November 25, 2013 by talkaboutyork
Once upon a time, a long time ago, going away for a short holiday meant requesting time off work, packing a bag, pulling the door shut behind you and setting off into the sunset.
Now it’s not like that. At. All.
My husband and I are going on a Bridget Jones-eque weekend mini break, without the kids. Only it’s more like a week-long mini break. We have some supremely lovely friends who have agreed to take over being us while we are away. I hope that they continue to want to be our friends once the week is up.
Because how do you translate what happens in a week at home to someone else? I have done this once before. Only on that occasion, I was setting sail across an ocean for six weeks and I was paying someone vast sums of money to become a surrogate mother to my children. And they were younger then. Less lippy. Fewer clubs and activities.
I have written The List Of All Things. This is three pages long and mostly relates to what each child needs to take to school on a given day and what time they need to be picked up. There are days for example, when both children need full, but different, sports kits, plus swim kits, plus guitars, which then need to brought home and washed (not the guitars obviously) and returned again ready for use the next day. This is hard enough to remember when you are their mother and do it daily. What about when you are just stepping in and have no idea what the uniform is or that the sports kit needs white socks and that on one day rugby boots are needed while the next it must be football boots or trainers, and that the older child won’t wear a coat or jumper and the younger one is likely to go without wearing underpants all week??
And then there’s food. We have a simple rule in our house: eat what you’re given or starve. Except I sort of know what they like to eat and tend to make that. Although what they like today may not necessarily be on their like list tomorrow. But if they’re not your children this is an impossible task. I will just stock the fridge with ready meals and hope for the best.
And bathing. My children are boys. That means they don’t use soap. Or if they do, they use all of it. And they will stay in the shower for well over half an hour each if I don’t march in and turf them out. But my friends can’t march in on them as the kids have reached the stage where they don’t want people looking at them naked. Perhaps that is the threat that should be used to get them out of the shower – get out or I come in!
And then there’s crime and punishment. My children save their very worst behaviour for me. It’s as though I have been awarded this special trophy just because I was foolish enough to give birth to them. Mostly with other people, they are reasonable. But they’ll be entering a strange middle ground here. They’ll be with someone other than their mum so need to be good, but are on their home turf doing the stuff they normally bicker about daily. I don’t mind screaming like a banshee at my children. In fact I’ve had quite a lot of practice doing it. But this is harder for friends who may not feel like they can yell at them. I hereby give you permission to shout, threaten, ban anything, and lock them in a cupboard under the stairs (kidding, we don’t have one – but use your imagination) if they don’t listen.
In fact, I am going to suggest to my friends that for the sake of everyone’s sanity, Bare Basics Parenting should be employed i.e. feed them instant meals, let them play on screens, ignore any homework or reading, forego bath time unless actually dripping in mud or very smelly, and get them to school regardless of whether they have the right kit. Apologies to the teachers now. This is a short-lived phase.
But sometimes parents have to escape so that we don’t end up rocking in in a corner clutching a five litre bottle of wine. To our friends taking over from us, there’s plenty of wine in the house. Help yourself. You’ll need it.
Thank you. And good luck!