Yesterday I had an interview scheduled for 6pm. Yay! I thought to myself, an evening interview!
I wouldn’t need a sitter, Adam would finish work at 5pm, I’d have time to make dinner and then have a lovely chat about my book and all things hippie. Fabulous.
Except, I happened to double-check the interview time (thank god) and realized that while it was indeed scheduled for 6pm, it was 6pm EASTERN time. These fucking time zones never cease to bewilder me. Who knew that single-digit math could be so confusing?!
So, I brushed off my dusty arithmetic skills (read: counted on my fingers) and managed to deduce that 6pm Eastern was, in fact, 4pm my time. FOUR pm. As in, an hour before Adam got home, and right at the beginning of the notorious Witching Hour that my fellow parents know so well.
Naturally, I panicked.
Typically in these last-minute shitshow situations I call my brother and his wife, and give them a few moments notice before launching a cackling toddler their way. But, in an incredibly inconvenient yet wholly heart-warming and adorable turn of events, they had recently birthed a baby. Like, a day earlier. My little niece Ada Elizabeth busted into the world almost a whole three weeks early – girl knows how to make an entrance!
So they were, understandably, otherwise occupied. I made a few other calls, to no avail, and as 4pm crawled nearer and nearer, it became increasingly clear that one of my worst nightmares was about to unfold.
I would have to find some way to conduct an engaging, coherent, hour-long interview while in the presence of a two-year old.
Anyone who knows me, or knows Olive, knows that she talks non. stop. always. forever. I can rarely finish a sentence if she is in the vicinity, let alone carrying an hour-long interview. The panic grew.
I decided that this was no time for my lofty ideals, I needed reinforcements. We headed to the grocery store and bought all manner of toddler-bait that I usually pass over as too expensive or not healthy enough. Special cheeses, cheerios (okay fine, spelt and quinoa o’s. What can I say, even when I’m desperate I’m lame), and, the kicker: chocolate chips.
Only to be used in an absolute emergency, you understand.
And we weren’t done yet.
We then went and searched out a new puzzle, again, for emergency purposes only. (Emergency puzzles! Who the hell am I?) But I needed to be prepared for anything. An HOUR, guys. An HOUR!
4pm was crawling ever closer and I prepared my unwilling subject as best I could. I filled her belly with hearty homemade black bean soup. I spent quality time with her, hoping to fill some sort of mom-time quota so she wouldn’t search me out later. I equipped her with easy-to-remove leggings and placed her potty in an easily accessible spot downstairs.
I went to our rec room in the basement and laid out her favourite toys. I prepared an activity with cheerios (the quinoa/spelt o’s..which naturally, tasted like stale cardboard), play-doh and a piece of uncooked spaghetti. And then I revealed the piece de resistance.
“Olive,” I told her, “you are in for a really special treat!”
She looked at me blankly.
“I am going to go talk on the radio. For a long time. A really long time. And you have to stay downstairs, okay?”
More blank staring.
“You can not come upstairs, okay? Sit quietly, and the second I am finished, I’ll come find you and give you a surprise.”
A slow nod. Compliance? Witchcraft? Who knew.
“Do you know what you are going to be doing while I am talking on the radio?”
“You get to watch….SESAME STREET!”
There it was! A reaction! The unmistakable unbridled joy of the TV-deprived hippie child. She was allowed to WATCH something? On TV? And not just any something, but Something with puppets and music and high-pitched voices interspersed with pseudo-educational content and maniacal laughter?
She was beyond excited. She had glimpsed Sesame Street characters in stores, and had once stumbled upon a video after she stole my phone and managed to open YouTube (seriously how can a two-year old use an iPhone better than most grown adults??). She was in toddler heaven before her shrew of a mother cruelly snatched the phone away and brought her back to the dull reality of wooden toys and imaginative play. But nonetheless, she had tasted Sesame Street, it was intoxicating, and she had wanted more ever since.
Now, she would get it.
It was 3:50pm. I was supposed to call into the show at 3:55 to get instructions and go over the show’s particulars.
This was it.
I set her up the couch wrapped in a cozy blanket, handed her a tray of snacks, pressed play on my laptop and slowly retreated as the insane music swelled and the puppets began their siren song. Her eyes glazed over, she didn’t even notice as I closed the door.
But, guys, this isn’t my first rodeo, nor my first attempt at toddler distraction. And since I had never really employed the power of the Television Babysitter before, I had no idea how long it might conceivably hold her attention.
It’s not that I was doubting its almighty power you see, but this situation left little room for error and I needed to cover all my bases. Outside the basement door I placed a bag with all of her favourite books, and a few other odds and ends. Hopefully if she escaped the TV’s tractor beam she would be momentarily distracted by unpacking the bag, buying me a few more precious minutes.
Then I placed an empty cardboard box at the base of the stairs, she would have to move it in order to proceed any further. Beyond the cardboard box, a new puzzle. And then, on the landing above, I placed a bowl full of chocolate chips.
My hope was that if she got that far, she would spy the chocolate chips – her kryptonite ever since discovering them in a low drawer in my sister-in-law’s kitchen – and sit, happily munching on them piece by piece, until I finished the interview.
Like I said, I was not messing around.
3:55 rolled around, and I took a deep breath. I called in and started chatting with the lovely host, Tonya. She was warm and soft-spoken and I immediately felt at ease. I loved her. Then, almost exactly five minutes into the interview I heard a clumping.
But I wasn’t imagining it. Gus heard the clumping too, and started his trademark frenzied barking. I tried to laugh it off as I ran out of my office and hauled him away by his collar. But what I saw at the top of the stairs was even worse.
It was Olive.
Completely nude- obviously.
And she was carrying a book, the puzzle, AND the bowl of chocolate chips (Hence the awkward clumping).
“Hi Mummy” she said quietly.
I have never been so terrified in all my life.
Five minutes in, guys. An entire afternoon’s worth of preparation had bought me a mere FIVE MINUTES. I was royally, completely, irrevocably screwed.
And look, I know that I sometimes “exaggerate”, “embellish”, or “embroider the truth a little bit”. I consider it the right of a writer to massage events a little to extract as much humour as possible. The truth is always there, just, you know, dressed up a bit!
But guys, I am not exaggerating when I say that I spent most of this HOUR LONG interview literally, LITERALLY running from one end of my house to the other, trying to escape Olive. (Where are you, Mummy? Are you?)
Every time Tonya spoke I would put my microphone on mute and hiss instructions at my devious little girl. “SHHHH! Sweetie, Mummy is on the radio! You need to be really quiet! Please! Go to the other room! What happened to Sesame Street? Eat your chocolate chips! Have you tried this puzzle? PUPPIES!”
Eventually I brought the laptop upstairs and shut her in our bedroom with the entire bag of chocolate chips, the puzzle, and one of Adam’s half-eaten bags of chips. As I finished the interview I could hear her dumping everything all over the floor as the alphabet song repeated ominously in the background.
This was, bar none, the most chaotic interview I have ever given. And I give full credit to the lovely host, Tonya Parker, for being so sweet, and calm, and zen. I don’t think she had any idea what was going on, but she was like a virtual meditation while I was running laps in my house trying to find some quiet. Whenever she started speaking I started to feel calm again – and that’s truly saying something. I feel absolutely horrible that I wasn’t able to give her my full attention, but it’s also a credit to her that I think we managed to have a pretty amazing interview, despite the circus happening offstage. She was intelligent, had great questions, and I will always remember it as one of my all-time favourite shows.
(And not just because I burned 1806 calories while doing it.)
(You can listen here)