Monday, 26 October 2009

separation anxiety

This week marked another landmark.

We left Snookie with a babysitter.

Nothing happened - well nothing much bar my running out into the Chelsea night to shout breathlessly down the phone to the babysitter:

“What’s happened? Is everything all right? You called me twice and I missed the calls. I was talking to someone and it was really loud in there and I just happened to look at my phone – he asked to see a photo of Snookie so I looked at my phone but it had not occurred to me until then to look so I did not know you had phoned – is everything all right? What’s up?”

“Nothing. He is asleep. Why are you calling?”

I like her, the babysitter. She is Portuguese. She is a friend – actually the nanny of one of Snooks little friends. (Why are so many of the people I like not English?) Anyway, she tells it how it is.

“I didn’t call you. Go back inside and enjoy yourself.”

In fact what I had glimpsed in the fleeting two seconds that I looked at the phone was the missed call from hours earlier when she was outside the house and had the good sense to ring my mobile once to let me know that she was there rather than ring the doorbell, anticipating correctly that I had put Snooks to bed early and would lose the plot if he was woken just as we were about to leave. She’s good.
The other missed call was actually an earlier one from the Engineer on his way home from work, which I had missed in the midst of my pandering to Snooks’ demands for Chocolate Buttons and repeat episodes of Postman Pat – demands I was meeting unerringly in a bid to win his love should he ever, ever find out that I left the house without him one night.

Yes, 19 months. It has taken 19 months for The Engineer and I to get out of the house together, childless, and for me to feel confident enough in someone that they would take proper care of him and not leave him to cry while they smoked joints and fooled around on the settee with their boyfriend.

(Look I never did that when I was a babysitter, let’s just get that straight. However I did lose my one babysitting gig when my hilarious friends decided to play a Hallowe’en joke on me – in honour of the film of that name, you know, the one with the babysitter and the psychopath inside the house – by tapping on the windows and other such spooky activity that I rang my mum and asked her to come and sit with me. By the time the parents returned to their quiet, immaculate, middle class semi, myself, my mum and my two renegade friends were all sitting playing cards with the babysittees who had woken, terrified by all the commotion.)

All my Portuguese friend did was iron the shirts. Snooks slept the whole night through and didn’t even know we had gone.

The next day, I happened to get talking to a mumfriend who is due to have her second any day and is trying to install her first for a couple of mornings at nursery so that she will have one-to-one time with number two, when it turns up.

She thoughtfully decided to try it now, before number two arrives so that number one does not associate the two events – new sibling arrives, I get packed off somewhere else.

However it had not gone well. The first morning, her little boy, who is technically exactly the same age as Snooks, though he arrived two weeks early, had bought it though was a bit out of sorts when she came to collect him. By the second day he was distraught, and had been crying all morning. He has since refused to let go of her hand, day or night.

My friend looked exhausted. She had thought that her happy, confident, secure little boy – very like our Snooks in fact - would glide easily into someone else’s care, loving the chance to play with other children, as people are so often telling me is the main wish of a child that age.

In fact, in my view, his worst nightmare had come true. His mum had left him and he did not know if she was ever coming back.

I feel for my friend, I do. She had wanted to do the right thing for both of her children. Perhaps number two will just have to muddle along with getting a bit less of mum and a lot of older sibling instead.

As number four of four, I can say, it definitely has its pros as well as its cons.

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