The other day I was asked to ‘help out’ with Abby for an hour and a half while her parents Annie and Danny kept an appointment.

“Sure,” I said.

“After all, how bad could an hour and a half with a two-year old be,” I foolishly thought to myself.

Then I remembered that I had never taken care of her all by myself away from the ‘safety’ of her own house. Still, she can now say my name and doesn’t immediately hide or run away any more when I come into the room.

Diapers are no longer an issue as she had recently been ‘mostly’ toilet trained. Plus, I thought that if her mother would see her to the bathroom just before she herself escaped out the door, Abby and I could make it through an hour and a half.

Still, I had an uneasy night prior to the morning drop off, in part because a text from Abby’s mother (aka my daughter, the elder one), said drop off would be ‘a bit’ earlier, at 9:15, and Abby would be with me ‘at least’ two to three hours. Was this a ‘bait and switch’ or something?

Anyway, the next morning arrived, the doorbell rang, and there was a smiling young Abby who announced she had to go to the bathroom (those were not her exact words) and wanted “Grand Pa” to take her (she is still working on my full name, “Grand Papa”).

Her mother exited quickly, casually mentioning she had forgotten to bring Abby’s “lovey,” the most important single thing in the child’s life after her parents and her brother, especially when she’s upset. Before I could react (i.e., give her back), the door closed, and Abby and I were alone.

Abby ‘told’ me she want “pivacy” in the bathroom, which I was delighted to grant.

Next up was puzzles, tho I never quite understood why she had to take off her shoes and socks to do the puzzles. (The shoes light up when she jumps up and down – wonder how much those cost?). But then it has been a few years (28) since I’ve had a two-year old girl under my watch. Maybe she’s on to something, as she did the puzzles much more quickly than when she was here with her shoes and socks on a few days ago (along with her parents, my wife, and her brother).

Uh oh. Another text from Annie. Because of a ‘mix-up,’ there was going to be a delay, and was it OK if they left Abby with me a ‘little longer’?

“Sure,” I texted back. What else could I say, becoming even more concerned (panicked might be a more accurate description of my state) that “lovey” was not with us?

But then Abby told me she wanted to go to Nonna’s office. (My wife refuses to be called anything that can be mistaken for Nana, grandmother, etc., tho I don’t see the distinction between Nana and Nonna, and somehow it doesn’t seem to bother her that Nonna is the Italian word for grandmother).

I thought a trip to Ellen’s office was a terrific idea (it would eat up at least 45 minutes — driving there, finding a parking place, hanging out as long as possible, and then getting home). Plus, Nonna could be on the next bathroom detail.

We tried to sneak into Ellen’s office, since facing new people is not what anyone would identify as one of Abby’s greatest strengths. Unfortunately, walking into Sunlight’s front office with a child on my shoulders and carrying a ton of ‘equipment’ made it difficult not to be observed.

But everyone seemed to understand quickly enough when I indicated that it takes ‘her’ a while to get use to new people, and the meeters and greeters parted so we could get to Nonna’s office before the melt down.

There followed a good 45 minutes of playtime between the Cofounder/Director of The Sunlight Foundation and the new “intern.”

Grand Papa was no longer necessary for this part.

On to the “liberry” where we had to pat, hug, and sit on the Panda statue before we entered (as well as when we left).  Once inside, I was instructed to lie on the red mat while Abby went to find the reading material. Why do libraries cram the kids’ books tightly into the lower shelves where it’s impossible to pull out just one at a time? Also, how come they also always put the picture books facing out so high up that even the adults have trouble reaching them?

Still, we managed to take up another 45 minutes (at least half of which seemed consumed by my getting up and down from the floor to help with the book selection).

Next it was frozen yogurt with sprinkles. (We skipped lunch altogether).

It only took about seven minutes for the sugar to hit. Then it was 30 minutes of running around the yogurt shop, the sidewalk outside, and up and down the street. Already tired from the library, I could barely keep up with her and wondered who would take care of her when the medics came to take me to the hospital.

With my best ‘persuasive tactics’ — and a bit of strong-arming — I got Red Chief back into the car, whereupon she announced she wanted to go back to my house.  It took another 10 minutes to ‘convince’ her it’d be better to go to her house because her “lovey” was there, waiting for her, and her parents would be home soon (I prayed — and I’m not a ‘praying’ person).

While I was putting gas into the car, the back door opened. How did the kid do that? Her brother, twice her age, had never once opened the car door, and he’s been with me in the car at least once a week for much of the last three years (Note to self: remember to check to see if there are safety locks on the back doors).

We were (I mistakenly thought) enjoying Red Grammar’s CD Teaching Peace, especially the songs “I Think You’re Wonderful” and the one about using your words, when she ‘fell apart.’  I kept turning up the sound, hoping that the drivers in the adjoining cars would not hear her screams nor would they call the authorities about a possible child abductor.

Then, thanks to Mr. Grammar’s song, I came up with the brilliant idea of asking Abby to use her words and tell me what was wrong.

Between sobs, she said her stomach hurt. (Sure, no lunch and all that sugar, followed by all that running around. What had I been thinking?)

Relying on my 40 years of psychological training and experience, I stumbled on to the right question: “What would help, Abby, a band aid or your ‘lovey’?”

“Banaide,” she said immediately.

“But I don’t know where they are,” I said, trying to further distract her from whatever had caused the melt down.

“I do,” she said, calmly and sweetly, as if the last 15 minutes had never occurred.

We made it home, she found the “banaide” (lime green), and put it on her tummy.

She said she felt much better.

From there on it was a piece of cake.

Actually, it was a piece of cookie. Abby ‘baked’ me a “banella’ cookie in her play oven.

When her parents eventually arrived, I wondered why an hour and a half seemed like four hours.

Wait…It was four hours.