BackPacking Granny babysits (big time)

May 21, 2014

This article was written for Annabel & Grace, which is now part of Rest Less.

When  my eldest son asked me to babysit his three children while he and his wife went out to dinner with a crowd of their university mates, of course I agreed. A week later I was told by my son that his best friend from school and his wife would be staying… and could I please look after their three boys as well? Since the friend in question had spent much of his pubescent childhood under my roof in Spain (I was such a Bohemian mother) I really felt as if their children were somehow related to me. So, again, I said yes. So then there were six! Then blow me, on the day of the babysitting, another two were added. These were the children of a young man I had known since he was nineteen, a rugby playing friend of my sons and now in his early forties, has sadly just gone through a divorce.

Could I manage asked my son, knowing full well I would never turn a challenge down. I don’t know if any of you have ever babysat eight children, but I can tell you it isn’t easy!

My grandchildren are a doddle. They know how far they can push, wheedle and cajole me. The three naughty testosterone filled boys from the parents that I knew as teenagers, presented no problems as they had already been indoctrinated by my grandchildren as to what I was like. “She tells great stories” said my granddaughter proudly. (Wow, I didn’t know my story telling was even on the radar). “But she is quite strict.”

It was the two delicate little boys who had been added on at the last minute who worried me. Classic scenario. Recently divorced parents. The boys weren’t used to staying away from home and they didn’t know me from Adam! Mmmmmmmm could be dodgy. Even worse, the Recently Divorced Father (RDF) of the delicate little boys was guilt ridden at leaving them while he went out to dinner but desperately wanted to see all his old uni friends. I encouraged him to go and promised I would ring him if ANYTHING went wrong. Talk about needy… the father insisted on giving me long lists of his children’s needs. Methinks mostly fuelled by fear of what the children would say to his ex wife on their return.

“Daddy left us with a strange lady who told us she would turn into Nanny McPhee at midnight.”

“She kept drinking glasses of wine.”

“And told the most amazing stories about pirates and MONSTERS.”

“And I didn’t get to sleep until eleven o’clock.”

Had I got a phone? asks recently RDF. Yes of course. Could he test my number? Yes of course. Did I know that the oldest and extremely sensitive child needed to go to sleep holding my hand?  Well I hadn’t bargained for that. What was I going to do about the other seven whilst I was holding this child’s hand? Supposing he didn’t go to sleep for hours? Now it was my turn to be needy. “Once he’s asleep, he’s asleep” added RDF  “and he never takes more than twenty minutes to actually go off.” FAMOUS LAST WORDS! “Off you go” I said. I promise I will stay with your little fella and will text you when he is asleep.

My oldest son fed all the kids spag bol before leaving… perfect protein and carbs just what you need for growing kids. “Doughnuts?”said  the mother I had known  since she was a teenager. I could have rung her pretty little neck! Surely she should know better than feed the kids pure sugar just before they go to bed!  An evil thought crept into my mind. Had my eldest son (who has a warped sense of humour) got some sort of joke or bet going to see how I would cope?  I looked around for a hidden camera!

The parents left – a little too quickly I thought. Eager not to waste good drinking time safe in the knowledge that BPG was in charge of their little darlings. I poured my first glass of wine and sat the children down for my pep talk.

“First of all kids I want to explain that BPG does not have rules or bedtimes. Their faces lit up. “It’s all about trust and being grown up” I continued. “You see you are all going to a very special sports camp tomorrow and you are going to need every ounce of strength and energy for all the activities you are going to do.”

“Do you know why you have to sleep? I asked them. “So you don’t get sick” came the answer from the delicate one. “Well that’s partly right” I said “but actually you need to sleep so you can grow, and be strong – and eventually become bionic!” That seemed to hit home. “Your dads and mums have told me what time you ought to go to bed. But I want you to go to bed when you feel it would be sensible for you. Remembering what’s in store tomorrow.” (I have always found this works really well…. it stops all arguments.)  “If you want to chat, go to bed now so you have lots of time.” Nobody opted for that .

What you have to remember is I will be waking you at 7am tomorrow morning. If you are not out of bed I will first  Hoover round your bed and I then will Hoover YOU! The children looked aghast and then giggled. This method works really well. The younger  kids usually go off to bed like little angels … They don’t talk for hours and they are heaven to get up in the morning…. That is all except the child who needed to hold my hand…

I took the two children owned by RDF up to where they were sleeping. They did their teeth and settled down for a story and soon the youngest was asleep. But my goodness, anxiety child was not a happy bunny. I  thoroughly overacted my stories. Doing all the voices and describing everything with great gusto then, realising that I was over stimulating  them I changed tack. The father had said you need a boring story to finish with …..I was boring beyond belief.   Even that didn’t work. So I decided we would imagine we were lying on deck of  a beautiful sailing ship looking up at the stars with the gentle swish of the water lapping against the bows…. that’ll do it if i keep going long enough.surely he will be lulled to sleep      Not a bit of it we could have sailed half way round the world! And he would still be awake . The poor little boy was just not tired….“Would you like to go down stairs and be with the big boys ” I asked ? “Oh yes”  he said . so despite dads  instructions we tiptoed out of the room leaving his brother asleep .

Downstairs the others had decided they were hungry again. So I went off to make bagels and peanut butter for them all – after all no child can go to bed hungry. I could hear the ten o’clock news chiming and most of my charges were still up! I reminded the older kids of our agreement and unbelievably they trotted off to bed!  That left me with anxiety child who had by this time managed to fall over, hitting his head and stuffing his nose up some ornamental branches in a vase, one of which went right up his nostril.  His nose started to bleed, so I  reached for another glass of wine whilst grabbing the kitchen roll. It’s not my lucky night. Just as I was dabbing this alarmed child’s nose my phone started throbbing in my pocket. It was the father texting  to see if everything was alright. I lied. I sent a text back saying all was well.

With nosebleed over, anxiety child and I went upstairs again. I made him a promise that I would stay with him till he fell asleep and I was not going to break it. This time I asked him to think of something really lovely and see it in his mind and then he would dream of it.” Like mummy and daddy together?” he said. He pierced my heart…poor little chap.

I sat  down on the floor with my head close to his. He could hear me breathing and I him. I had planned my exit… the bedroom was right at the top of the house and it had a long creaky staircase, fourteen steps to be exact.  I waited until the breathing seemed deeper. The blooming phone started thudding again and woke the little chap up!

“Is that Daddy?”

“Yes” I groaned.

“What does he want?”

“He wants to know you are asleep and now he’s woken you up!”

I texted anxious father ….STOP TEXTING! Everything’s fine.

We settle down again. The breathing gets deeper and I start edging my way down the stairs… I get to stair four….

“Are you still there?”

“Yes” I reply.

“I can’t see you”

I climb up the stairs again. Back to stair one…..  and we start all over again. This happens four times. Much as I love children, I am really in need of a glass of vino. I’ve missed every telly programme I wanted to see and I still haven’t got this child settled. Finally  the breathing changes. He is asleep. I creep down the stairs. It’s eleven thirty. The parents will be home soon. I look at the bottle of wine. It’s half empty or full whichever way you look at it…. I don’t like to drink any more as it won’t look good. I decide to have a bath and go to bed myself. Just as I’m about to slip into the land of nod I hear inebriated parents hammering on the door.

“Shush. You’ll wake the kids”

“We’re they good?”  they chorus

“Little angels” 

“Oh well done mum ” says my son… “do you want a drink?”  (I’m sitting at the kitchen bench by this time in a not very glam nightie)

“Oh yes please”

With that he pours me the rest of the bottle into a large glass…… he knows his mother.

Get the latest ideas, advice and inspiration

No spam. Just useful and interesting stuff, straight to your inbox. Covering jobs, finance, learning, volunteering, lifestyle and more.

By providing us your email address you agree to receive emails and communications from us and acknowledge that your personal data will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions. You can unsubscribe at any time by following the link in our emails.

Enjoying Rest Less? Help us reach more people like you

Leave us a rating Want to tell us something?