Why Writers Make Unreliable Babysitters

I am on one of my visits home from Australia. My sister-in-law has asked me to watch over the children—hers and the children she cares for. No problem. Working on a story, I watch over them from downstairs as they play upstairs.

I don’t really need to be upstairs since my 7-year old niece Renee provides me regular updates on how bad the other children are behaving. Especially Ryan, her younger brother. Ryan is being very bad. I thank Renee for the report and ask her to keep me informed if the situation upstairs deteriorates any further.

She leaves. I see my niece having a promising career with the NSA.

Within ten minutes she's returned. Apparently, Ryan is achieving new heights of badness.

Renee loves bunny rabbits. Ryan loves to give her drawings of bunny rabbits with daggers stuck in them, bunny rabbits decapitated, bunny rabbits hanging from a noose. Based on everything Renee has told me, it seems my youngest nephew is growing up to be a sociopath.

She hands me his latest drawing. I offer that maybe it’s not a bunny rabbit being roasted over coals. To me, it looks more like a hippopotamus--with a cotton tail. (Clearly, Ryan is not going to be an artist.)

Renee wants me to punish him—severely—or even better, give him up for adoption before her mother gets home. I explain the complexities involved and that we probably can’t do it within the next 30 minutes. She thinks it’s worth a shot.

I really want to return to my writing and I suggest she not come downstairs again unless there’s blood. If there’s blood, then come and get me.

I can see that I'm a disappointment to my niece and have probably lost my Most Favored Uncle status, but God never intended me to be a disciplinarian.

At the time, I was working on The Legacy of Emily Hargraves, and I would use Renee and Ryan’s relationship—less like typical sibling rivalry than a policy of Mutually Assured Destruction—as a model for that between Emily and her younger brother, Earle, a natural born imp who delights in getting at his sister whenever and in whatever way possible.






[First posted: October 21, 2015]