I managed to find a copy of @Brutal_Ink 's story on another forum so am reposting it here to restore one of the missing stories
*.*.*.*.*.I really couldn’t afford to complain…I’ll admit that I hadn’t planned on spending my entire summer babysitting Emmy McKale, but I was getting paid an exorbitant amount of money to do so...And considering that I was currently out of a job, well, beggars can’t be choosers.I finished putting the blankets out on the couch--Emmy wasn’t due to arrive for another ten minutes, but her parents had a late flight to catch. I didn’t want to be the lame babysitter who sent her to bed right away on her first night here.It was summer vacation, after all.I’d just finished laying out the snacks when the doorbell rang. I hurried to get across the living room, and banged my shin on the coffee table.I bit the inside of my cheek to keep from cursing, and hobbled over to answer the door.“Hey guys!” I said, smiling through the pain.“Hello, Mallory. Thanks for watching Emory for us.” William, Emory’s dad, said, handing me an envelope. “There’s money in here for groceries, activities, pretty much anything you might need while we’re gone. Whatever you don’t spend, you can keep.”“Thanks, Mr. McKale.”“Mallory!” that was all the warning I got before Emory crashed into me at full speed, flinging her arms around my middle.I gave her a good squeeze in return before lifting her onto my hip.“Hey, Emmy! It’s good to see you!” Melanie, Emory’s mom, was struggling to carry all of Emmy’s things, so I put Emmy down to go help her.“Thanks, dear.” she said breathlessly, handing me a large box of what I could now see were diapers. They weren’t real diapers, per se, but those bedwetting pants for kids that call themselves something else so they don’t wreck kids’ self-esteem. All things considered, Emory never really put up much of a fuss when it was time to get ready for bed, and I was grateful; any of the other ten-year-olds I babysat would have had a fit if I so much as mentioned any kind of protection.I looked back over at Emory who had bent down to pick up her bag. Her shirt had ridden up, exposing the waistband of her diaper.If she noticed, she didn’t seem to care.Besides, I thought it was kind of cute anyway. It certainly made my job easier, since she was so accepting of having to wear protection.“You can just put your things in the guest room, Emmy. You remember where it is, right?”Emmy grinned and took off up the stairs. “Yep.”I helped Emory’s mom bring in the rest of her things. By the time we’d finished Emory was back.William looked at his watch. “We should go.” he knelt down and opened his arms to Emmy.Emmy didn’t waste any time leaping into them. “Bye daddy. I love you! Have fun!”“I love you too, sweetheart. Be good for Mallory, okay?”Emmy nodded. “I will!” she said, and moved on to repeat the process with her mother.“Emergency numbers are on the fridge, same as always. We’ll be back in a few weeks.” Melanie lowered her voice and pulled me aside. “Just so you know, Emmy’s bedwetting has gotten worse. The boxes have diapers in them now, we were in a hurry when we packed, so I just threw everything together. There might be a few pull-ups left in there, but make sure she wears the diapers to bed.”I nodded. “Okay. Will do, thanks for the heads-up.”“We’ve had a few daytime incidents, too. It’s usually when she’s distracted, so please remind her to go potty.”I nod. I normally get this kind of thing from my younger kids’ parents, but with the money I was making, I wasn’t about to complain. Emmy wasn’t that much bigger than some of my six-year-olds, now that I thought about it...Melanie reached out to hug me. “We love you too, you know.” My face heated up. “Thanks. I love you guys too. Be safe, and happy anniversary.”Melanie smiled and followed her husband toward the door.Emory was too short to see out the window of the storm door, so I lifted her onto my hip so we could wave to her parents as they drove away.I could feel that her diaper was pretty wet, and I wondered why she hadn’t said anything.“Do I have to go to bed soon?” Emmy asked.“You know I’m not that lame. You can stay up for a bit, but first, you need a diaper change.”“But, I’m not even that wet!” Emmy protested. “I don’t know about that...Besides, you didn’t speak up and tell me you were wet, and I’m not having you get diaper rash on my watch, missy.” She was usually really well-behaved, but I knew from experience that she wasn’t above making a break for it if she thought she could get away with it. “Let’s go, munchkin.”Emmy pouted, and her big brown eyes almost made me reconsider. Almost.“Nice try, kiddo. But, that doesn’t work on me.” I headed up the stairs to the guest room and laid Emmy down on the guest bed. Her diaper was even more wet than I’d thought, I discovered, once I started changing her, and I didn’t think it would’ve taken much more before leaking.“‘Not that wet’, huh?” I wondered, tickling her a little so she knew I wasn’t upset.She squirmed and I let up before I ended up having to change the sheets on the bed too. “Sorry. Guess I wasn’t paying attention.” Emmy said, refusing to make eye contact with me.I brushed some long brown hair out of her eyes. I didn’t totally buy it, but it wasn’t worth making a big deal out of it. “It’s alright, I’m not mad. Try to remember to tell me when you need changing, okay? Otherwise I’m gonna have to start checking for myself.”“Okay,” Emmy said, sitting up once I’d finished. She scampered over to her suitcase and took out a footed sleeper. “I got new pajamas!” She said. “Can you help me with them?”I suspected that she didn’t really need help, but I didn’t have the heart to deny her if such a simple thing would make her happy. Internally, I knew that the pajamas would probably just get in the way if she woke up in the middle of the night and had to go to the bathroom, but she was in diapers anyway, so I wasn’t going to dwell on it.I’m such a pushover…She looked absolutely adorable in her pjs, which did nothing at all to hide her diapered state.“Feel like doing anything in particular?” I asked.“I wanna play Overwatch.” Emmy said. “I brought my PS4.”“Okay. Do you need help setting it up?”Emmy shook her head. “Nope. I can do it.”“Okay. Mind if I keep you company?Emmy smiled. “Sure! Can I have a snack?”“I think that can be arranged. How about some chips and pretzels?” I wasn’t in the mood to start fussing around in the kitchen, since it was so late, and I hoped that those would be enough.“That sounds good to me.” Emmy said. “I’m gonna go set my game up. You should play too; it’s fun.”I shrugged. “We’ll see,” I had enough trouble getting to sleep without overstimulating my brain. But, I hadn’t played video games in a while, and the offer was tempting.I went to scrounge for suitable snack food, while Emmy set up her game. She was faster than I expected she would be, and she was already getting started by the time I got to the living room, arms laden with plunder from the kitchen.“Get on the point, guys!” She snapped into her headset--it took me a minute to realize that she was talking to someone.“Relax.” I said, a little more sternly than I meant to. “It’s just a game.”Emmy sighed and folded her arms as the word ‘defeat’ flashed up on the screen in bright red letters. “Tough luck,” I said, and patted her back. “You’ll get ‘em next time.”Emmy angrily crunched into a pretzel and pouted. “Do you want to play? You don’t have to play in Competitive matches if you don’t want to. Those can get pretty intense.”“Why not? Think I’ll stick with the small fish though.” I said, and she passed me the controller.The controls were pretty straightforward, and although the other team wiped the floor with me several times--I don’t think I got a single kill--it was fun. It was easy to see how someone could get addicted to this kind of thing. It wasn’t my cup of tea, but if I had nothing else to do, it was a nice way to kill time.Emmy squirmed next to me. At first, I thought that she was just anxious to get back to the game. Then, when I heard the subtle crinkling of her pull-up, I realized that there was a much more obvious explanation.“Do you need to go to the bathroom?”“Nope, I’m alright.”I raised an eyebrow. “If you say so…” I passed her the controller. I focused most of my attention on the screen, but I was still watching Emmy out of my peripheral vision. I’d been babysitting enough to know that the ‘potty dance’ never really changes; kids just get better at hiding it as they get older. Another thing I learned was to trust my gut.And right now, my gut was telling me that everything about Emmy’s posture screamed: I really have to pee!“Okay,” I said as my latest foray into the gaming world ended with another stomping. “Time for a potty break.”“I don’t even have to go!” Emmy protested. She looked a little embarrassed.“You do so,” I countered. “You’ve been squirming non-stop for the past five minutes. Even if you don’t think you need to go, I want you to try anyway.”Emory huffed. “Fine.” She must have needed to go worse than she thought, because as soon as she stood up, she let out a little gasp and sprinted for the bathroom.I laughed a little to myself.Emmy came back and sat down on the couch.“Did you make it okay?”Emmy nodded.“Let’s check. Just to be sure.”“I don’t need you to check me,” Emmy whined.“Well, if you had told me you were wet earlier, I wouldn’t feel like I needed to. Besides, if you’re dry, I don’t have anything to worry about, right?”“Right,” Emmy didn’t look at me. I knew then what I was going to find, and I was a little annoyed that she lied, but I decided to give her another chance to come clean.“Is there something you wanna tell me?” I asked.Emmy shook her head.“Are you sure?”Emmy nodded.The silence was another giveaway, but even so, I went as slowly as possible as I unzipped her pjs. As I suspected, she was soaked.“Sweetheart,” I began gently. “What happened?”“I tried. I really did…” Emmy croaked, and burst into tears.“It’s okay, little one.” I said, pulling her close. “I’m not mad.”Privately, I was a little irritated. As much as I wanted to give Emmy the benefit of the doubt, all the evidence for this particular accident pointed to laziness rather than any physical problem.Still, Emmy’s mom had warned me that they’d been having some daytime issues, and I knew it wouldn’t be fair of me to hold Emmy completely responsible. But, I didn’t want to let her off the hook scot-free either…“It’s no big deal,” I told her. “Just try to pay more attention next time, okay?”“‘Kay. I’m sorry.” Emmy said quietly.I pressed a kiss to her forehead. “It’s okay. I think it’s just about bedtime, though. Do you want to take a bath now, or do you normally take care of that in the morning?”Emmy shrugged.I sighed and lifted Emmy onto my hip when I stood up. “Well, since you don’t know, I think we’d be better off doing it now. A nice, warm bath might help you relax.”Emory didn’t say anything back. She just hummed and rested her head on my shoulder.I patted her bottom, more out of instinct than anything else. I hadn’t meant to call attention to the state of her pull-up, at least not more than I had already; but it couldn’t be helped. I ended up doing most of the work in the bathroom.Emmy just sort of zoned out and plonked herself down in the tub.“Emmy, you’re getting a rash.” I said. Maybe it was for the best that I was doing the scrubbing, since I might not have found out about it until it got much worse. “You need to tell me when you need changing.” I reminded her. I figured that it had already started before she came over, but I didn’t want it getting worse.Emmy just nibbled on her thumb.“I wish you’d tell me what’s bothering you.” I said, since it was obvious that something was on her mind.“I don’t know...I just feel off.” Emmy said.“Do you think you’re getting sick?” I reached out to feel her forehead. She didn’t seem feverish.Emmy shook her head. “I don’t know how to explain it.”“Hmm.” I was at a loss. I couldn’t do much if Emmy didn’t tell me what was wrong. “I think you’re just tired.” I pulled the plug on the drain and wrapped Emmy in a big, fluffy towel. I thought it was strange that she hadn’t offered even token resistance to me babying her since her accident.In truth, I’d been hoping for some kind of reaction, but at the same time, her being so docile was making my job easier.Emmy didn’t fight me when it was time to put her diaper on, and she was small enough that moving her around wasn’t too much of a chore.“Good night, Emmy.” I told her, once she was tucked in. “I’ll be right down the hall if you need anything.”“Night, Mallory.” Emmy answered. “Could you leave the door open a little?”“Sure thing, munchkin. Sweet dreams.”It only took me a few seconds to cross the room, but in the thin strip of light that washed over the bed, I could see that Emmy was already asleep.
*.2.*To say it was a rude awakening might have been a little harsh. Still, little fingers poking into the space between my ribs was not on my ‘Top Five Ways to Wake Mallory Up’ list.“It’d better be at least eight-thirty.” I grumbled.“I’m hungry.” Emmy complained.“And you woke me up because…” Honestly, I didn’t really trust Emmy to operate the stove without supervision, but a bowl of cereal wasn’t that hard to make…“We don’ have any food. Well, ‘cept Raisin Bran.” Emmy made a face.“Alright, alright, I’m up.” I groaned and sat up. “Do you need a change before we go see if we can rustle up some grub?”Emmy shrugged. “I dunno,”I raised an eyebrow. “I’m pretty sure you do know, you just don’t want to tell me.”Emmy scuffed her foot against the carpet.I liked to think of myself as fair, and I didn’t think I was being unreasonable by expecting Emmy to tell me if she was wet.I picked her up and sat her on the bed beside me. “I’m so silly,” I said, in the most sickeningly sweet voice I could muster.I felt bad about being so deliberately patronizing just to get a rise out of her, but I wasn’t about to spend all day changing diapers just because Emmy was too lazy to get up and go to the bathroom.“I thought you were a big girl, but I should have known you were still little.”Emmy’s cheeks colored, but she didn’t say anything in response.I pulled off Emmy’s pajama bottoms. If she wanted the baby treatment, then I was going to give it to her in spades. She was about to get a lot more than she bargained for, especially if she just wanted to play videogames without having to get up to go potty.“And, little ones have to wear diapers, right? Otherwise they’ll just make a mess everywhere.” I paused. “Of course, they also can’t play video games, since staring at a screen for so long isn’t good for little eyes. And, definitely no phone, or computer; who knows what kind of trouble they’d get into?”Emmy frowned. “But…”“No ‘buts’.” I said. “If you can’t handle your responsibilities, then you lose the privileges that go with them. If making it to the potty on time is too much responsibility, then clearly it’d be crazy of me to trust that you can use your phone, or computer, or PS4 since making it to the potty is too hard.”It felt wrong, somehow, to play hardball with a ten-year-old, but if yesterday was anything to go by, I’d go crazy by the end of the first week if I didn’t establish some boundaries.“It was an accident! Honest!” Emmy looked like she was going to cry, and I felt awful.“I’m really not trying to be mean. And I don’t think you’re lying to me.”Emmy sniffled and tears ran down her cheeks.I felt like scum. I lifted her into my lap and wiped away her tears.“I’m not accusing you of anything, sweetie. I’m just saying that maybe it wouldn’t have happened at all if you’d been paying more attention. What do you think?”“Maybe…” Emmy conceded.“So today, we’re gonna try really hard to get to the potty, right? No accidents?”Emmy nodded, and I hugged her, glad to making progress.“Good girl. Now, let’s get you changed, and then we’ll see about breakfast.” I stood up and carried her back to her room.I went to lay some clothes out for her to wear, when I noticed something peculiar.“Emmy, where are all your big-girl panties? Didn’t you bring any?”Emmy shook her head, but didn’t elaborate. I frowned. I could understand forgetting a toothbrush, or a phone charger, but even for a ten-year-old, underwear didn’t seem like the kind of thing that would get lost in the shuffle. It’s a pretty essential piece of clothing.“Well, it looks like we’re going out for breakfast then. We need to go to the store to get you some big-girl underwear. Sound good?”Emmy grinned. “Yeah!”I smiled at her as I held out the fresh pull-up for her to step into. “Remember, these are for just-in-case, okay?”Emmy’s determined facial expression was pretty much the cutest thing ever, but I didn’t want to laugh for fear of hurting her feelings. I helped her dress, since she’d seemed content to just sit around in her pajama top and pull-up. She latched on to me as I stood up after I’d finished.Emmy was getting a little old to be carried around, but as long as she was making progress on the toilet front, I was willing to make a few concessions. She really wasn’t that heavy anyway.“See? I told you we didn’t have anything to eat!” Emmy said after I’d scoured the kitchen, only to come up with Raisin Bran, some stale bread, and some ketchup.“You were right, munchkin.” I told her. I put her down so I could start jotting down our grocery list on the nearby notepad. “It looks like we have a busy day ahead of us. I’m going to go upstairs to shower and get ready to go. I want you to look at this grocery list and see if there’s anything you want to add to it for us to get at the store. Not too, much candy, though, okay?”“Okay,” Emmy said glumly.I fiddled with the oven for a moment while I figured out how to set the timer. I set it for twenty minutes and turned back to Emmy. “When the timer beeps, I want you to go sit on the potty. Brush your teeth while you’re in there, too.”“Aye, aye, cap’n.” Emmy grinned.“Good. I’ll be right back. I’m hungry too, so I shouldn’t be too long.” I planned on being ready in fifteen minutes, that way I could make sure Emmy actually went to the bathroom when she was supposed to. It wasn’t that I didn’t trust her, it was just that…Who am I kidding? I really don’t trust her, not right now, at least.I wanted to be able to trust Emmy, heaven knew I wasn’t looking forward to putting a ten-year-old through potty-training boot camp. But, we weren’t off to a great start, and I’d only have myself to blame if I didn’t put the effort in now, and we ran into more problems later.Still, I had more time alone with my thoughts than I really needed while I was in the shower. Even though I had to be quick, the warm water relaxed me enough that I felt like I could deal with the day ahead and not end up with a crippling tension headache.I managed to get dressed, brush my teeth, and make myself generally presentable with three minutes to spare.Emmy was lounging in front of the TV, watching cartoons, and given that the timer on the oven hadn’t gone off, I felt pretty safe in assuming that she hadn’tbeen to the bathroom yet. And, since her pull-up was showing, I couldn’t resist taking a peek for myself to see if she was still dry.“Hey!” Emmy was indignant and she turned around to glare at me.“I was just checking…” I put my hands up.Emmy pouted. “I’m not a baby.” she said.“Good job staying dry,” I said, stuffing down an urge to list all the evidence to the contrary. Then the oven timer beeped. I shooed Emmy toward the bathroom. “Go on, then. Off with you.”Emmy harrumph-ed, but she got up and headed for the bathroom.I switched the TV to the news for the few minutes she was gone, so I could keep up with current events.Emmy looked a little put-out when she got back, but she plopped down next to me on the sofa anyway.“Did you make it?” I asked.“Yes.” Emmy replied testily, folding her arms.“Let me see,” I said.“How come you have to check? Don’t you believe me?”“No.” I told her honestly. “You lied to me about being wet yesterday, so I want to see for myself. I want to be able to trust you, but that’s something you have to earn.”Emmy glared at me and refused to move.I picked her up and laid her over my knees. I’d had permission from her parents to spank her since I’d first babysat her years ago, and I knew that Emmy was aware of that. I didn’t intend on doing it then, but I was starting to get tired of her bratty attitude. Maybe being in this position would help remind her who was in charge.I pulled her pants down and patted her butt firmly. She was definitely dry, since all the designs were still there, and I was glad for that at least.Emmy gasped.“All dry. Good job.” I said, pulling her pants back up before sitting her on my lap facing me. “Told you,” Emmy muttered.“Emory Rose,” I used her middle name so she knew I meant business. “That’s enough of your lip. I know you don’t like me checking on you all the time, and when you’ve earned my trust, I’ll back off. Until then, little girl, you’re just going to have to live with it.”Emmy continued to glare at me, balling her little hands into fists.“For someone who tells me she’s not a baby, you’re not acting very much like a big girl.”“Because you’re treating me like a baby!” Emmy shouted. She tried to clock me with her fist, but I was ready for it.“Emory Rose McKale, you stop that this instant!” I took a breath to calm myself. “It’s okay to be angry, but it is absolutely not okay to hit. I didn’t think I needed to tell you that at this age.” I put her down, glad that she was small enough for my arms’ length to put her out of hitting/kicking range.“Go stand in the corner until I come back. I need to go and pack some spare diapers for you before we go.”Emmy stomped over to the corner.I sighed and went upstairs to get Emmy’s supplies. I was only gone for five minutes or so, but Emmy was a mess when I came back.She’d obviously been crying.“Okay, little one. Timeout is over.” Emmy turned around, eyes red and puffy, tears streaming down her face.My heart nearly cracked in two.“You understand why I had to put you in timeout, right?”“Yeth.” Emmy lisped. “‘Cause I throwed a fit and I hitted you. I’m sorry.“Right.” I said. “But we’re not gonna do that anymore, right?”Emmy shook her head. “Huh-uh.”“Good,” I said. I knelt down and opened my arms to her.Emmy bolted from the corner and into my arms, squeezing me with an impressive amount of strength for someone her size. She pressed her face into my shoulder.“I’m sorry!” Emmy gasped. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry! Please don’t be mad.”I patted her back. “It’s okay. It’s all over now, okay? Fresh start from here on out. I forgive you.”Emmy shuddered and hiccuped. “I think…” she hiccuped again. “I think I wet my pants…”I scooped her up. “That’s okay. Thank you for telling me, Emmy. I know it wasn’t easy to tell me.”Emmy just rested her head on my shoulder. I was pretty sure she was getting snot all over my shirt, but I didn’t have it in me to be bothered by that at the moment. I patted Emmy’s bottom, and realized that she’d either lied to me about going to the bathroom earlier, or she’d been a lot more worked up than I’d realized, because she was leaking.“Uh-oh. I think we’ve sprung a leak.” I bounced Emmy a little, hoping for a giggle, but she was quiet.I sat her down on her bed while I got the changing supplies ready.“Maybe I was wrong. Maybe I am a baby…” Emmy said quietly.“Come on now,” I said. “That’s not true.”“But it is. I just threw a fit and got so worked up that I peed my pants. That doesn’t sound like something a big girl would do…”“Don’t get yourself down.” I said. “Accidents happen.”“To babies.” Emmy added forlornly. “Maybe I should just wear a diaper instead.” I frowned. I couldn’t tell if she was hinting at something she wanted, or if she was still beating herself up about earlier. Either way, putting her back in diapers would only make things worse. She wouldn’t even try to make it to the bathroom then, I’d have wagered. Not to mention, her self-esteem would end up taking a huge hit.“I don’t think so.” I said. “You’ve been dry up until now. Don’t give up, sweetheart. I know you can stay dry. We’re even going to get you some big-girl panties at the store, remember?”I winced internally. That sounded a lot more demoralizing when I replayed it in my head.“And, maybe we can go to Chuck E. Cheese after all the errands are done. Does that sound like fun?”Emmy cracked a little smile. “I guess…”“You guess?” I tickled her until she squirmed, hoping to lift her spirits a little. Emmy laughed and tried to roll away from me, flailing and wriggling away from my fingers, until she finally froze. “Oops.” she said.I realized she must’ve wet again, and I wondered how such a tiny person could hold so much liquid. “That was my fault.” I said. “Sorry, babe.”I did my best to make quick work out of changing Emmy into a dry pull-up and clean pants, only to realize that I should probably have packed a change of clothes for her too. I threw a new outfit into the Dora the Explorer backpack I was using as Emmy’s diaper bag, double-checking to make sure I’d put the rash cream in there too.“Alright kiddo, let’s hit the road.” I said, holding out my hand for her to take.Emmy made grabby hands at me instead.“You’re lucky you’re cute, you lazy butt. You’re totally capable of walking. I feel so used.”Emmy grinned. “I love you!” she pressed a sticky kiss to my cheek.“I love you too, munchkin.”
#####(3.)“I think that’s everything,” I said, giving our shopping cart a once-over. “Emmy, did we miss anything?”Emmy just stared into space, as she sat in the cart, her eyes slowly glazing over.I snapped my fingers in front of her face and she flinched spectacularly. I narrowly avoided being kicked as she flailed around.“Are you okay?” I wondered, though from the look on her face, I had a pretty good idea of what she’d been up to.Emmy nodded. “Yep.” she paused to look at the grocery list. “We still need oatmeal and cereal and…” she frowned. “What’s Desitin?”“Diaper rash cream.” I explained. I turned into the next aisle, which just so happened to contain all the baby supplies. “You’re running low.” I reached out and lifted her out of the seat. “Speaking of which, I think it’s time for a potty break once we’re done here.”“Umm…” Emmy began sheepishly. “I kinda already went.”I forced myself to take a breath and count to ten. “Why didn’t you say anything earlier? The bathrooms are right there.” I could literally see them from where we were standing.“I didn’t need to go then.” Emmy replied, as if that explained everything. “Are you mad?”“Of course I’m mad!” I snapped, a little more harshly than I meant to. “You’re ten years old, I shouldn’t have to constantly remind you to go to the bathroom. This is your third accident today and it’s not even lunchtime yet.”Emory’s bottom lip trembled as she stared at me. “I’m trying.” she replied.“I don’t think you’re trying as hard as you could be. Even if you don’t feel like you need to go, you should try as often as you can if you really want to stay dry.”“You don’t understand,” Emmy spat, and turned away from me. Her dark brown hair fell between us like a curtain.“You’re right,” I continued more calmly, after I’d mentally counted to ten again. “I don’t. What’s wrong, Emmy? Why are you doing this?”“I…” Emmy sniffled. “I can’t.”“You can’t what, sweetheart?” I knelt down to brush some hair out of her face. “I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what’s wrong.”Emmy didn’t say anything, she just cried. They weren’t crocodile tears either, these were deep, gut-wrenching sobs. I was worried she’d make herself sick, and I didn’t want to make things worse by bombarding her with questions.I was totally out of my depth…“It’s alright, little one.” I said softly, scooping her up. “I’ve got you.”Emmy squeezed me hard enough to make it difficult to breathe, her small body shaking with the force of her sobs.I tried rocking her a little as I wheeled the cart over to the restrooms and took her diaper bag out of it.The family restroom wasn’t occupied thankfully, and I took her in there, hoping that the privacy would help calm her down. Her cries echoed off the wall, loud and oppressive in the small spaceI sat down on the toilet seat and reached under her shirt to rub her back. It was a trick I’d learned while babysitting kids much younger than Emmy, it helped to calm them down. I hoped my hands weren’t too cold…“It’s okay,” I said again. “You’re safe. I’ve got you.”“Potty,” Emmy said quietly.I tried putting her down, but she just whimpered and held on tighter.“Do you need to go now? Or are you telling me that that’s what you were upset about?” I knew she was more than old enough to be ‘taking care of business’ so to speak, without needing any help from me--in theory at least--but I still felt proud that she’d taken the initiative to tell me before she had an accident. I was proud of her for that, now if we could just work on actually going in the toilet, maybe we could make some real progress.Emmy nodded.It wasn’t exactly a helpful answer, but it was better than nothing.“Okay...I need you to use your words, sweetheart. Think you can be a big girl and tell me what’s bothering you?”Emmy sucked in a shaky breath and went to wipe her nose on her shirt sleeve.Yuck.I grabbed some toilet paper off the roll and held it up to her nose. “Blow.”Emmy did, and we both chuckled at the foghorn-like noise her nose made.I used some more tissue to mop her face up a little. “All better?”“All better.” Emmy sing-songed back to me, and nodded firmly. She blinked and wrung the hem of her shirt before saying anything else. “Promise you won’t laugh at me?” she almost whispered.“Pinky swear,” I said, extending my littlest finger to her.Emmy relaxed a little at that, but she didn’t let go of my hand. “You know how some people have a split personality?”I swallowed hard. Oh, god… “Yeah…”“Well, um...it’s sort of like that. But like, not. I don’t know.”Another non-answer. “Okay…” It was like pulling teeth, getting this kid to talk. I realized that she was probably just embarrassed, but I wished she would just spit it out before I had a stroke from high blood-pressure and anxiety.“I just. I don’t always feel like a big kid.” I blinked. “Huh?”“Nevermind, it’s stupid.”“No, no, no, it’s not.” I said quickly, hoping to stop her from clamming up again.Emmy blushed. “You know how in commercials for Pull-Ups, they always say ‘I’m a Big Kid Now’ at the end?” she stared at her lap.“Sure,” I was pretty sure it had been at least twelve or thirteen years since I’d have watched any TV channels where that would’ve been a frequently-aired ad.“It’s like that.” Emmy said. I didn’t think I’d ever seen her so red. She squrimed.“What do you mean?” I thought about it for a moment, trying to connect all the dots. The whole point of those commercials was to encourage kids to use the toilet and be a…Oh.Oh.“So you don’t feel like a ‘Big Kid’ huh?” Emmy shook her head and nibbled on her thumb. “Sometimes I wish I was younger.” Emmy confessed.I got the feeling that she meant for that to be some kind of big reveal, but I didn’t see what was so strange about it. I was no stranger to curling up with some ice-cream, or Oreos and milk, or some other nostalgia-inducing snack and watching cartoons on Netflix when I was feeling blue.I wished I was younger sometimes too. Holding down a job and paying bills wasn’t exactly my idea of a good time, even if it felt good to be independent.I was sure Emmy felt the same way about school. I’d been out of school for long enough that I felt old whenever someone asked me when I graduated, but I remembered enough of it to realize that for someone with less life experience, it could be pretty overwhelming sometimes.“Me too,” I said thoughtfully, and Emmy’s face lit up.“Really?”“Sure, I mean, who doesn’t wish they had less responsibility sometimes…”Emmy looked at me sideways. “I don’t think you’re getting it.” she said.“I’m trying,” I said. “Am I missing something?”“I mean, I want to be little.” she said, with the same tone that suggested I should be having a lightbulb moment. I could tell she was getting frustrated, but she’d been dodging the question this whole time, like she was ashamed of the answer, and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what she was trying to tell me.“You kind of are,” I said gently.Emmy palmed her forehead. “No! Not like short, little. I mean ‘Little’ little.” she made air-quotes around ‘little.’Someone’s been spending too much time on the internet… I thought. I could tell by her tone of voice that she thought what she was talking about was a thing, but I didn’t know what niche group she was trying to lead me to. “Little, like a kid.” I said.“Yes!”“Which you are.” I added.Emmy growled in frustration. She looked close to tears again. “No! I knew you wouldn’t understand!” She scrubbed at her eyes, and tears dripped into her lap.Crap.“Emmy, baby, I’m not trying to make fun of you, I promise. It’s just that you’re not giving me a whole lot to work with. I know that you know what you’re trying to say, but I’m having trouble getting to the same page.”Emmy didn’t answer. Not verbally, at least. She just sort of grunted and leaned against me. No way...I was about to ask her what was going on, more to see if she’d cop to it than anything, when I felt it. There was a sudden, mushy warmth against my leg along with a smell that I was intimately familiar with, though I’d never in a million years have expected Emmy to do such a thing.Judging by her relieved sigh, Emmy wasn’t bothered in the least by the mess in her pants. She wiggled on my lap and smiled at me.I on the other hand, just kind of sat there in shock. I’m sure I looked ridiculous, but my brain was having a serious ‘does-not-compute' crisis. At this point, I’d thought I’d lost my capacity to be surprised by Emmy’s accidents, but I’d never have expected this, especially not on purpose. I wanted to scold her--I was not looking forward to cleaning up a ten-year-old’s poopy diaper, one that was undoubtedly going to be a royal pain since pull-ups have never been designed to hold that kind of an accident.However, she’d finally calmed down, and discussing her potty habits had brought on her meltdown in the first place. That wasn’t an experience I was eager to repeat; I hated seeing her so upset…I wasn’t sure that there was anything to be gained by reminding her for the umpteenth time that she was supposed to go to the potty, it hadn’t worked so far, and I was getting tired of repeating myself.Even though I’d never expected to have to go through the process with a ten-year-old, I’d sat for plenty of kids who were ‘in-progress’ with their potty-training, and I knew that sometimes, it was better for all parties involved to take a step back and try again another day.In the grand scheme of things, I didn’t think one day would make all that much of a difference. It’s not really my problem anyway, I thought, and immediately felt guilty. I felt like I was giving up, and I’d never been a quitter. At least not before now.Win some, Lose some.I don’t know what possessed me to check her pants like I would for a toddler, especially since it was obvious what had happened, but I chalked it up to habit.“Well,” I said, finally finding my voice again. “Looks like someone really had to go potty.”Emmy looked entirely too pleased with herself for my liking, but I figured today’s potty-training plans were a lost cause at this point. Maybe we’d have better luck tomorrow.I rubbed a hand over my face, trying to cowboy-up for the task ahead. “This potty-training thing isn’t working out very well, is it?” I muttered.“I poo-poo.” Emmy said proudly.I tickled her under the arms. I knew I was babying her, but she didn’t seem to mind, and I was at my wit’s end. I just wanted to get through the day without any more massive crying fits, and if I had to change diapers to do that, then I would.“I know, you little stinker.” I said over Emmy’s riotous giggling. I set her down on the floor, and went to unfold the changing table from the wall. I’d have bet money that Emmy would fit up there, and even if she didn’t I’d make it work. “And now I have to change your stinky butt.”Emmy laughed grinned like the cat that ate the canary.There was no way I was going to lay her down on the floor of a nasty public restroom.I reached into the diaper bag and took out all the stuff I would need. I’d stashed one of her diapers in there along with the change of clothes. I’d meant for it to be a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ kind of thing, but considering that Emmy had just soiled herself on my lap of all places, and that she didn’t seem all that upset about it, I knew I’d just be kidding myself if I put her in another pull-up.Not to mention, I’d be making a lot more work for myself if she had another “accident” (If you could call them that). I didn’t want to go down that road, but I had to consider all the possibilities.Emmy toddled over to me, and I found myself wishing desperately for some air freshener, or some matches at the very least.“Alright you.” I said. “Hold still, and let’s get this over with.”The smell was bad enough that I fought back a gag once I’d gotten to work, and I was glad that I packed a change of clothes for Emmy, because her pants were beyond saving. Into the garbage they went, along with the pull-up and wipes. Once all the dirty work was done, I put her up on the changing table to finish putting on her diaper.Emmy sighed once I’d finished fastening it and she looked happier than I’d seen her in a long time. She was also sucking her thumb, a habit that I’d nearly gone nuts over trying to break her of it the first it time. But, I was slowly learning to pick and choose my battles with her.I finished putting on Emmy’s pants and lifted her down. “There we go. All fresh and clean. Do you feel better now?”Emmy nodded. “Uh-huh.” She rocked back on her heels before taking her thumb out of her mouth.“See?” she said, like she was explaining something to a particularly dense person. “Little.”I looked her up and down. She looked every bit the toddler now, mostly because I’d packed sweatpants which didn’t exactly hide the fact that she was diapered, something she’d advertise for sure if she bent over. I wasn’t worried about anyone saying anything since she was small enough already to pass for a lot younger than she actually was…And that’s when the lightbulb went on.Oh.My head spun. I had a million questions, and I was more than a little frustrated with Emmy for not saying that this was what she wanted in the first place; I could have done without the clean-up I’d just had.Even with all I wanted to say, as I stood there like an idiot, not speaking or doing anything, the only intelligible thing that came out of my mouth was:“Huh. Well, how about that.”Way to go, brain.
(4.)“Okay,” I said breathlessly, after having caught up with Emmy again. “Back into the cart you go.”I felt bad about leaving the poor store employee to clean up the warzone in the cereal aisle all by himself, especially since it was Emmy’s fault, but when she took off running, I knew I had to catch up to her before she made a mess of something else.Emmy was certainly committed to, well, whatever it was she was playing at. She’d been suffering from some strange compulsion to touch everything since we’d left the restroom. From the amount of discretionary funds her parents had left for us to use, I could gather that they were pretty well-off, but I didn’t think they’d appreciate an astronomically high grocery bill because I’d failed to keep Emmy in line.“But, I wanna walk!” Emmy whined, folding her arms and pouting. “We tried that, munchkin.” I said. “And, since you can’t seem to keep your hands to yourself, I think it’s best that you ride in the cart until we’re finished.”“I don’t want to ride in the cart!” Emmy very nearly shouted.I could feel the heat rising on my cheeks; every eye in a ten-yard radius had to be on us, I just knew it. “That’s enough.” I hissed. “I was going to buy you a candy bar if you behaved, but I think it might be closer to naptime than I thought, and I don’t want to try and put you down for a nap with a sugar buzz.”Emmy looked offended. “I don’t need to take a nap, I’m way too big.” Emmy protested, and she looked rather pleased with herself.It took all the self-control I had not to burst into laughter. “Well, I’m in charge, and I say you’re not. Besides, the poopy diaper I had to change a few minutes ago tells me you’re not nearly as big as you think you are. When you start using the potty, then we’ll discuss skipping naps.”Emmy huffed, but didn’t say anything else.We got into line at the registers, and she looked longingly over at the candy bars and then up at me.“No,” I said. “Please?” Emmy gave me the most ridiculously hopeful expression I’d ever seen.“No.” I said again. “I told you you could have one if you behaved. And you haven’t been doing very well.”“You’re mean.” Emmy decided, and glared at me.I almost laughed again. I realized that she was upset, but I don’t think she recognized how adorable her facial expressions were, even if she was angry.“I’m sorry you feel that way.” I said. Emmy reached into the cart and grabbed the package of bottles we’d picked up, before the Cap’n Crunch Debacle, and tossed them out onto the floor. She stuck her tongue out at me.I felt a burst of anger warm my chest. I loved Emmy to bits, but after having to chase her around the store like a madwoman, I was not in the mood to deal with another tantrum. I bent down to pick the bottles back up.“If you don’t want them, we can go and put them back, but you know better than to throw things.”Emmy put down the pacifiers, which had no doubt been about to go flying, and picked up the bag of frozen broccoli florets instead. She let fly the vegetables, but I was fast enough to catch them before they ended up on the floor too.“Emory Rose, do we need to go to the bathroom and have a little chat?”Emory froze and sucked in a breath, her hands moving to protect as much of her backside as she could manage while sitting. She shook her head.“I hope not,” I said. “No more throwing things, little one. I mean it.”“I be good.” Emmy replied. “Promise.”I frowned. “Why don’t I believe you?” Emmy responded with a positively angelic smile.I caved and kissed her forehead. “Be good.” I reminded her. We managed to get through the rest of the line without further incident, and I was grateful--I didn’t think my frazzled nerves could take much more, and the tension headache I’d been hoping to avoid was already beginning to pulse between my temples.Maybe Emmy wasn’t the only one who needed a nap…***I had just finished putting the groceries away when my phone chimed.Emory’s parents had texted me to let me know that they’d arrived safely and were checking in to their hotel.I responded with a smiley face and told them to have a good time, before I was interrupted by my stomach demanding food.I threw together some spaghetti, since I was too lazy to do any really involved cooking, and sat down to eat it in front of the TV.Despite her protests that she was ‘too big’ to need a nap, Emmy had gone down without too much trouble, so I had some time to myself.My phone rang, and I just barely managed to avoid upending my spaghetti onto the carpet.“Hello?” “Hello, Mallory, it’s Melanie. I was just calling to see how things have been going. Emmy hasn’t been giving you any trouble, has she?”“Nope, she’s been an angel.” I said. It wasn’t strictly true, but I’d dealt with worse. Besides, all things considered, Emmy was doing pretty well.Melanie lowered her voice. “How has she been doing with her accidents? Is she making it to the potty?”“She’s doing okay,” I said as noncommittally as I could.Melanie sighed. “I’ve had half a mind to take her to the doctor, and make sure it’s nothing serious.”It was my turn to sigh then. It didn’t seem fair to let Emmy’s parents worry themselves while they were on their second honeymoon…“I wouldn’t worry about that. I think she’s just going through a phase.” I said. I paused, trying to figure out the best way to put her parents concerns to rest without completely giving Emmy away. “Between you and me, I think she likes the attention that comes with having to wear...protection.”“I see. Well, just in case something comes up, there are some documents in the filing cabinet that authorize you to take Emmy to the doctor, or, god forbid, the hospital if she needs it.”“Good to know. Thank you.” I said.“Well, I’m glad to hear things are going well. I’ve got to run, William’s taking me out to dinner and a show tonight.”“Alright, have a nice time,” I replied and then she hung up. I set my phone aside and vegged out in front of the tube.I must’ve dozed off, because the next thing I knew, Emmy was lying on top of me, and it was rather difficult to breathe.“Well, hello there.” I said. “Did you have a nice nap?”Emmy nodded. “Uh-huh,” I could understand what she’d said, but her voice was distorted. It was only when she turned to face me that I realized she was sucking on one of her new pacifiers.It was cute sight to behold for sure, but I thought maybe I’d gone a little overboard in indulging her. Personally, I thought her behavior was strange, but harmless. However, I didn’t want her to develop a dependency on her pacifier, or her bottle, or her diapers, because she’d be in for a rude awakening when school started up again.Emmy wriggled closer to me and rested her head on my chest. I felt a little less like I was suffocating since she moved, but her obviously wet diaper was pressed against my thigh.Yuck.I waited a beat to see if she’d say anything about it, though I didn’t know why I was bothering at that point; she seemed perfectly content to sit in a wet diaper.I patted her butt. “You need a diaper change, kiddo.” I said.Emmy just hummed in response.I realized that she wasn’t going to get up on her own, so I sat up and shifted her onto my lap. “Do you still want to go to Chuck E. Cheese?” I asked.Anxiety curdled in my gut as soon as I’d finished asking my question. I wasn’t sure her behavior at the grocery store warranted a trip to Chuck E. Cheese, but I’d promised her we would go, and I didn’t want to let her down.It seemed obvious the more I thought about it, that we were going to need some boundaries or rules for when she was like this. If the grocery store was any indication, I would be in over my head faster than I could blink if I didn’t put my foot down.“Yeah!” Emmy perked up immediately.“Okay. We need to talk first though. I don’t mind you being…’little’ while we’re out, but I think it’s best if we set down some rules first. That way you don’t get into trouble later.”“Alright,” Emmy sounded like I’d just asked her to go spring clean her room.“First, I want you either stay where I can see you, or hold my hand while we’re out. I don’t want you wandering off and getting lost. Second, if you need to use the potty, or you need to get changed, I want you to come and get me before you go. That way, if you need help, I’ll be right there.”“I don’t like the potty. It’s scary.” Emmy said solemnly.I sighed. Emmy was entirely too comfortable in this mindset for my taste, but I knew there wasn’t a whole lot I could do about it at the moment. Maybe she just needed to get it out of her system and she’d be back to normal tomorrow.“Well, then you definitely need to come get me. If you’re too little to use the potty by yourself, then there’s no reason for you to be in the bathroom by yourself.” Emmy nodded. “Okay,”“And third, you need to listen to me.” I said, looking her in the eye. I’d perfected my babysitter stare over the years, and I knew Emmy wasn’t immune to it. “It’s my job to keep you safe, and take care of you while your parents are away. I want you to have fun, but when I say it’s time to go, I don’t want any arguments, understand?”Emmy nodded again, and then mumbled something I couldn’t understand.I reached out and gently took the pacifier out of her mouth. “Let’s try that again, cutie.”“What happens if I break a rule?” Emmy wondered.I got the feeling that she wanted to know so she could see what she could get away with, and I knew that tipping my hand would be disastrous.“Let’s hope we don’t have to find out.” I told her sternly. “I know you can be a good girl when you want to. I don’t want to have to send you to bed with a sore bottom tonight, but if you test me, I will. I understand that you might forget, and that’s okay, but I do expect you try your best to behave, alright?” Emmy nodded, and my lap warmed.“Did you just…”Emmy giggled.As far as I could tell, she hadn’t leaked, but I’d still have preferred that she hadn’t peed on me. I tickled her ribs. “Okay, little one, let’s go change your diaper, and then we’ll get ready to go, okay?” I carried her to her bedroom and got to work changing her. I was almost done when she spoke up again.“Can I wear a Pull-Up?” Emmy asked. “I don’t want anyone to see my diaper.”I didn’t see the difference between the two, honestly. “No.” I said. I felt bad about be so quick to shut her down, but I refused to put myself at her mercy by letting her flip-flop between ages because she was bored.“But,” Emmy began.I lifted her legs and slid the new diaper under her bottom. “I don’t want to hear it, Emmy. You haven’t even tried to make it to the toilet today, and you pooped your pants at the grocery store. Pull-ups aren’t made to handle messes, and I want you to be protected in case you have an accident, okay?” I hoped I could use this as a teachable moment, to show her that choices have consequences. Besides, the fact that she was willing to mess her pants at all told me I’d be a fool to trust her to come get me when she needed the toilet, especially if she was having fun.“I’m not gonna have that kind of accident.” Emmy sounded offended.It seemed like a tacit admission that her ‘accident’ at the grocery store was no accident at all, but I didn’t bother to call her on it.“I’m not doing this to be mean to you,” I explained. “I just want you to be able to have fun and not worry, okay. If you still want to try using the toilet tomorrow morning, we’ll try again, okay? But, going back and forth isn’t healthy, little one. I don’t mind if you have days where you need to be little, but you have to stick with your decision.”Emmy sighed, but didn’t argue further.I knew she wasn’t happy, but maybe this would motivate her to actually use the toilet. Emmy made no move to pick out her clothes once I’d finished, so I picked out some pink overalls for her to wear. They looked cute, and they’d keep her diaper from showing, so I thought they were a good pick.“Put these on, please.” I said, and turned to put a spare outfit in her diaper bag. Can’t be too careful.Emmy hadn’t bothered to dress herself, I discovered once I’d turned around, but it didn’t seem worth it to hassle her over such a small thing.“There,” I finished putting her hair into pigtails as the finishing touch. “Cute as a button. Are you ready to go?” Emmy lifted her arms in response. “Yep! Can we have a pepperoni pizza?”I smiled. “I think that can be arranged.”
(5.)I wouldn’t call it a pleasant surprise, because the place still smelled like an old gym sock, a block of three-day old mozzarella, and some cheap tomato sauce had an orgy, but Chuck E. Cheese wasn’t nearly as crowded as I imagined it would be.“Wow…” Emmy breathed, looking around in unabashed amazement.It occurred to me then that Emmy probably hadn’t been here very often, judging by her reaction.“Pretty cool, huh?” I said, gazing at the menu and token pricing options.Ouch.Even though Emmy’s parents had left us plenty of money to use for stuff like this, and one trip to Chuck E. Cheese would hardly put a dent in our finances Istill thought the prices were outrageous.Emmy’s eyes lit up as she saw the maze of play equipment, but I managed to snag her by the strap of her overalls before she bolted.“Stay here, please.” I said. “You can go play in a minute, but first we need to pay and get a table.”Emmy ignored me and continued to pull against me; I scooped her up before the rivet on her overalls gave way.I gave her a firm swat on the bottom. I knew it wouldn’t hurt because of her diaper, but I wanted her to know I wasn’t kidding around.“Or, maybe you can start off by sitting with me in timeout for five minutes until you can control yourself. Hmm?”Emmy pouted, but she stopped squirming for the most part.Once we’d gotten a table, I put Emmy down, but I didn’t let go of her hand.“Okay, little one.” I said. “Remember, you need to stay where I can see you.” I said. “If you want to go play the games on the other side, come and get me first,” I said.“I will.” Emmy replied seriously. “Can I go play in the tubes?”I nodded and set the timer on my watch for fifteen minutes. “That’s fine. When this beeps, I want you to come back to the table, okay? The pizza will be here soon.”I tried strapping the watch to Emmy’s wrist, but even as tight as it would go, a good jostling would knock it loose. One trip to the ball pit, and I’d never see it again. So, I strapped it to Emmy’s ankle instead.Emmy grinned. “Cool! I always wanted an anklet, but Mommy says I’m too young to worry about jewelry.” she chewed her lip uncertainly.I kissed her forehead. “This will be our little secret, okay? Do you think you can remember how to get back to the table or do you want to try a dry run with me first?”Emmy frowned and reached toward her diaper, but stopped short when she realized what she’d been about to do. Her cheeks colored.I chuckled. “Do you need a change before you go to play, kiddo?”Emmy shook her head. “I’m good.” she told me.I wasn’t convinced. “I think we’d better check to make sure, babe. We don’t want any leaks.”Emmy was cooperative, holding still long enough for me to check her.I couldn’t do much other than feel without undressing her, something I couldn’t do unless we were in the bathroom. I’d gotten pretty good telling by feel how wet a diaper was, and although she was a little wet, I knew she’d be okay until we ate.“Yep. You’ll be okay for a little while. Go on and play, munchkin. I’ll be right here if you need me.”Emmy gave me a quick, tight hug, and was off like a shot for the play equipment.I laughed and shook my head. That kid was something else…My phone buzzed.Mom: [ How are things going? Hope Emmy is behaving for you! <3]Me: [All good here! I’m so sorry for all the times you had to bring me to Chuck E. Cheese as a kid. ^_^;]Mom: [Aw, I bet Emmy’s having lots of fun! Anyway, wanted to check up on you and make sure you were okay. We’re just a phone call away in case there’s an emergency.]Me: [Thanks! Love you!]Mom: [Love you too!]I kept an eye on Emmy as best I could, which wasn’t all that difficult since the only time I couldn’t see her was when she crawled into the tubes to go down the slide.Emmy kept looking back to make sure I hadn’t moved.It was cute, and I couldn’t help smiling to myself. I waved, so she would know that I saw her, and she scampered off to play some more.Or, that is, she tried to.She froze, lifting her foot up to turn off the alarm, I guessed. Unfortunately, her balance wasn’t as good as she thought, and she wobbled for a moment before falling down hard on her butt.I could see Emmy’s bottom lip quivering, and even though I was certain that she was fine, I went over to check on her anyway.She was crying when I got to her, not full-on sobbing, but she was clearly upset. Probably just startled, I figured, there was no way she’d fallen hard enough to get hurt.“You’re okay,” I said, rubbing her back after I picked her up.“No, I’m not.” Emmy said through tears. “My butt is broked.” I chuckled. “I don’t think your butt’s broken,” I said. “It’s probably just bruised. We’ll check it out when we change your diaper after we eat.” I kissed her forehead and rubbed her bottom a little. I was happy to see that she didn’t wince, so it couldn’t be that painful. “Did you have fun?” Emmy nodded. “The slide is really fast! And they have a ball pit, and a little car that makes noise…”I smiled to myself as Emmy continued to ramble about all the things she’d seen in the play area. I wasn’t about to pretend that I understood why she was acting this way, but I had to admit that she was adorable.The pizza was on the table when we got back. I took a moment to cut a slice into bite-sized pieces for Emmy, but she didn’t seem interested in getting off of my lap.“Can you be a big girl and feed yourself? Or do you need help?”Emmy blushed and nibbled on her thumb, staring at her lap. “You,” she said quietly.I’d been expecting that, so I shifted her on my lap so I could see what I was doing. I made sure to blow on the pieces before feeding them to her, I’d have felt awful if she’d burned her tongue. I alternated between taking bites of my own pizza and feeding her; personally, I thought it tasted like cardboard, but Emmy didn’t seem to mind.“I’m full,” Emmy said, turning away from her next bite.“Three more bites, little one.” I said. “You won’t have any energy to play if you don’t eat,”Emmy pouted, but didn’t argue. She’d managed to smear the sauce all around her mouth, so I took a second to wipe her face with a baby wipe before heading to the bathroom to change her diaper.We headed over to the games after taking care of business in the restroom. I was sure that Emmy would do well at some of the simpler ones if she applied herself, but she stayed true to her younger mindset, and she seemed content to just be silly instead of trying to win prizes. We’d just finished our third game of Skee-Ball when a little boy ran past, and I wrinkled my nose at the odor in his wake. At least, I hoped it was him… I knelt down to whisper in Emmy’s ear. “Sweetheart, did you have an accident?”Emmy flushed. “No!” She rubbed her eyes and tried to hide a yawn from me.I checked my watch--it was already nine o’ clock, and I wanted her in bed by ten at the latest. Summer vacation or not, I knew it would be better for both of us if I could start establishing a consistent bedtime.“I think we should check,” I told her. “Just to be sure. You’ve been playing pretty hard, and you’re just little, so you might not know for sure.”Emmy looked like she wanted to protest, but she held her tongue, and even though she was giving me a spectacular pout, I was proud of her for trying to be respectful.I reached down to feel her diaper, and I was relieved to find that she was clean.“All clean,” I said. “Good job,”“I told you: it wasn’t me!” Emmy whined, and stomped her foot. Her voice was somewhere between embarrassed and angry, and while I hadn’t been trying to embarrass her, I couldn’t bring myself to feel all that bad about it.“Watch your tone, little one.” I said. “I heard what you said. You’ve told me a lot of things, and not all of them have been truthful. If you’re going to be little, then it’s my responsibility to make sure you have clean pants. I don’t want you to get a rash.”Emmy had tears rolling down her cheeks, and I realized then that the poor thing was probably exhausted. Little or not, I wasn’t holding out for her to actually speak up and tell me that she was tired.I scooped her up, patting her bottom gently, hoping to soothe her. “You are so sleepy, honey. I think it might be time to think about heading home.”“But, I’s havi’ fun…” Emmy protested, slurring her words a little as she she rested her head on my shoulder.“I know baby, but we can come back another time.” I rocked her a little as I walked back to the table to get our stuff. “Right now, it’s time to go home and go to bed, so you can have even more fun tomorrow. We can come back another day.” ?Emmy cried a little harder. “I don’t wanna go home,”“Shh,” I said, rubbing her back. “I know it’s lots of fun here, baby. But it’s dark outside now, and that means it’s time for a bath, and then bed. We’ll come back another time.”Emmy just pressed her face against my neck.It was a bit of a struggle to put everything back in the car while I was holding Emmy, but I managed. She was halfway to dreamland when I strapped her into her carseat. “Thanks for bringing me, Miss Ma’y. I had lots’a fun.”I kissed her temple. “You’re welcome, babe. Thank you for being so good tonight. I’m proud of you.”Emmy was out cold by the time I started the engine.
(6.)It was the sound of crying that woke me up, not the vigorous shaking that made my teeth click together.The pain of that was what brought me to full alertness, and dimly, I hoped I hadn’t chipped a tooth. I felt around for the switch to my bedside lamp.The room was awash in bright yellow light that made both of us wince; once my eyes adjusted, I could see the tears streaming down Emmy’s face.“Oh, sweetheart,” I said, and reached out to pull her onto the bed with me. She settled into my lap without any prompting, and she clung to me with a desperate kind of strength. “What happened?”I could feel that she was wet, but I’d expected that much, and I didn’t think that was what had her so upset.“I...I had a bad dream.” Emmy choked out, and buried her face in my chest, smearing snot and tears onto my shirt.I rubbed her back. “Do you want to talk about it?”“My parents...they died in a plane crash. What if...what if they don’t come home?” Emmy wondered, and then she started crying even harder.“It’s okay, little one,” I said. “They called before we left to go get dinner. They’re fine. They’re safe. It’s actually daytime where they are, so we can try to call them if you want.”Emmy sniffled. “Really?”I nodded. “Sure.” I handed her my phone after dialing the number they’d given me.Emmy held the phone up to her ear, trembling against me. “Mommy?” She said in a quiet, tremulous voice.I could hear Emmy’s mom responding to her, but the volume was too low for me to make out what they were saying. I settled for rocking Emmy a little and patting her bottom, hoping to soothe her.“Yeah...I’m okay. I miss you. I just had a bad dream and was worried.” Emmy said quietly. I reached over to pull her thumb away from her mouth. Emmy relaxed against me. “Good. I’m glad you’re having fun...I love you too. Goodnight.” Emmy handed me my phone.“Thanks.” she said.“No problem.” I kissed her forehead. “Let’s get you dry, and then we’ll try sleeping again.”Emmy’s little fist tightened in the fabric of my shirt. “I…” she took a breath and pressed her face into my chest. “I don’t want to be by myself.”“It’s alright,” I said, more by reflex than anything else. “You can stay here tonight. We just need to change your diaper first, okay?”Emmy just nodded.Poor kid… I knew that calling her mom must have helped at least a little; I could literally feel that she had relaxed some. But, I knew she was still anxious, and I didn’t blame her. Her parents had been on some weekend trips before, but this was the longest she’d been apart from them.Emmy missed her mom.It seemed like such a simple thing, but I knew, to her, it was different. She still needed someone to chase away the nightmares, to hug her when she was sad, and hold her when she was scared.I must’ve seemed like a poor substitute for the real thing in her parents’ absence, but I was going to do my best to make sure that she felt safe with me. I held her a little tighter and shifted her to my hip when I stood up.“Don’t worry little one, I’ve got you.”*.*.*.*.*The bed was empty when I woke up the next morning.I could hear Emmy puttering around in the kitchen downstairs, and I felt a little guilty that I hadn’t noticed her getting up. I forced myself out of my warm, comfortable bed, and headed toward the kitchen. If our trip to the grocery store had taught me anything, it was that there was no telling what kind of mischief Emmy would get up to if left unsupervised.I smelled smoke as I got closer and I started to panic, at least until I saw the black rectangles protruding from the toaster.Poor Wonderbread never had a chance.The next thing that caught my attention was Emmy attempting to operate the stove. The smell of gas hung faintly in the kitchen, but Emmy didn’t seem to understand the danger. My heart leapt into my throat.“Emmy, don’t!” I shouted, but she didn’t seem to hear me.She reached for knob to light it, and lunged for her, pulling her away from the stove as flames shot up from the hob.Emmy screamed and latched onto me.Nothing was on fire, and the stove was functioning normally, so that was a plus.I held Emmy at arm’s length, checking her over for injuries. She was crying, but I didn’t see any marks or blood, so I hoped that she was just scared and not hurt.“Are you okay?” I tried not to sound like I was panicking, but I couldn’t tell if it worked.Emmy nodded, sucking in a breath. “I think so.”“Are you sure?” I asked, trying to calm my own frantically racing heart.”“Uh-huh.”Heat blossomed in my chest. Now that I knew she wasn’t injured, I was furious. She was lucky I’d walked in when I did, otherwise we might be on our way to the hospital. I couldn’t believe her; I didn’t think her parents would’ve let her operate the stove without supervision, something that seemed even clearer given what had just happened…I took a breath and forced myself to chill for a mental ten-count.And then, I rounded on her.“What on Earth were you thinking?” I snapped, harsher than I meant to.Emmy flinched away from me, tears welling in her eyes again.I felt a pang of guilt that I’d scared her, but maybe that was a good thing. “I...I don’t know.”“Do your parents let you use the stove by yourself?” I demanded. I knew I needed to calm down, but I was seeing red, and my frustration with Emmy’s behavior had been steadily mounting since she’d arrived. As guilty as I felt about it, I couldn’t deny the truth: I needed an outlet.“Well, no, but-”“But nothing!” I interrupted. “If it’s against the rules when your mom and dad are home, why in the world would you think it’s okay when they’re not here?”Emmy reddened, her fists clenching by her sides. She took a step forward, her hands coming up like she wanted to shove me. “I was trying to be nice!” She yelled.I was a hairsbreadth away from taking her over my knee, but I knew that spanking her would be irresponsible while I was so upset. I ground my teeth. “Corner. Now.” I said evenly, though I was still seething.“So what? Now I’m getting punished for trying to do something nice?” Emmy stomped her foot. “You’re so unfair!”“I’m sorry you feel that way. Now, are you going to go to the corner by yourself, or do I need to take you?”Emmy folded her arms and stared me down.“Emory, last chance. You’re already getting five swats for using the stove, and if I have to take you, it’ll be with a sore bottom on top of those, I promise you that.”Emmy turned on her heel. “Butthead…” she muttered, and I gave her a hard swat on the backside.“Boy, somebody really wants a spanking.” I said. “I’ll be back in five minutes, and if you can explain yourself like a big girl, instead of calling me names, and throwing a fit, maybe I’ll reconsider your punishment.”Emmy ignored me, and I took the opportunity to go sit on the sofa and cool off.I took a couple deep breaths and rubbed my temples.She’s just a kid. I told myself. I had no clue what had gotten into Emmy lately, normally she was so well-behaved…I understood that she was anxious and stressed out because her parents were away, but that didn’t give her license to act out the way she had. I spent the next few minutes trying to massage away my headache, with no success, and then went to get Emmy from the corner.I could tell she’d been crying, but she looked more angry than remorseful. I put my hands on my hips.“What do you have to say for yourself?” I asked, as calmly as I could.Emmy took a breath. “I’m sorry. I was trying to make you breakfast. You’ve been so nice to me since I got here, I wanted to do something nice for you, too.” Well.I felt like a jerk...I blew out a long sigh, and knelt down. Emmy was more or less eye-level with me now. “Thank you, munchkin. That was very nice of you. I understand what you were trying to do, but it isn’t safe for you to use the stove by yourself yet. Today could have been much worse if I hadn’t walked in when I did.”“I know…” Emmy’s voice broke.“Hey,” I said, gripping her chin so she’d look at me. I felt bad about snapping at her, now that I knew what she’d been up to, but I didn’t necessarily regret doing it. “I shouldn’t have been so quick to yell at you, I was just scared that you’d get hurt. What do you say to making breakfast together this time? I’ll help you with the stove.”“I’m not in trouble?” Emmy wondered.I shook my head. “I think we can let you off with a warning this time. But, if you ever do anything like that again, your little butt is mine, got it?”Emmy nodded vigorously.“Good. Next time, you’re not sure about something, just ask, okay? I won’t bite, I promise.”Emmy threw her arms around my neck and squeezed. I hugged her back, and patted her bottom, realizing only then that she’d been in a wet diaper this whole time.“Okay cutie, let’s go change that diaper, and then we’ll have breakfast.”“But, I wanna help!” Emmy whined.“I know, and you can. It’ll be a lot more fun with dry pants, trust me. Besides, if you’re gonna be touching food and then eating it, you should be clean anyway.”“Alright,” I could tell Emmy wasn’t happy about it, but she didn’t argue any further. I scooped her up and headed up to her room.“So,” I began as I laid her down on the bed. “Is today going to be a Big day, or a Little day?”Emory chewed her bottom lip. “I...I don’t know.”“You don’t know?” I wondered. I reached for one of her pull-ups. “Do you think you can be big enough to manage the potty today?”Emmy just shrugged.I knew at that point that it was pretty much a lost cause, but I had to at least try. I didn’t want to make more work for myself by just allowing her not to bother with the toilet if I could help it.“I think you can do it.” I told her. “I’ll even remind you to go. Let’s see if we can make it through today without any accidents, okay?” Honestly, I didn’t think it was going to happen. But, I knew she wouldn’t even bother trying without some encouragement, and if by chance, she made it through the day dry, well, maybe there was hope for her potty training after all.“Okay,” Emmy replies, and smiled at me.“Good girl.” I slid the pull-up on for her and pulled her to a sitting position. “What do you want to wear today?”“This is fine.” Emmy said. She was just in her pajama top and pull-up, but I didn’t have any plans to go out today, so I wasn’t going to make a big deal of it. Besides, it’d be easier to see if--when-- she had an accident this way.“Alright,” I clapped my hands and tried my best to sound enthusiastic. “I don’t know about you, but I’m starving. Let’s go get started on breakfast.”
(7.)“Okay, babe. Potty break.” I reached over to lift Emmy off the stool where she was mixing the pancake batter.Her pull-up squished under my hand.I sighed. “Did you…” I didn’t bother to finish. “Nevermind. Go sit on the potty while I finish up here.”“But, I don’t needa go...oh.” Emmy blushed.“Yeah. Go and make sure you’re empty, and then bring me a clean pull-up and wipes from your room, okay? We’ve got to be quick so we don’t burn the pancakes.”“Okay!” Emmy flashed me a grin and flounced away; whatever momentary shame she’d felt at realizing that she was wet didn’t seem to be sticking. I sighed. We were barely twenty minutes into the day, and there’d already been an accident.I moved my expectations down a couple notches and went to get some paper from the desk in the study room--the pancakes would be okay for a minute or two. I labeled the paper ‘Emmy’s Potty Chart’ and put it up on the fridge.Maybe if she could see her progress (or lack thereof) Emmy would get motivated.I allowed myself a sardonic chuckle at the thought. Sure, and then pigs will fly…I felt a little bad; really, I should have put more faith in her, but my expectations had been pretty much stomped on at every turn, so I wasn’t going to hold my breath. Part of me thought it would be easier to put her in diapers and pull the plug on this whole potty-training business…At the same time, I was also fairly certain that that was exactly what she was after, and I didn’t want her to think that manipulating people to get her way was okay.“I got it!” Emmy said, startling me out of my thoughts. She dropped the new pull-up and wipes on the floor just outside of the kitchen.“That was quick,” I said, checking on the pancakes to make sure they didn’t need flipped. “Did you wash your hands?”“Uh…”“Go wash your hands.” I turned around, and realized, as I stared after her, that Emmy was naked from the waist down. I hoped she didn’t make a mess on the floor; I was really not in the mood to clean the carpets.Emmy came back, hands still wet, and grinned at me. “All done.” I cleaned her up a little with the wipes, taking note of the redness on her bottom and around her diaper area. “Emmy,” I said, as gently as I could. “I know it’s embarrassing to come get me if you have an accident, but I really need you to do it, okay? You’re starting to get a rash from being wet for such a long time between changes, and it’s not going to be fun for either of us if it gets worse.”Emmy nodded. “Okay.”“I mean it, Emmy. Otherwise, I’m going to have to start checking for myself, alright?”“I understand. I’ll tell you if I’m wet, don’t worry.”I was already worried, but I didn’t have the heart to shoot her down right off the bat. I held out the new pull-up for her to step into.“There, all dry again. Let’s try to keep it that way, okay squirt?”Emmy gave me an entirely unconvincing thumbs-up. Her stomach grumbled loudly at that moment. “Alright, Time to eat, munchkin.”“Yay!”Once I’d plated the pancakes, Emmy wasted no time in drowning hers in syrup and tucking into them with gusto.I didn’t bother trying to get her to eat like a normal person, since I knew she was going to get messy either way.By some miracle I managed to finish first, and I was thus able to grab her before she could run off and get her sticky, syrup-covered mitts all over everything. I wet a cloth at the sink and set to cleaning her face and hands with it.“Mallory, do you really have to--bleh,” Emmy paused when she got a mouthful of cloth. She pulled a face, shook her head, and then continued. “I can do this myself.”“I know you can.” I said. “But if you planned on doing it yourself, I wouldn’t be doing it for you, now would I?” Emmy just pouted in response.I kissed her forehead. “There. You’re all done. That wasn’t so bad, was it?”“I guess not…”“Go potty one more time, and then you can go play.”“But, I just went.” Emmy complained.“Try anyway. Even if you don’t feel like you need to go.”Emmy sighed. “Fine,”I gave her a swat on the butt as she stomped past me. “And watch your attitude, missy. Keep that up and you’ll be in timeout.”Emmy didn’t respond, but she did stop stomping around, so I counted that as a small victory.With Emmy out of my hair for the moment, I set about cleaning up the kitchen. While I appreciated Emmy’s enthusiasm, her ‘helping’ hadn’t done much other than make a mess. I’d just finished scouring the countertops so they were free of the drying, sticky pancake batter, when I heard Emmy start her videogames in the background.Her little trip to the bathroom couldn’t have been for more than two minutes maximum, so I questioned whether or not she’d actually gone…Against my better judgment, I decided to let her be. It was only so I could finish cleaning; or at least, that’s what I told myself. But, in all honesty, I was exhausted, and I really just needed a break. It took me about fifteen minutes to finish up, and that was exactly fifteen minutes too late.Emmy slammed into me just as I peeked into the living room to check on her.I was fine, but Emmy went sprawling to the floor and burst into tears.I didn’t see any blood, and I hadn’t heard any strange noises, but Emmy’d smacked into me pretty hard, so I knew she must be sore at the very least. I scooped her up off the floor and patted her bottom. She was wet, and so was the carpet, since she’d leaked, but that wasn’t really a surprise, since I assumed that’s why she’d been running in the first place.“Shh.” I said gently. “You’re okay,”“Ow,” Emmy whimpered pathetically. “I’m sorry. I tried…”“I know you did, sweetheart. I’m sorry, I didn’t see you coming, or I would have moved.” I knew that if she hadn’t waited until the last possible second to get up to go to the bathroom, this whole incident probably could have been avoided. However, I also knew that to mention it now would just make the whole situation worse.I sighed. Two accidents in less than forty-five minutes…Maybe it’s time to go see the doctor. I shifted Emmy onto my hip and headed toward the stairs. I knew I was being a huge quitter, but I was at my wit’s end. If Emmy couldn’t even make it an hour without peeing herself, then there was really no point in her wearing pull-ups. The whole point of them was so that the child go to the toilet without needing help to undress. So far, that had only happened maybe three times since I’d been here.“Emmy...I think it might be time to think about going to the doctor.”Emmy stiffened. “What? Why? Do I need to get shots?” she bit her lip.“No, nothing like that. It’s just that, well, you’ve been having a lot of accidents lately, and I think it might be a good idea to get you checked out and make sure you’re not sick.”“I don’t feel sick…” Emmy replied.“That’s good. But, I don’t mean like the flu, or having a cold. Unless you’re telling me you’ve just been too lazy to go potty this whole time, we should go and make sure your bladder is healthy.”Emmy reddened, but didn’t say anything for a bit. “Okay…”I laid her down on the bed and took out a diaper instead of a pull-up.“I thought you said I was supposed to be big today…” Emmy sounded confused.“I know that’s what we talked about this morning, but…” I paused, trying to think of a way to explain the situation to her without hurting her feelings.Because I’m exhausted...Because I’m pretty sure you are just being lazy...Because I don’t have time to constantly remind you to go to the bathroom and keep after all the housework, which technically you should be helping with…“ I think this is the best option for both of us right now.”“But, Mallory,” Emmy almost whispered. “I’m not a baby.”Could have fooled me.I bit my tongue. “I know, kiddo. It’s just until we get things figured out. I’ll try to see if there are any appointments this afternoon, or tomorrow. Until then, this is the way things are gonna go.” I said as I powdered her and fastened the diaper on snugly.“But, I don’t want to wear it.” Emmy said.“I’m sorry Emmy, but it’s not up for discussion. I gave you plenty of chances to show me that you could handle going to the potty on your own, and things didn’t go so well. So now, we’re going to do it my way.”Emmy folded her arms.“Unless there’s something you want to tell me?” I prompted, hoping for a confession.Emmy shook her head. “Okay then. No taking it off, Emmy, I mean it. I think I’ve cleaned up enough messes today. I’ll be checking on you to see if you need a change, but if I’m not around, just come and get me.”“Okay…”“I’ll be taking your phone for the rest of today, and tomorrow. And no video games either. This isn’t a free pass to do whatever you please without having to get up to go potty.”“But, that’s not fair!” Emmy protested. “Well, I don’t think it’s fair that I have to clean up after you all day either. You’re telling me that you’re not sick, and you’re big enough to sit in front of the TV and play videogames for hours, but when it comes to getting to the potty on time, suddenly, that’s too hard? Something’s not adding up here, Emory, and until we get to the bottom of this, you’re just going to have to live with it.”“This is stupid.”“I think so, too. I don’t want to take privileges from you, Emory. I want to be able to have fun with you, but it’s my job to keep you safe and healthy until your parents come home. And, if that means I have to take away fun stuff to keep you that way, then I’m sorry, but that’s how it’s going to be. If you can show me that you can handle getting to the potty on time without me nagging you about it, you can earn your privileges back.”Emmy scowled at me. “How’m I s’posed to do that when I’m wearing a diaper?”“We’re not going to worry about that right now. Tomorrow is a new day, and we’ll start fresh from there, alright?”Emmy was crying. I knew she was upset, but I knew I had to put my foot down at some point, or I was going to go nuts. I couldn’t afford to back down now, even though it killed me to see her so upset.“I know you’re upset, babe, but I promise I’m not doing this to be mean to you. I wouldn’t do that. Tell you what: why don’t we go and sit together on the couch for a bit and watch some TV, hmm?” I sat down next to her, and pulled her into my lap.“I don’t want to watch TV.” Emmy replied stonily.“Okay. Why don’t you lay back down for a little? I’m going to tidy up a little, and try to make you a doctor’s appointment for this afternoon. Maybe we can go to the park afterwards, how about that?”“Okay.” Emmy said and crawled under the covers.It was barely past ten in the morning, but I didn’t feel bad about putting her down for a nap. Maybe that would help her attitude…“I’ll be right downstairs if you need me.” I said.Emmy just rolled over and ignored me.