It’s really quite something to reflect on just how much energy and concentration one tiny little boy can demand. As a general rule me and children get on like the proverbial house on fire- I’m always that lunatic pulling faces at babies on the bus, or having a chat with toddlers in queues. HOWEVER, hanging out with a child who is not related to you and who you don’t have any affective ties to can sometimes be e x h a u s t i n g. So very exhausting. He goes through phases. Some days he’s so excited to see me that he can barely contain himself, running across his bedroom, shouting ‘VIOLA!’ (his other nanny’s name... he’s struggling with mine. I’ll take whatever I can get), to greet me with a big cuddle. And other days... you can tell he wants nothing more than for me to stop being all up in his shit. And can you blame him? He didn’t ask for a live-in playmate nearly 4 times his age, cramping his style every day of his busy baby life. One day at the park I saw him point me out to one of his little pals and say, ‘that’s my friend. She’s really funny, you know.’ CUTE. But I could be Lena Dunham (shit example, I’m pretty sure 6 year olds wouldn’t find her self deprecating humour funny... Sorry about that!), and it still wouldn’t mean that E.V.P. would want me around all the live long day. Poor mite.
Now, we have had some fun days, but we’ve also had a couple of full blown cauchemars (nightmares). One particular example springs to my still mentally-scarred mind... Let me set the scene for you:
I arrive at the house to find E.V.P. looking angelic (and sleepy, thank god) in his tiny striped pyjamas (so French), smiling sweetly at me. His mother is looking equally angelic, all clad in Acne shirt and Isabel Marant flared trousers (I’m so jelly of her whole wardrobe), also smiling sweetly at me, and about to run out the door.
‘Au revoir maman!’ E.V.P shouts.
‘Au revoir mon amour, je t’aime!’ A.V. coos back.
N’aw. What a picture of complete domestic bliss I hear you thinking. Aw yeah, blissful. Adorable. Picture perfect. Just absolutely lovely...
The door slams shut as A.V. leaves the house.
E.V.P. emits the loudest squeal I’ve ever heard. And then... all. hell. breaks. loose. Not like a normal, healthy hell breaking loose scenario, but like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.
Faster than I can control him, the baby starts running around the house, scampering up and down the stairs, throwing his full (admittedly light) weight against both doors, jumping on the sofa, flinging himself on the floor, beating his tiny fists against the kitchen table, grabbing his felt tips and scrawling on the walls, throwing his teddy bears into the air, all the while howling with all the angst of a heartbroken teenage girl.
And there’s no stopping him.
I try shouting, I try threats, I try consoling him, I use my disappointed voice, I use my angry voice, I use my peacemaker voice, I get down to his level, I stand above him, I look over my shoulder at him, I imitate him, I ignore him, I mock him, I try to tell him I understand, I try to tell him I don’t understand, I pick him up, I put him down, I leave the room, I offer milk, I offer a shoulder to cry on, I offer him his abandoned teddies, I say ‘bed’, I say ‘teeth’, I say ‘come on now...’ And then I say, ‘what would mummy think if she saw you making such a scene?’ As soon as he hears the trigger word, ‘mummy’, his sobs catch in his throat and he starts to look hopeful.
‘Call her! I want to tell her to come home!’
Oh no. As soon as I start my excuse, ‘We can’t...’ the howling recommences. Give. Me. Strength.
He gets himself into such a pitiful state that he gets to that crucial point where he has no energy left to cry, and as soon as I hear a break in his tears, I jump right on in.
He nods, despite himself. I give him a cuddle as I’m warming his lait up in the microwave and he seems to calm down somewhat. He asks for honey in between sniffles, even managing a half-hearted ‘please’ in English, and insists on putting it in the cup himself. Of course the lid falls off and sticky honey explodes all over the worktop. FUCKIN’ELL.
I suck it up though (my frustration, not the honey), and laugh through gritted teeth, ‘Ha ha ha, you silly little monkey. What’re you like, ey?’
I watch in disbelief as his little eyes start to look heavy. Could we have a sleeping six year old soon? Could we really? Is this real?
No it’s not.
He downs his milk and slams the empty cup on the table, then declares defiantly, ‘I’m waiting up ‘til mummy gets home.’
Oh. Right. You are, are you?
Cue Negotiations Round II.
A gruelling 30 minutes later and I’ve managed to persuade him to go to his bed (well, his mum’s bed.)
An even more gruelling two hours later he’s persuaded me to watch two DVDs and read him two stories (French ones. ‘Why would I want English ones? I DON’T UNDERSTAND THEM!’)
Just when I think I’m going to fall asleep, he starts to settle down.
I breathe a sigh of relief and tiptoe out the room.
Even as I’m creeping up the stairs like a thief in the night, dreaming of a cup of tea and a Skype with my boyfriend, I hear, ‘Silviaaaaaa?!’ (Sometimes, when it suits him, he knows who I am.)
I turn around and then proceed to turn him around too and frogmarch him back into his room, chanting, ‘bed, bed, bed, bed,’ with every step we take.
‘Will you stay with me?’ he asks.
Through my dizzying veil of fatigue I remember old episodes of ‘Supernanny’ (back when it was lovely Jo Frost and not that new, mad one who gets children to chop up vegetables with sharp knives to teach them some kind of backwards, fucked up lesson), where she says that you need to be cruel to be kind and leave children on their own in their bedrooms to cry it out.
But I look at his little face and I can’t.
So I stay with him.
He peers over his duvet at least every 5 seconds to check if I’m still there. I am.
The longest 20 minutes of my life later and he’s (probably, maybe, please-let-him-be) asleep.
I drag myself back upstairs and collapse onto the sofa, where I sit very, very, very, very still for the rest of the night.
When A.V. breezes in later on, she asks me, ‘so how was he?’
‘He was an angel.’