Today I lost my iPhone.
Today I also babysat not only Sara and Sergio, but also Javier’s parents, geriatrics who have both kind hearts and good intentions, yet require just as much attention as the children.
Javier’s father is filled with as much curiosity as Sergio, which is beautiful to see, but another thing to factor in when leaving the house.
He has also reached an age where clarity is no longer his friend. No matter how many times each and every person tells him I can’t speak Spanish, he nods but then reels into a monologue directed at me.
I do my best to understand, laugh politely where I think I should and sometimes just because he is so alive with whatever story he is telling. But, it does become stressful as an extra voice when there are three different voices and conversations happening at once and I’m trying to keep the troops on mission.
Javier’s mother is a sweet baker, but hasn’t really relaxed into her role as an abuela, instead parenting her grandkids more strictly than their actual parents.
It creates an interesting dynamic, as all families do.
A dynamic that Marisa and Javier clearly didn’t want to leave unwatched.
I had met Javier’s parents once before but didn’t really know why I had to watch over them watching their grandkids. Until.
Until after today’s siesta when I was in the kitchen washing up and heard a ruckus in the salon – the lounge room – and found Sergio sitting up on the window ledge with no screens to protect him.
Javier’s father was mindlessly sitting at the table eating an apple while his mother tried to get Sergio down with a Spanish tirade.
I have had to become known as Au Pair The Enforcer in my time here, a new role I don’t particularly relish, as it’s not fun or funny.
With the swish of my enforcing cap I had Sergio down from the window and doing his homework in five minutes flat.
That may seem fast but trust me time slows when you are trying to tell a child to do something they don’t want to.
I turned to what I know – Kath & Kim – and asked Sergio to “look at moi, look at moi” because just asking was not working. I needed to look this little beast (as all children are apt to transform into) in the eye and talk directly to the good part of him, way down deep.
I let myself sit down with my iPhone and watch Sergio complete his homework.
Afterwards, it became apparent to me that a trip to the library had been planned. I had seen Marisa give her library card to Sara that morning, but no more had been said and I figured it might have been a grandmother-granddaughter kind of outing.
No, everyone had to come because I had to watch everyone.
My expectations of the trip were completely mislaid.
I knew the trip would be slower, but I didn’t account for Sergio and Sara devising a sneak attack to divide and conquer once we got to the library.
Sergio asked his grandfather to take him to the newsagency to get stickers.
“Javier’s parents are like kids themselves.”
Marisa’s voice floated into my mind.
“No!” I said. We have to go together.
Javier’s mother and father then had words. I imagined the back and forth was something like “I can do it” and “No you can’t” and I felt overwhelmed. It was not a situation I wanted to be in.
Javier’s father left to have a coffee.
Once we were finished at the library, we made our way downstairs and to the exit.
Sergio was near a vending machine, which I quickly moved him on from reminding him of his grandmother’s cake we were going to have at home. It was also 7.30pm.
But, Sara then approached the vending machine and Javier’s mother caved. After all, it was water that she was after. The vending machine was of course then broken and another 10 minutes passed as that situation was sorted out.
I agreed that we could now all go and get stickers together, but had to be quick because that cake (and Marisa and Javier would be home wondering where we were, and it was getting dark, and I was over this excursion).
At this stage, I was carrying my wallet, iPhone, the three books and two DVDs Sara and Sergio had borrowed from the library, and a jacket for each of them (because Javier’s mother was super concerned about the cold – another reason I’m not ready for kids, I didn’t even think about that).
I was also Au Pair the Pack Horse.
Sticker buying went very well, but we left and I realised that Javier’s mother had gone AWOL.
I had seen her talking to a woman on the street when we entered and pointing at a shop so we went there and sure enough there she was buying thread.
The kids and Javier’s father joined her while I told Sara I would be at the supermarket next door.
I was going to buy myself a donut that I could eat in bed later once this evening ended.
While I’m at the checkout, I see my four little cherubs are waiting patiently for me outside and I start to think “I wish this woman in front of me would hurry up” and a host of other unhelpful thoughts like “I need a donut”.
(And by donut, I mean donuts, plural, if that has not yet been clear. One would be a waste of my time).
After the supermarket, the kids must approach me for their jackets but I don’t even register that I’ve handed them their jackets because I realise I’m missing something.
I tell Sergio to keep walking slowly and I will catch them up – completely surrendering my au pair duties – to run back to the supermarket to see if they have my phone. No.
The next destination is the library, which is also on the way home. No luck.
I then catch up to my quartet, who has made it about 500m in the five minutes I have been gone.
Once they are caught up with my disappearance, I start to wonder if I just left my phone at home. I have a pretty good memory of holding it, but I have also been known to freak out that something’s missing when it’s actually been on me the whole time.
Unfortunately, this was not one of those times.
I want to cry. With relief that I no longer am responsible for the safety of four human beings and with anger for my less-than-helpful thinking that has made me lose my phone. I also want to cry because I’m going to have to eat that donut even later now.
Donuts carefully stashed away and a sweep of the house complete, I head back into town. The phone must be at the newsagency. It’s the only place I didn’t check.
I get there and am given the same answer I’ve heard twice already and said myself to the quartet many times, No.
Unconvinced and determined to find my phone, I look at the magazines like they are going to point me in the right direction.
Another woman enters the shop and says something to the man. He points to me.
I think I’m speaking to the manager because she asks me what I want. I tell her. She says she lost her phone as well.
Ha! It wasn’t my less than optimistic thoughts and me.
It was a gang of children that stole my phone.
That somehow makes me feel better. But that’s short-lived as I realise if that’s the case my phone’s probably already been cleared to use for the cartel.
The man at the newsagency has less of an imagination and asks me for my number so he can call my phone. He does. It’s at the supermarket.
I sprint the 100m between the newsagency and supermarket and feel like Cathy Freeman when I see my beautiful iPhone with its cracked screen and battery issues.
And that’s when I know for certain that I’m not ready to be a parent.
Which is ironic because my younger sister had asked me if being an au pair made me want to have kids more or less.
My mother also asked me about my levels of cluck earlier this year as I cradled my niece.
It’s an interesting question to be asked when you’re single. I wonder if the answer was yes, would my primal instincts and natural selection kick in and I send out sweet pheromones that would draw in a lover quick enough to get up the duff and settle my cluck?
Well, we need not wonder.
Let me put it on the record, when it comes to having kids…
My cluck is low. I’m more excited about interviewing potential sperm donors (my romantic way of saying partner/husband/hubby/life person/this one) and cross-examining their skills in each of the important areas of a relationship e.g. When I say I want a donut, how many do you buy? One, he says. And you’re outta here!
I guess the headline of this post has been misleading. I haven’t really spoken about the qualities I want to enshrine when the day comes and I say, “I’ve bought the bum bag for all my stuff; I am now ready to worry about other people and other people’s stuff and not lose my own in the process”.
And, I built up the suspense about my iPhone way too much.
So, in closing, let me leave you with a few dot points about the kind of parent I want to be.
I want to be the kind of parent who:
- Owns funky bum bags that end up in Vogue the following season and people say, “Wow, X’s mum started that trend”.
- Has a great sperm donor that takes the little beasts when he knows I just need a vino and a donut (and knows I mean donuts).
- Is able to master and balance being an enforcer with being and having fun.
- Doesn’t make her children jump through hoops and tests them, but also doesn’t give them everything they want.
- Teaches her children not to interject when other people are talking, unless it’s super important like, “Mum, I brought you a donut.”
- Gets to see her children grow old and have kids of their own.
- Isn’t afraid to admit she doesn’t have it all worked out and is still learning.
- Leads by example.
Final Note: I feel like I’ve misrepresented my love for donuts in this article. It was just a craving today. Please know that cookies and cream gelato is my consistent friend.