I noticed in passing on Facebook that one of my children's ex-babysitters was celebrating his birthday this week. Always a chap noted for incisive social commentary, his post accurately observed "Yes, I am birthday." Which said it all, really.
My children were blessed with a succession of creative and imaginative babysitters, generally the cash-strapped and desperate teenaged offspring of friends. Nowadays those brave souls are (reasonably) respectable members of society in their mid to late twenties, who have no doubt almost outgrown the terrifying flashbacks of the Hitchcock-like horror commencing with the slam of the front door as the parents fled into the night. The twitching is barely noticeable now.
Birthday boy was famous for a time when my children worshipped his green spiked hair. Apparently "my babysitter has green spikey hair" was a claim of huge street cred in the primary school playground. There was a clamour from others whose babysitters were considered pale and uninteresting in comparison. Perhaps wisely, he never capitalised on the child care career his notoriety offered and indeed, to this day his name must remain confidential.
I also recall another artistic youth who was so popular (and so obliging) as to agree to look after a positive gaggle of my own and other children at once. He survived by entertaining them with his lovely drawings, and we had an art show when the Mummies returned to the homefront. He had rendered the characters from Alice in Wonderland, cartoons (various), and a number of toys which were presented for an instant portrait. The portrait of a reclining nude caused a second glance, to which he said "Barbie" and somewhat desperately - "they made me do it." Having spent time with those particular little girls - one being mine - I understood his position. Fear is a powerful motivator.
On the occasion of one Mummies' night out, we returned to find that the Daddies had fed the children and decided to relax with a beer before putting the kids to bed. About 10.30pm the little girls had taken the executive decision to tape the Daddies' eyes shut. Since they were asleep anyway, you understand, and it wouldn't be fair to wake them.
I quite miss the thrill of a new toy catalogue, the challenge of finding that exact thing for a birthday - I once called every Toyworld franchise in two states to locate Optimus Prime in his gorilla manifestation. (And I was successful.) Perhaps I verged on the slightly obsessional, but I like to think of it as focus. My skill with Lego was superior. I still know more about a lot of Transformers, Beastworld, Batman and Barbie than is probably good for me, and I can paint Warhammer with alarming precision.