Screaming children and a 50-foot snake; welcome to Uncle Ned’s day care

Unce Ned's day care I have a good friend who is a child care provider. So when she found herself in a bind, I told her I’d be happy to watch the kids for a couple of hours; eight children, all under the age of four.

I did this yesterday.

Today, I’m writing to you from a locked treatment facility for the emotionally disturbed.

Being a parent, it’s not like I didn’t know what to expect.

I was prepared.

I came with a plan.

I had ideas for things to do.

And, if all else failed, I came with a bungee cord large enough to wrap all eight of them together in the middle of the lawn.

For the purpose of this column (or, more specifically, for the purpose of protecting myself from an investigation by the Child Protection Agency) I’ll only refer to the kids by nickname. “Bonnie and Clyde,” for example, were both less than two years old and always planning a getaway. I know this because they would often sit together babbling quietly, then suddenly climb to their feet and make a break for it, stumbling across the yard with both hands in the air. I have no idea where they planned to go once they made it to “the outside” (which seemed to be anywhere beyond the grass), but I took the keys to the Barbie Jeep anyway.

And let me just say that, for any men who might find themselves in this situation, I’d suggest wearing an athletic cup. That’s because, for some reason, all children believe that the only way to get your attention is to stand directly in front of you, wait until you’re not looking, and then poke you directly in the [censored].

I say this all in retrospect, having NOT brought an athletic supporter and, instead, resorting to the next best thing: Duct-taping a coffee mug to myself. This worked just fine and was fairly comfortable. So comfortable, in fact, that I completely forgot about it until went into the local coffee shop and asked for my free refill. At which point I was told the policy would be changing — effective immediately.

As anyone will tell you, the key to supervising children is keeping them active. Provide them with things to do and they’ll be totally unaware that you are, in effect, slowly going insane. To accomplish this, we played softball, soccer, hop-scotch and then colored a giant dragon that I drew on the sidewalk in chalk. Thanks to this planning and organization, these activities kept everyone entertained for well over 15 minutes.

Which left me with another hour to fill.

Desperate, I did what any good child care provider would do in this situation:

I kindled their imaginations by telling them I had a giant snake in the car.

This, of course, was very exciting, and we spent the next 10 minutes talking about how big it was, where it came from, and whether or not it had once been an executive from ENRON.

Everything was going great until, naturally, they demanded to see it. Now, because I didn’t actually HAVE a 50-foot anaconda in the car, I was left with only one option, which was to tell them it must’ve escaped.

If you’ve never heard the sound of eight small children screaming at once, you can experience the same thing by sticking a bull horn next to your ear and pushing the siren button. Even “Bonnie and Clyde,” who had no idea what was going on, began screaming — hands in the air and stumbling across the grass to freedom.

I should explain that our my friend’s home is somewhat secluded, which is what kept anyone from reporting a strange man with a coffee mug strapped to his pants chasing down a herd of screaming children on the front lawn. On the bright side, it did shave another 20 minutes off the clock, which left me with just enough time to get everyone calmed down and back inside before anyone showed up.

To the parents, I apologize for any future psychological treatment your children may require. To my friend, I’ve gained an even higher level of appreciation for what you do.

And to my wife and family:

They say I can leave any day now — just as soon as I give up the coffee mug.

(You can write to Ned Hickson at, or at Siuslaw News, P.O. Box 10, Florence, Or. 97439)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

58 thoughts on “Screaming children and a 50-foot snake; welcome to Uncle Ned’s day care”

  1. this may be too soon in our relationship to say this, but i love you…thank you, for the very big smile this morning!

    1. You’re very welcome; it’s never too early to make someone smile. On a side note, I really wish I could remember if I washed this cup out before I made my coffee…

  2. Wait just one second, rougedmount, I loved him first. Back off. I nearly spilled my coffee, UncaNed, and the mug isn’t even taped to my nether regions.

  3. Oooooo Ned… you scandalous little monkey, you. You’ve got the ladies fighting over you and your coffee mug! ^^^

  4. OMG… you are one brave person (doesn’t matter what sex you are —- eight children under the age of 4 is eight too many children under the age of 4)!

      1. Whenever I think something might be “fun”, I check myself. Because I’m ALWAYS wrong about it. ALWAYS!

        And I was having my own “fun” at the shit show that was a restaurant on a holiday. Ridiculous.

  5. This reminds me of the time that my husband dressed up as Darth Maul to run a Star Wars party for our eldest. 10 six year olds to entertain for two hours. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so scared 😀

    1. Thanks! I hope she doesn’t turn me in 🙂 Oh, and the cup has been surrendered. But I don’t think I’ll ever be able to drink out of it again..

  6. Forgive me for being overly politically correct but what happens if the kids go home and say to their parents,,, “A strange man was at daycare today. He said he had a 10ft snake and we went to look for it”! Ha ha! In case you don’t get my humor..

  7. Oh Children!!! I just snorted from laughing so much my dog thinks I have something up my nose (he keeps trying to smell me up there). I applaud you sir! Eight is a lot of kids! I remember taking care of one little girl an entire summer for eight hours a day… I had to call for back-up one day. It is a lot of work!
    On a more serious note: Slowly remove the duct tape from your hand and coffee mug… it will be okay… it will be okay… if not, I have sent a St. Bernard with coffee, and no, I didn’t tell him that he might lose his luggage. I figured you have a better chance of getting that coffee if he knows his luggage is in no danger 🙂

    1. Hahahaha! I think your omission about his luggage probably increased both our chances of survival! But please, I hope he isn’t bringing a Mexican mocha; that hasn’t worked out too well for me in the past 😉

  8. Hey Ned,

    You are a real friend to this lady. I have a T-shirt that I bought from from my website store, It says

    “Yes, it is true. They are indeed Made of Brass”

    You could totally wear that shirt.

  9. i love everything about this. i happen to have 3 daughters who have all decided to have 2 children within a few years of each other, thus i have 6 grandies, ages 9 mos. to 5 years old. also teach jr. kindergarten (4 and 5s) full day, 18 kids and love every minute of it. i love the chaos, the mayhem, the way things always run amok. laugh every day and sometimes cry. oops, it kind of sounds like i’ve crossed over into some state of walking insanity….

    1. As long as you’re not being dragged into insanity but go willingly, I suppose it’s not a problem 😉 And my hat is off to you for what you do every day as a teacher.

  10. You’re lucky it wasn’t a Darth Vader mug. The kidlets might have taken light sabers to your [censored] to get your attention. Thank gawd for small favors…

  11. Eight! Ned, your courage and bravado are myth worthy – your creative distraction a masterpiece of strategy. I’ll trade my shield for your coffee cup – grin!

  12. I told my boyfriend I would read to him from the only blog that I follow (yours). And then I regretted it, because reading aloud is incredibly hard to do when you’re laughing so hard you feel like you’re going to choke. And then you look at the pee-colored iced tea in your glass and wonder what the inside of that coffee mug would look like by now, and it just sets you off all over again.

    1. I’m glad you clarified it was mine you were reading from. If there was someone else out there with a urine-stained coffee mug, I was going to be pissed! Ok, sorry — bad choice of words. But I’m flattered to know when you two look at your iced tea, you think of my coffee mug.

No one is watching, I swear...

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