Does everyone else have to put as much thought into this as I have to? I thought, when Jack and I moved back closer to our families when we started our own, that we would have a plethora of babysitters ready and willing to take our offspring off our hands for a few precious moments (or, on this occasion, days). Silly me, for I never realised how troublesome it would be to pick which member of our collective families would inflict the least about of damage on our boys.
Jack and I are heading to Barcelona for a few days shortly after Easter. Oh happy days! I can’t wait to escape the lousy British weather and have some good old, long overdue, adult fun (and by that I totally mean checking out La Sagrada Familia, drinking on Las Ramblas, and trying out a paella-making cooking class, of course!). Now, we’re not short of doting family members desperate to step-up to babysitting duty, and for that I am truly grateful and lucky, but, selfish as I am in the face of their kind offers, I have spent an inordinate amount of time weighing up the various pros and cons of our kin.
It’s probably fairer for me to slate my own family first thanJack’s , and probably easier as I’ve endured their eccentricities for several decades!
Firstly, let’s examine my dad; generous, kind, funny, and being a grandfather seems to have given him a new lease of life. A tick in all the right boxes; or so it seems. Down side: massively competitive. My brother and I grew up influenced by the belief that “no-one remembers second place” and “win at all costs”. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in pushing kids to do the best they can do, and my dad’s attitude certainly embedded a sense of competition and ambition that has given both my brother and I an edge in certain areas. However, am I really the type of mother to put up with the consequences? My brother and I competed in everything, from sports, games and academic grades, to the downright petty! If I leave my boys with their granddad for 4 nights they’ll be returned to me bickering and squabbling over the most trivial of issues; whose cookie’s got more chocolate chips; who gets to sit in the front seat on the way to school; who gets a piggyback for the longest time. And, trust me, I will put up with that rubbish for about thirty seconds.
Now consider my mum; sweet, caring, sensible, a truly lovely lady. On the surface, she seems to be faultless, but in truth, she’s hiding the biggest risk to my boys’ healthy development: my step-dad. Now don’t get me wrong, I love him to bits, and he’s the most hilarious man I’ve ever met, but he has no boundaries, and no-one can ever successfully reign him in. This is the man who believes it appropriate to discuss vaginal mucus at the dinner table, and who sends a Christmas card to a random person from the phonebook every year saying “looking forward to coming round for dinner on Christmas day!” just to scare the crap out of them. It’s also my step-father who proudly announced at my brother’s wedding breakfast that the best way to dispose of a body would be to chop it up and hide each body part in a large, dead, soon-to-be-cremated dog (I guess it’s not completely random; he is a vet).
My brother and his wife have two little girls of their own, and the boys get on extremely well with their cousins. Issue: my kids will come back deaf and traumatised. Steven and Rachel don’t believe in indoor voices. They’re fab parents, and their girls are lovely, but the whole house is a bonkers cacophony of continual noise. I’d like my kids’ ear drums to be intact when I return, and, more importantly, I want peace and quiet on my return, and not screaming and yelling, which is undoubtedly what they’ll learn from Uncle Steve and Auntie Rach.
Next under the spotlight is my sister-in-law, Leah. Leah’s awesome, she’s funny, friendly, and is my biggest ally in winding Jack up. She’s also obsessed with animals. If she had to save either one of the boys from the wheels of a car or a straggly stray cat, I’m 99% certain she’d choose the latter. Don’t get me wrong, she loves her nephews….I just think she’d love them a whole lot more if they each had fur and a tail. Enough said.
My best friend Melissa and her husband Alan have offered. The only problem is I don’t want my boys sampling alcohol at 5 and 3 years old, and if I know my best friend, there’s no guarantee on that score.
Which leaves my good old parents-in-law. I can’t find that many faults in Jack’s mum and step-dad, really. They don’t have plans to murder anyone, they’re not alcoholics, they love the boys, they raised Jack to be semi-normal…they tick every box, I suppose. Though how much do we really know our family? Scratch the surface and I’m sure they’ve got their skeletons…I’m torn between placing money on them being secret swingers or MI5 spies.
Does anyone else worry about who they leave their kids with, even if they are family? I don’t normally worry about a lot, but this does concern me, and I know I’ve joked about my family’s eccentricities and faults, but this is the first time Jack and I will be leaving the country without the boys. Where does everyone else dump their kids when they need a break?