Goodnight Moon

Mud is not one of the four food groups. Coffee is not for kids. No one is interested in my underpants. Organ transplants are best left to professionals. I will not torment the emotionally frail. Next time it could be me on the scaffolding.

-Bart Simpson

If there's something else that requires more undivided attention and concentration than a three-year-old, I don't know what it is unless it's maybe disassembling a bomb.

Kids. Munitions. You get the idea.

Actually, I wasn't the least bit nervous about this weekend's "Slumber Party at Bitter Aunt Rhonda's" which is what Emma's mom and I named it, so she'd know it was something to look forward to (as opposed to what most kids probably anticipate before coming over to my house...which is dread).

The first thing I discovered was that I had a lot of childproofing to do.

I'm not sure why or how I accumulated seven pairs of scissors (all of which now reside in my freezer, along with a positively alarming array of knives), but I know kids can't run with them, so I had to put 'em somewhere.

Broken glass is another thing.

I had quite a bit of it on my front porch from a recent storm that blew over some glass candlesticks. My housekeeping solution - thus far - had been to walk around it. (In my defense, I was really busy last week, and up till then, it really hadn't been in the way.) So that had to be disposed of.

Entertainment was WELL under control. The place looked like GattiTown once my many parent-friends got wind of my weekend plans and started dropping off supplies (books, movies, toys, etc.). I could easily start my own daycare (if there weren't [very good] laws against such things).

You'd have thought I had to equip and deploy an aircraft carrier for all the fuss generated.

I remained nonplussed...Sanguine.

I was a little worried when she didn't arrive at the designated time, but I knew all was well when the panic-stricken call from her mom came, conveying that Emma was en route with her dad, but I needed to be aware of a distressing development in that SHE HADN'T HAD DINNER YET.

My response was, "So what?" But apparently, this had been a source of some drama at their house, with Emma's dad reassuring everyone that I could probably find some morsel or crumb to sustain a 3-year-old, while the Mom and the Nanny protested that CLEARLY he knew NOTHING about SINGLE people who WORK and DON'T HAVE KIDS.

I can only imagine visions of rusty hypodermic needles dancing in their heads, because gauging the obvious fear in their reaction, you'd think that four out of five moms surveyed believe that we single people spend too much time shooting up black tar heroin to worry about a little thing called the USDA FOOD PYRAMID.

Yes. I confess, there have been times in my single adult life when I had nothing in my fridge except condiments (so I had no food, but I had things to put ON food, in case anybody brought any over) - but I'm always well stocked when I know I'm having company. (Bombay Sapphire martini? Cherry juice box? I got it covered.)

So we had cheese and ham and bread and vegetables for supper. Yes, the cheese was a blend of boursin, sundried tomatoes, garlic and basil; and the ham was actually prosciutto-but I've always known Emma to have a refined palate-and given the culinary standards of success I adopt with all toddlers (i.e., she did not throw up or go into anaphalactic shock), I think we did fine.

Even though she begged to split a Coke with me, I held fast to my assertion that the "big girl drink" was just for big girls (realizing that this has probably, by now, been misinterpreted by all her teachers as some sad new dysfunctional euphemism, and I have gone from Bitter Aunt Rhonda to Alcoholic Aunt Rhonda at every Montessori in town).

In any case, I already had the number for Poison Control programmed into my phone (along with the cell phones of every doctor I know, including but not limited to a trauma chief, an orthopod, and a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon). Sure, this was overkill, but I can only achieve calm when I am relentlessly over-prepared - so whether she sprained her ankle, or I somehow managed to accidentally poke a hole in her aorta, we were good to go.

We played in the playground (which added up to one Time Out; one brief bout of tears (from her, not me); and the scoring of one pretty cool Gap jacket evidently left behind by some small child who's probably pretty sad right now...but probably not reading this); saw a ballgame; watched movies; read books; colored; and brushed our teeth with our Barbie toothpaste (OK: my Barbie toothpaste).

Whenever I wore down, I called in the world's most perfect backup babysitter, my dog Travis.

They chased each other all over the house, until they collapsed, exhausted, across the bed, watching the only remaining kid fare I could find at that hour, which was the Cartoon Channel's "Grim and Evil marathon."

It sounded ominous, but neither of us had liked Mulan, which is what we were down to; and HBO Family (with my favorite: George and Martha) was hours away.

I was reading and she was coloring when she paused to ask, "Aunt Rhonda, does Travis like pink?"

"You bet," I said absentmindedly. (Earlier, she'd asked if Mommy and Daddy liked purple, and then drawn me some purple pictures of them.)

When I looked up a few minutes later, I still had a blond dog, but with one pink paw. He shrugged. I shrugged.

I felt a little bad for returning her to her parents in a state of complete mental and physical exhaustion, but when they asked her why she'd gotten so little sleep, her response was, "Because Aunt Rhonda is TOO exciting!!"

And I take a certain absurd pride in that assessment. Even if it is from a three-year-old.