The first thing I did was drop the toddler on the floor. In my defense, it was early days and I didn’t know then that she still needed to learn how to bend in the middle. With her legs stuck out like an Olympic skier she went downhill at a hundred miles an hour, fell backwards and landed on her head. With a really loud thud. And cried. So you could say I wasn’t off to the best of starts but thankfully Chiara’s one of those kids who doesn’t bear a grudge and soon had us all enthralled with what we presume, is our last baby. We jockeyed for position with our extended arms like the open mouths of baby birds. If she hadn’t have been such a determined child she could’ve spent the entire 2 weeks being carried but the lure of little bits of fluff, dirty sticks and unpredictable surfaces drew her ever downward and turned grown adults into attack hounds. “Ahh, don’t eat that!” we’d say snatching a dirty golf ball out of her hand. “Or that!” when she picked up an abandoned pair of scissors instead. It should’ve made for a cleaner house but the stress was such that I have to say after 36 hours I contemplated leaving her to it and taking to my bed.
4 year old Chloe meanwhile, was learning the not so subtle art of bossing her older cousins around. “I want to play,” became a euphanism for anything she could get away with – the most inspiring being instructing her cousins to become a galloping horse to carry her up the steps from the river, through the house and back down again, all at top speed and with lots of shreiks and laughs. They are a combined force you challenge at your peril. The days are never long enough but sometimes, just sometimes, you want to gag the lot of them and tie them with loose knots to a tree somewhere far, far away…
The sudden onslaught of quasi parenting is stunning in it’s total annihilation of your ability to think coherantly. (See above statement about tying kids to a tree). For the real parents it’s life as normal – or even a bit easier, but for us these past few weeks have been full of all the things we no longer do. Chasing kids who run faster than we do, pushing prams and rocking babies to sleep, trying to convince children pyjamas are just for the night and bribing them with trips to the park only to have to compromise, “Not the duck park Nanny, the one with the swings!” Oh yeah, that’d be the one that takes 20 min walking to reach. For my husband it was setting order aside to make a car out of an old cart, a bucket and a cardboard box – and me suggesting, quite reasonably I thought, that said cart could be driven down the steep slope by the steps and straight into the river. I could tell by the horrified looks all round that allowing my son (father of the driver of said cart) to race down the hills on his 3 wheeled bike at half the age of his daughter, was a negligent piece of parenting that had not paid off.
But we’re not incapable of change. I have remembered for 3 whole days now that the long suffering horse that hangs from the dying tree by the river, is now called Hoovey and, “She’s a she Nanny, not a boy.” Even on the way to the airport at 3am I learned that when Austin’s in the pool and he wants to pee he does it in the bushes. It did not surprise me to hear that the cousins silently sniffed all the way back to their other grandparent’s house when they finally said good bye. I was a little leaky myself. But I’ve since cleaned up the house, washed all the sheets and restocked the cupboards. Not doing anything about the green glitter on the heater or the hole in the wall but the wooden mouse that holds the door open has had his ear glued back on. The big girls are headed our way and all I can say about that is – training complete. BRING IT ON!