Continued from last week’s post:
Chris and I don’t go out much, but when we do we USED TO ask my parents if they were potentially available to take care of Eva. My parents have for a long time had a busier social life than ours and so usually they are too busy, booked in advance.
Eva of course is my child, and my responsibility and I would never think to ask my parent’s to take care of her full time during the work day, although that is an arrangement that some grandchildren have with their grandparents, as good daycare is not only hard to find but expensive. But Chris, Eva and I are blessed to have Auntie Zoe in our lives making it only necessary to find a baby sitter when we have plans in the evening.
My parents did agree to take care of Eva for three whole days and nights while we were all on vacation in New Hampshire last year, and it was going to be Chris and I’s first chance since she was born to reconnect for a long weekend in New York for the occasion of a friend’s wedding. Two nights before we left Eva was struck with the stomach flu. You can see from this picture her “I am about to get the stomach flu” face. This was not the dreamed of scenario for the first time you leave your child and go on holiday but these things can only happen to a derelict mom.
Luckily it was a 24 hour bug and she had recovered before we left but she had given me a parting gift. We arrived in New York with high hopes, but on the morning of the wedding I woke up with Eva’s stomach flu and spent the next two days in bed missing the wedding and happy only that I could throw up in peace and did not have the audience and responsibility of a toddler. Throw up ruins everything.
A few months after this trip, we decided to ask my parents to babysit again, she was two and other than a few hours here, a few hours there, and those three days in New Hampshire they had never really looked after her. This had transpired for several reasons.
- She is their grandchild and not their child so they have no moral or ethical obligation to help out.
- They are kind of old.
- They have an active social life.
- They have two other grandchildren to take care of, quite frequently.
- Eva is “difficult.”
In January we decided to begin a date night once a month where Chris and I would go out to dinner and my parents would take care of Eva, all they would have to do is feed, bathe and put her to bed at their house. I went to my writing group at 6pm and Chris came straight from work to meet me for dinner at 8:30pm. We ordered a bottle of red wine, browsed the menu and ordered our meal in toddler free peace. At 9pm the phone rang.
“Hello, how is it going, why are you calling.”
“Not well, have you eaten yet?”
“We just ordered, Why?”
“Eva threw up everywhere and she won’t stop crying.”
“Why did she throw up?”
“Your father fed her three Peppa Pig yogurts.”
“She wouldn’t eat anything else, she wouldn’t eat the avocado, or sweet potato.”
“But did you try the beets, and carrots and sausages I brought over?”
“No, why didn’t she eat the avocado and the sweet potato, because Sadie always eats the avocado and sweet potato.”
“Because mom, Eva’s name is Eva not Sadie and she does not like avocado.”
“Why is she crying?”
“She wouldn’t go to sleep so we left her to cry.”
“Did you read her stories in the bedroom for ten minutes before you put her to bed like I suggested.”
“Well Sadie goes right to sleep and she doesn’t need any stories.”
“Eva is not Sadie.”
“When are you coming home?”
“As soon as possible:”
We ate the rest of the meal in complete silence and Eva was still awake when we came home. That was our last date night and the last time my parents attempted to babysit for Eva. Fast forward six months, it was June and I decided to ask them to make one more attempt at having a babysitting relationship with their granddaughter.
“Yes we can babysit, what are you doing?” my father said. He always says yes but my mother has the power of veto.
“We are going out to eat with our neighbors. At a restaurant in town so we were within sprinting distance should Eva throw up or refuse to eat avocado. “
Two days pass and my mother sends me an email from France.
“What time do you have to be at dinner on our babysitting night, you see we have accepted an invitation for a cocktail reception from 5-7pm at the U.S. Consulate and its very important that we attend as they have an important visiting American artist.”
“8pm, so you can still babysit.”
Another two days pass and I get another email from my mother from France,
“I am afraid we will now not be able to babysit at all because the Michael’s will be moving into our apartment that night for a few nights and we will need to cook them dinner, so we cannot have Eva.”
I did not reply as we got the message.
Another two days pass and I get another email from my mother, “We will pay for your babysitter the night you go out.”
I did not reply.
Another two days pass, and I get another message, “We have bought Eva some Peppa Pig books in London.”
When they got home from London, they gave her the books and the other spoils from their trip. It turns out my mother is much better at shopping than babysitting but sometimes these past times over lap. Because they don’t babysit they would have no idea that Eva’s favorite book is “Peppa meets the Queen” and so they bought her another copy, but on occasion you do need more than one of the same thing, kind of like grandparents. So when it came to Auntie Zoe’s summer holiday we called in reinforcements and Eva’s other grandparents agreed to take care of Eva all day for the seven days they were in Bermuda before our joint holiday in New Hampshire leaving me with only seven days to cover before they arrived.
Meanwhile my parents informed me that they were taking down Sadie’s crib in their spare room because she no longer needed a crib as she was sleeping in a big girl bed. It never occurred to them that Eva still sleeps in a crib and might in some alternative universe actually spend the night at their house before she was big enough for a king size bed with Egyptian cotton sheets and an ensuite bathroom.
The problem was not just that Eva was persona non grata at my parent’s house it was also that the grandparents were barely ever home. One such weekend a few weekends ago my husband Chris suggested to my dad that we take out the inflatable run around boat that he had said we could use to boat Eva around in the harbor.
Gigi and Hamma had plans for a friend’s birthday and said they would be back at some point in the afternoon so Chris dusted off the boat but thought twice before hauling it out of the shed for fear that they would not be home in the afternoon to give us a lesson in operation. Sure enough as we were feeding Eva her supper, my mother came staggering through our yard with friends.
“Do you think we could get that boat up and running now?” Chris asked.
“Why do you want to do that?” My mother answered.
“Because Dad has been saying since last summer that we could use it if we wanted to and we wanted to take it for a spin.”
“I don’t know why he told you that, he sold it to Cousin Patrick last week.”
It was just as well Chris hadn’t spent too much time readying the craft.
About thirty minutes later my mother returns.
“What does she want now?” Chris asked.
I shrugged my shoulders and appeared on the other side of the chain link fence.
“Can you give my friend a ride home?”
It was a total role reversal and for a moment I felt like I was living the Disney Movie, Freaky Friday when the mother and daughter switch bodies. My mother, a senior citizen just asked me to drive her drunk friend home.
“Sure!” was of course my answer. I got in the car and obliged. When I returned down the drive way, I came around the corner and there was Cousin Patrick with all the kids loading their boating gear into the family van. They all had mystified looks on their faces, which confused me. I drove past them and at the fork in the road as I was going to turn right to return my mother’s car, there she was, in my way, a bit like road kill but more colorful.
GiGi was swaying underneath the Poinciana tree, with flowers behind her ears and holding a tray of cupcakes each with an American Flag flying from a toothpick. She was waving and she might have been singing. I think she may have lost not only her drunk friend but her mind as well or maybe she was having a flashback to when she was a teenager in the 1960s.
I paused and unrolled the window.
“What are you doing?”
“Waiting for you?”
“I made you some cupcakes.”
“In the last five minutes?”
“They were leftovers from July 4th, we made them for Sadie and Trystan.”
At that moment I realized there wasn’t much difference between Gigi and the teenage babysitters we hire for Eva. When Hamma and Gigi got off the boat they seemed shocked to see their house guest who my aunt had picked up from the airport earlier in the afternoon. It was clear they had totally forgot she was coming, kind of like they forgot they had a third grandchild, Eva.
With Auntie Zoe’s holiday imminent, a hung over Gigi questioned me the next day on her departure,
“When is Zoe going away?”
“What day next week?”
“Wednesday the 16th of July”
“What flight is she on?”
“The BA flight at 8pm.”
“Is she working a full day that Wednesday?”
“When are Shelagh and Duncan coming?”
“The following Tuesday.”
“Why so many questions?”
“Oh no reason.”
A few days later Gigi announces that she will be leaving for New Hampshire on the morning of Thursday the 17th of July and returning on Friday the 25th. A coincidence? I don’t think so.
“Gigi has gone AWAL.” Chris announced.
Meanwhile Eva’s other grandparents arrive. They bring Eva a new pair of Peppa Pig pajamas, which she is proudly wearing when Daddy gets home from work.
“Who gave you those Peppa Pig pajamas Eva?” He asked her.
“Hamma and Gigi” she answered.
“Huh?” He looked at me.
I shook my head.
“It’s classical conditioning, like Pavlov’s dogs.”
“What do you mean?”
“Eva is conditioned to think every gift is from Hamma and Gigi”
“Oh, they buy her things.”
“They are better at shopping than babysitting.”
We spent the evening in the garden drinking wine and playing with Eva.
The phone rang, it was Gigi from New Hampshire.
“What is that noise in the background?
“It’s Eva and her Nana playing the cymbals.”
I looked out the window, and Eva was running around in my orange sarong clanging cymbals and Nana was teaching her a new song.
“Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna…” dancing like Hindu fairies.
I wondered if when Gigi got home if Eva would have shaved her hair into a solitary pigtail and also be wearing Birkenstocks.
“What is that dreadful sound?” my mother asked.
“Its Eva and Nana singing Hare Krishna”
There was dead silence on the line. I figured my mother was reconsidering her last minute trip, and wondering how many Peppa books it would take to get Eva to take the orange robe off. I could hear her eyes roll back in her head.
The evening prayer continued outside after I hung up.
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare Hare Rama
Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
Peace, Love, Freedom, Happiness.
When I took Eva to the bathroom, I saw daddy’s electric shaver and seriously considered for a moment that if I turned Eva into a mini Hare Krishna that GiGi would hold a parenting intervention and thereby become a grandparent at last.
In pursuit, Eva, Nana and I have taken up Bhakti yoga on our holiday in Boston. Hare Krishna! Krishna Krishna!
Tune in next week for “A Hostile Takeover and Gigi Redeems Herself.”
Xx Derelict Mom