking.
“Watch Dora?” Elle started whining.
“Watch Dora!” Elle started demanding.
Elle has, prior to Dora, never watched much television. We try to keep our household television watching restricted to Craig’s football games and my occasional Office episodes. Yet we were starting to see more and more of Dora, as we began to realize and take advantage of the free time it afforded while our daughter’s bottom was safely glued to the couch cushion.
I had to draw the line. My dependence on Dora was getting out-of-hand. It was just too tempting to let Elle watch one more Dora, so I could take a shower… make dinner… pay bills… OK, waste time on Facebook and respond to non-work-related emails, too.
One Dora, I said. One Dora each morning for Elle, 30 minutes of uninterrupted time for me.
Oh, but it’s hard to stick to my guns with Dora.
This week, I needed to go to the dentist. It was one of those appointments you make six months in advance, then forget about until the office calls you to make sure you’re coming in that day.
I called around, looking for a kindhearted friend who would have a spare 45 minutes on a Tuesday afternoon to hang with my child. Forty-five minutes, that’s all I needed.
I even, despite all logic, dialed my babysitter, actually offering to pay her to watch my kid while I paid to sit in the dentist’s chair. Again, no luck.
Meanwhile, the theme song D-D-Dora, D-D-Dora was echoing through my head, as it often does these days. Dora? Could you? Could you really?
I would never know her capabilities without giving her a chance. Elle, Dora and my laptop accompanied me to the dentist.
With minimal arranging of the waiting area, I created a safe and cozy nook for Elle and Dora. Plugged in the laptop. Spread some kids books around (mostly for show.) With five minutes before my appointed appointment, and Elle eagerly seated in front of the computer screen, I pulled out my secret weapon.
Dora, on DVD.
(Which would, by my estimation, give me 45 minutes at least, courtesy of back-to-back episodes.)
I will say here that I realize utilizing a digital babysitter, for reasons beyond needing half an hour to finish an article for deadline or wash my greasy hair, is somewhat foolhardy. Especially in a public setting, like a dentist’s office. However, I have in my two years of motherhood cancelled more appointments than I’d like to admit. If I could squeeze in a quick dentist appointment, just this once, I promised to never take such advantage of Dora again.
Well, Dora had a lesson to teach me.
Gasp! She wasn’t in the DVD case! Catastrophe!
I wildly threw open my bag, searching for the rouge disc. Where could she be? I vaguely remember picking up the case from the living room floor… not checking inside to see if my busy 2-year-old had foiled my plans for clean teeth by removing the disc and putting it somewhere important, like in her baby doll bed.
“Elle, did you… Where’s…”
I shuffled back and forth across the waiting room. Could she just sit here and read these books, I wondered? After a quick scan of my surroundings, I banished that thought.
A 2-year-old in a dentist’s office without Dora is a bored 2-year-old in a shiny playground of sharp tools and expensive-looking machines.
“Um, is it going to be another five minutes? I might need to run to the library, see, Dora was supposed to be here, and she isn’t…” I stuttered.
The hygienist nodded warily. What could she say? My babysitter didn’t show up! Well, more truthfully, I forgot her. Details, details.
Just then, a girlfriend emerged from the interior of the dentist’s office, Elle’s little friend Sage in tow.
A mom knows another flustered mom when she sees one.
“You want me to take Elle for a bit? Really, it’s no problem,” she assured me.
My relief was pure and whole; my gratitude for this friend, my luck and the benefits of living in a small town, palpable.
Until the hygienist started in on my mouth with that scraper, that is.
All of that – for this? I wondered.
I never imagined a trip to the dentist, or a lost episode of Dora, could ever cause this much excitement.