Into the second week of a fortnight of Nanny Duty while my son and his partner enjoy a break, I’m feeling my way through the labyrinth of someonelse’s schedules, routines and rules. It’s as if someone has turned out all the lights and hidden the candles and matches.
Having been a sole parent for more than two decades, and previously a stepmother to two young boys pre divorce, I figured I would cope reasonably well with supervising and caring for one teenager and two youngsters. How wrong I was.
No, it hasn’t all been bad, but it has certainly proven exhausting and stressful. Far more so than I could ever have imagined. Good manners are noticable by their absence. Nearly every request, however gently issued by me, or any other adult, is met with rude defiance and immediate conflict or, at the very least, heavy resistance and backchat. The eight-year-old out does the hormone ravaged teenager, in both defiance and persistance, which I find deeply unsettling.
With a two-hour drive between home and here, and limited opportunities to enjoy each other’s company, I was looking forward to spending some quality time with these kids. Instead, most of our time together is consumed by mental and verbal ping-pong, the ‘ball’ continually being slammed out of bounds, the referee constantly challenged.
I had also anticipated doing some artwork during the quiet hours when the kids are at school. I have done none. The Muse has fled. Perhaps she cowers with the fluff-bunnies under the over-worked washing machine, fingers in ears in an attempt to hear her own thoughts. She surely has no hope of gaining my attention amid the chaos of my mind. Two weeks out of my life was a big ask during the lead-up to my open studio and other projects in various stages of unfinished-ness. It was a sacrifice I willingly agreed to for what I considered the best of reasons. Now, I wonder.
So many things we could have been enjoying, together. Seeds remain in packets, awaiting time and enthusiasm for planting – a proposed project to encourage a reverence for nature, and life, that seems an alien concept to these young minds. Board games go untouched in favour of inspiring some measure of enthusiasm for school projects with looming deadlines.
There are so few smiles. Children’s laughter (one of the best sounds in the world) when it comes, if at all, has a manic edge that slices through nerves rather than fostering companionable enjoyment. My own laughter is too often beaten into oblivion by the meanness of children.
Four sleeps until I return to my own life, my own much simpler but hectic routine. Four sleeps until I can go in search of my Muse, who I hope will find her way home. Four and a half days in which to bring about a miracle – respect for others and respect for individual selves. I’m glad I’m not a gambler…