We had forgotten how frantic life was with young children — ours are now middle-aged and generally no longer demanding.
That was until a call from our eldest son, which shattered our ordered existence. “We have to go away on a business trip, could you housesit for a week?” he said. It sounded urgent and although it was framed as a request, a “yes” was clearly expected — and, without due thought on our part or an attempt to gather more information, a “yes” was given.
What he didn’t mention was that the house would come with two grandchildren (aged 10 and 12), one dog, and a Japanese student who required dinner every night — and, oh yes, we would have to do the usual school deliveries, pick-ups and after-school activities.
My daughter-in-law took me on a brief training course, which involved dropping the kids off on opposite sides of town — the schools have the same starting time, of course — and then returning home for a brief interlude to do essential shopping, laundry and home maintenance, and walking the dog.
Then it is time to pick up the kids from their respective schools — which end at the same time, of course, on opposite sides of town — and onwards to soccer training, swimming training, touch football or maths tutoring, depending on what day it is (an itemised daily itinerary is essential, particularly for those of us who are frequently unsure what day it actually is).
By the end of my familiarisation course I had worked out that our daughter-in-law spends 4½ hours on the road each day, a fact that had not gone unnoticed by the kids, who had recently told their dad: “Mum needs a faster car.” We found that we could just about manage with two cars and two drivers.
At the end of the high-speed driving for the day we finally got home to feed two growing grandchildren, one dog and university student who often home until 8pm.
Then came homework monitoring, checking tomorrow’s itinerary, preparing lunch and afternoon tea boxes, reminding the kids what they would need tomorrow, and finally to bed. (But we discovered there was little point in going to bed, because in almost no time you had to get up and do it all again.)
How on earth did our daughter-in-law manage all this and also run her business from home? The mind boggles. Perhaps, long ago, we were also capable of these superhuman feats.
All I can remember is forgetting to pick my sons up from various places on my way home, and my wife being confronted with my vacant expression in response to her question: “Where are the boys?” a ravenous didn’t return
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