Giant snakes and screaming children — welcome to Uncle Ned’s daycare

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.


imageWARNING! Because I’m on “vacation” moving intoour new house, this has been a shameless excerpt from my book, Humor at the Speed of Life, which is a collection of my most popular columns over the years (as opposed to the kind I usually write) and is available in hardcopy or eBook version at Port Hole Publications, or Barnes & Noble. It makes a great Mother’s Day gift! (Note: results may vary.)

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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...

69 thoughts on “Giant snakes and screaming children — welcome to Uncle Ned’s daycare”

  1. I’ve tried using a coffee mug in the same manner before, and I wasn’t satisfied with the experience. Tell me, are you supposed to pour out the scalding hot coffee out of it first?

  2. Next time, tell ’em the giant snake is invisible. That might terrify them as well, but then you can use it as leverage. As in, they should all stay in the yard quietly because the giant invisible snake is out there, lurking, watching….. (cue ominous music).

  3. I have great respect for anyone who has supervision of any more than 2 children under the age of 10 for any amount of time! I used to have my daughter’s friend (all girls) over at the same time when she was small. That was 5 or 6 girls ALL under 8. Keeping them busy is definitely the key! Great story!
    Now… can I send you anything? A cake with a file perhaps? 😀

    1. At least in my case there were some boys mixed in to sort of balance things out. At least audibly. Eight screaming eight-year-old girls must sound like a eight sets of rusty brakes grinding to a stop.

  4. Deep breaths, Ned. Picture the tightly coiled snake slowly, every so slowly, unwinding and becoming longer, thinner, and higher. Until – because it’s a magic snake – it mysteriously disappears in a poof of smoke.

    PS: I’ll send you a dollar if you post a picture of yourself wearing that coffee mug. That’s the funniest story I’ve read in a long time.

  5. I recently got to walk through the hallway of the elementary school I attended hundreds of years ago. I was struck first of all by how small everything was. Lockers. Drinking fountains, even the ceilings themselves seemed much lower than I remembered. What struck me most though, was the screaming. It wasn’t as bad when I first walked in through the street side door, where the older 2nd and 3rd grade classes are located, but as I got to the end of the hall, approaching the Kindergarten classes, it just got louder and louder. Apparently little kids are always screaming. (I have no use for that.)

  6. OK, I have to admit that my thoughts went immediately to the dark side of perversion when I saw a blog title that involved snakes and children. Those thoughts went even further when you shared that said giant snake was hidden in your car. I am a bad man. I apologize.

  7. I’ve always believed that children will scream no matter what the cause, so you might as well give them something good to scream about (psychological terrors, only…nothing physical as it puts you within arm’s reach of the little beggars).

  8. You had eight children under the age of four outside, not completely fenced in. Are you mad? When my son was that age, I had him on a leash any time we were outside (and no, it was not one of those retractable ones- although it might have made things interesting). If he wasn’t leashed, he was enclosed in a chain link fenced area that he couldn’t get out of.

    Hope the move is going smoothly.

    1. Next time, I’m thinking shock collar. Mostly for me to wear and get zapped by if I ever offer to watch that many small chldren again.

      And thanks — it’s still going, but smoothly at least 😉

  9. You could market this. Really. You could call it “the nanny cup” and sell it on late night tv. Maybe Cindy Crawford would be interested. You know – a boxed set with wrinkle cream. 😉

    1. You’re RIGHT! I’m writing Cindy right now. Maybe she could be joined by Chuck Norris, and she could rub wrinkle cream on his snake.. oh wait, THAT’S NOT A SNAKE!!!

    1. I wish I could say it was my book. Or even your book. Either way, it was all about timing and opportunity — and incriminating video footage of my loan officer…

  10. Ha,ha,ha! Time comes to a stop when caring for children. Tic…toc!! Their attention span is zero! I used to go into a preschool to teach Spanish to 3 year olds. It was the longest 45 minutes of my life. My only saving grace was the abundance of books I would read to them to keep them from destroying the place or from crying. Very funny! 🙂

  11. K, so, can’t read you at work anymore. Tried to explain to a coworker and dissolved into snorting noises and vaguely offensive gestures. (Much like college.) Pretty sure I’m fired. Problem solved. 🙂

  12. Why? Why would you do that Ned? You’ve been there, you’ve got kids.
    Either you owed your childminding friend a favour bigger than I can possibly imagine or you are the kindest man in the world…and mad to have said yes!

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