Hammertime: The saving grace of the babysitting television

Looking back at the years of taking care of the kids, in this week’s Hammertime

Mike Rainone


I guess it has been quite a while since I worked the afternoon shifts at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex, but it was really a great experience to meet and greet lots of people, run the Zamboni for hundreds of hockey games and other events when the ice was in as well as for roller-skating, Stampede beer gardens, trade shows, trailer rallies, county fair, wrestling matches, and all sorts of other activities in the spring and summer months.

Just like today those were also the hectic days when both parents were working, bringing up a young family, and trying to enjoy some sort of social life between games, parent-teacher interviews, church, relatives, holidays, inside and outside chores, and all the rest of our typically jammed packed year round event calendars. Like so many others in the roaring sixties and beyond I do so fondly remember that even after working afternoons I never really had much of a chance to sleep in, because my wife was off to work, and dear old dad had that joyful experience of babysitting our rambunctious and usually rowdy crop of pre-schoolers? Breakfast was usually a real challenge, especially when one is half asleep and not a very good cook, but somehow we always managed to survive on a make-shift diet of cereal, porridge, peanut-butter and jam on toast, pancakes, some sort of juice, and a whole lot of patience, paper towels, and several sudden diaper changes and bathroom breaks. Thank goodness that mom left us all something organized in the fridge for lunch, but the next big challenge, especially if the weather is bad, is how we can keep them happy until we have to go to work and are replaced by the less stressed and much better organized sitter, or their mother finally comes home?

After a while most of us wanna-be-good fathers usually got pretty sharp at playing ‘house,’ hosting tea parties, and joining in on youthful games such as ring-around the rosy, hide and seek, snakes and ladders, go fish, jacks, pick-up-sticks, and so many others. We also eventually became masters at colouring, jig-saw-puzzles, reading story books with genuine feeling and sounds, piggy back rides, fixing ‘owies,’ as well as possessing big hugs, strong knees, and comfy laps. Through that whole great and usually gratifying adventure I was always so thankful for morning television, because that is where you could snuggle up on the floor or couch together and watching some of the 856 episodes of Mr. Roger’s always happy Neighbourhood, looked way-way up to greet the Friendly Giant, sang-along in a make-believe log with Fred Penner, laughed at Mr. Dress-Up, loved the Disney Channel, joined in with the antics of the wild and wacky Sesame Street gang, or were awed by Barney, that always jovial ‘Purple hulk.’ When I was growing up way back in the early 1950s our grand old TV was only on for six hours a day, during which we were allowed to watch our super heroes Howdy Doody, Superman, and Popeye but for most of the time were sent outside to explore, invent our own games, and get real dirty, all before supper.

Back to those years when we got to mind the kids, it was always after a noisy lunch that we all had an ‘it’s all okay’ chat on the phone with mom, and then had some small hope that both the children and the parent might just be a little tired and consider having a nap. If not, there was always those boring old soap operas, or it was off to the playground to wear them out, a car ride to lull them to sleep, or the promise of a treat to settle them all down. Whatever the case, as grandparents we should now feel proud and survived, while fondly looking back at our usually wonderful but occasionally wild and wobbly adventures of bringing up our children from tots to teens as a powerful learning experience? Of course we will happily share all that wisdom and just a little advice with our siblings, as well as wishing them a whole lot of good luck along the way to a joyful parenthood, while trying to stay sane, no matter what. We must always continue to love them a lot, stay in touch, and have them all over once in a while to share the countless memories.

Just for laughs

• Adolescence is a period of rapid changes. Between the ages of 12 and 17, for example, a child may see their parents age by 20 years.

• Parents spend the first part of a child’s life urging them to walk and talk, and the rest of their childhood making them sit down and keep quiet.

• July and August is when parents pack off their troubles to summer camp and smile-smile-smile.

• Wouldn’t it be nice if our children or grandchildren looked up at us and said, ‘It’s OK..you don’t have to buy me everything that you wished you could have had when you were growing up.

We must always remember the grand old saying that ‘The family that plays together stays together.’, then get right into spring and have a great week, all of you.

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