“What are you doing here?”
“We miss you.”
“Sorry, but you can’t come in,” I said.
“No. Parents aren't allowed,” said Jen.
“But it sounds like you’re having more fun out here,” they pleaded.
“That's because we are,” Nick confirmed.
Jen, Nick and I were camping out in my palatial six-person tent just after Christmas 2004.
We had relocated pillows, doonas and teddy bears for the night and had settled into our ritual bedtime story when their mum and dad appeared at the tent door.
“No, you can’t stay,” I insisted. “We’ve given you the night off.”
They hesitated, unsure if that was a good thing or not.
“Now goodnight!” I shoved them away from the tent. “We’ll see you both in the morning.”
The kids and I had so much fun, we camped out in their backyard for two nights.
The Babysitter Chronicles – Part 2
I checked the clock: 8am.
Jen and Nick were dressed, their lunch boxes packed, they’d eaten breakfast and brushed their teeth.
“Okay, let’s go,” I said.
“We can’t go to school yet!” Jen protested. “It's too early and no one will be there.”
“Can’t I just leave you at the front gate?”
“No. You’ll get in trouble.”
“I’ll write a note for your teachers.”
“No,” they insisted.
“But I’ve got things to do.”
Why were a 10 and seven-year-old so unreasonable about being dropped off to school early?
It was the second of three days I was babysitting them, while the kids’ mum and dad celebrated their 10th wedding anniversary in Tasmania.
I had flown back from Greece on the Friday morning and enthusiastically took up babysitting duties on Sunday, as I hadn’t seen Jen and Nick for almost five months.
All three of us were surprised that we were ready for school ahead of time on the Monday morning.
Inexplicably, our preparations fell apart the next day as we rushed out the door, late for school. Perhaps it was the impending heat wave that day, one of the worst to hit Sydney for many years.
I greeted their grandparents and aunt who arrived for Nick’s school Christmas concert shortly afterwards. Due to the small size of the hall, the school had organized two concerts to accommodate all the parents. I was looking forward to spending the rest of the day at home with the air conditioner on; it was going to be a hot one.
“Can I come home with you?” Jen asked.
“No. I’ll pick you up this afternoon when Nick’s finished with the concert.”
“You’re so mean!” Jen accused me a few hours later. “You left me to suffer in the hot classroom.”
“And it was sooo nice having the air conditioner on at home while I had a nap in peace and queit,” I replied.
“That’s just not fair!” Jen had the whole Drama Queen thing down pat.
A big sloppy Hairy Coo kiss
The kids raced up the hallway when they heard the key turn in the front door, announcing mum and dad’s return from Tasmania.
“Och, aye, aaarrrrrrrrgh,” they shouted in a Scottish drawl. “I’m a Hairy Coo and I go moo.”
“Nick, that’s disgusting,” his mum said, wiping saliva off her face.
“It’s a big sloppy Hairy Coo kiss,” he explained.
“A Hairy Coo,” Jen explained. “It’s a Scottish cow with dreadlocks.”
Her mum shot an accusing look at me. “What have you been teaching them now?”
“It’s in our bedtime story,” Nick added. “And it’s so funny.”
She rolled her eyes. “I don’t want to know.”
Stop hyping them up!
We always got into trouble during our bedtime stories. Apparently, I was hyping the kids up before they went to sleep.
Our epic Goldilocks saga, which lasted about five years, was highly interactive. The kids contributed outrageous scenarios, which enhanced our imaginations and featured much vocal variety and body gestures. We were always laughing loudly, jumping on the bed and acting out the chapter scenes.
When mum and dad were out for the night, we occasionally ran screaming from one end of the house to the other. And back again. (It was part of the bedtime story script).
“We can be really loud,” the kids conspired after their folks had left the house, “Yeah, and we won’t get into trouble.”
Hyping them up? I don’t think so – they were just releasing excess energy.
Jen and Nick always went to sleep willingly and promptly as soon as our bedtime story finished; unlike their fidgeting and tardiness when their mum ordered us to stop laughing and get to bed – NOW!
But kids can be outright defiant, don’t you think?
I wonder where they get that from…
Now teenagers, Jen and Nick still recount our bedtime story antics by quoting the myriad characters who featured in our nightly rituals. And we still send each other big sloppy Hairy Coo kisses by text or Facebook chat.
Why is it that kids take ages to go to bed when their parents are around?
New Zealand 2008
New Zealand 2006
United Kingdom 2004
Athens Olympics 2004
Beijing to Athens 1994
I acknowledge the traditional Custodians of the land on which I work and live, the Gubbi Gubbi / Kabi Kabi and Joondoburri people, and recognise their continuing connection to land, the waters and sky. I pay my respect to them and their cultures; and to Elders past, present and emerging.
© 2023 HARI KOTROTSIOS