“What?” Janice implored, her irritation at Liam’s constant chatter drippingly clear from her tone. “What on earth are you talking about Liam?”
“Moooommmmmm” said little blue-eyed Liam from his precarious perch on the arm of the couch on which Janice was sitting. “You do not lithen never ever lithen”. “Lissssen William Brandon use your “S” sounds sweetie” Janice said distractedly as she reached for another threadbare towel to fold.
“FINE! Lisssssssssssthen” Liam called out as he tumbled as only a four-year old could from the arm of the chair to the small space between the couch and the end table. “I said I want to be a exotic tiger when I grow up! Now what huh mom now what huh? huh?” he said rebelliously as he peeked out from his hiding place.
Janice took a breath, closed her eyes on a tired sigh and swished a green towel at Liam’s little head poking out with a laugh. “Silly, you can’t be an exotic tiger, you’re a little boy.”
“UH I KNOW Mom but I won’t always be a little boy right so when I grow up I want to be an exotic tiger.” Liam huffed as he pushed out from under the table and made a grab for the dish towel.
“Okay Liam, you can be an exotic tiger” his mother intoned as she folded the last of the towels and stood to put them in the linen closet. “Where did you get that idea anyway?”
“Ms. Pam read a big book about the exotic tigers at the zoo and then she took me and Ashley to see them on our excursion day”. Ms. Pam was Pam Marley, the woman upstairs who providing babysitting services for the two children of her flat neighbors Janice and Marcie, both hard-working single moms. She charged more than some but she was well worth the money due to proximity and quality of care. Sometimes Janice and Marcie talked about how jealous they were of the love their four-year olds showed for the babysitter. The reality was, with their sixty or seventy hour work weeks the pre-schoolers spent more of their waking hours with Pam than they did with their own mothers.
Janice was tired, she had been at work until nearly 11:00 last night. She was an Assistant Manager at a local clothing boutique and although they closed at 9:30 there were customers there last night shopping for the upcoming Mothers Day holiday until nearly 10:15. Liam was a beast and would not sleep past 5:30 AM no matter what time he went to bed. Janice had tried giving him a bowl of cereal and turning on Cartoon Network so she could doze on the couch but he was full of spirit and energy and questions and just wouldn’t let her rest.
“Okay Liam, as soon as I changed our sheets let’s go to the zoo today and you can show me the exotic tigers” Janice said with faked enthusiasm as she headed toward the back of the apartment. “That’s okay Mom, Liam said as he toddled along behind her, shoes strung around his neck like he’s seen the big boys do as they headed to basketball practice, “I’m going to Ms. Pam’s to make a puzzle with Ashley today.”
“No Liam I’m not going to work today so we get to spend the whole day together!” Janice exclaimed a bit too vehemently as Liam burrowed under the fitted sheet she had just flung across her bed. “You don’t have to go to Ms. Pam’s house today.”
Liam’s little brown head popped out from under the sheet, too long hair flopping onto his forehead and said “No Mommy I have to go to Ms. Pam’s house, she misses me.” Janice lowered herself down to the edge of the bed so she was looking into her son’s blue eyes brimming with pre-emptive tears and brushed her thumb across his quivering bottom lip. “Okay son, let me call Ms. Pam and maybe we can go do the puzzle together.”
Liam whooped his pleasure and shot rocket style out of her bedroom, picking up his shoes as he went, “Come ON MOM let’s GO!” Janice pushed aside the fitted sheet and sat on the edge of her bed with a defeated sigh. “Okay boyo don’t get yourself in a twist” Janice called out with false bravado as she fought back tears of frustration at the life that she had created for herself and her beloved boy. A world where he preferred the company of his paid caretaker to his own mother. Not that she blamed him necessarily, she was always so tired and she only got one day off a week now with the shop doing so much better.
Crumbling the top sheet she had in her lap into a ball she flung it onto the bed. “Might as well make the best of it. An hour of puzzle construction with the babysitter isn’t going to kill anyone” she thought as she reached for the phone to call Pam.