parents

Kahla figures out how to keep kids entertained.

Let the challenge begin

By KAHLA PRESTON

Before we start, let me just say: I like kids. I think they’re adorable, and funny, and their curiosity and general outlook on life is awesome.

The thing is… I just don’t really know what to do with them. How do I keep kids entertained? There have never really been any young kids in my life so my experience with them is almost non-existent. I babysat twice as a teenager, and the cheeky 4-year-old somehow managed to talk me into a later bedtime. I don’t even know how she did it. Jedi mind tricks, probably – kids are smart like that.

Just as an FYI, you should know that this post is sponsored by CHUX. But all opinions expressed by the author are 100% authentic and written in their own words.

So when I agreed to look after Jo Abi’s three kids Philip, 9, Giovanni, 5, and Caterina, 4, as part of the Whatever Life Chux at You Challenge I was a little daunted. Would they like me? How does one even keep kids entertained? What would we talk about – school? Books? Do kids these days even know what books are?

Eek.

Jo, my wise motherly spirit guide, thought my initiation to the life of a mum should take place in a shopping centre. On a Saturday, of course – the most overwhelmingly busy day of the week. I believe they call this ‘Baptism by Westfield’.

We met in the food court just as it was reaching peak chaos status. After introducing her kids to the complete stranger who was going to be keeping them company, Jo zoomed off to buy some lunch (which she managed with incredible speed and skill considering the density of the crowd).

That left me under the gaze of six of big, curious eyes. Three against one.

“It’s weird that you have to pretend to be our mum”, said Philip. I had to agree, and was starting to question how well I’d pull off this ‘faux mum’ gig. Deep breaths…

Promoting underage driving with the Peppa Pig mobile. Ten points.

Conversing with three young kids was different to what I’d expected. Very different, in fact – I’d describe it as being tuned into three very exuberant talk back radio stations all at once. The topics came thick and fast and, boy, were they tangential. Within the space of two minutes we’d already covered kittens, movies, Christmas wishlists, ballet, favourite colours, soccer and Minecraft.

The main challenge was giving Philip, Giovanni and Caterina equal attention and enthusiasm while not cutting them off mid-sentence, and I think I just pulled it off by channeling one of those fairground clown heads that continuously swivel from one side to the other.

On the topic of Minecraft (whatever it is…), I realised I am hopelessly out of touch with Kid World in 2013. What is a Skylander? Who is this Peppa Pig character and, speaking of animated swine, whatever happened to Preston Pig? I think I had more trouble following that conversation than I do following global politics.

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After lunch, it was time to find a playground… after a quick detour to a huge pick n’ mix lolly stand. While the kids picked out some crazy-looking sour straps, Jo taught me another lesson in Parenting 101: an expansive handbag is essential.  Hers contained everything from wet wipes to Happy Meal toys to water bottles. It was also alarmingly heavy. Who knew mums were practically lifting weights every time they left the house?  Respect.

Jo makes her escape. I wasn’t sure if she would ever come back…

We then arrived at our Holy Grail, the playground. I admit, it was a relief to see the equipment was encased in soft netting with just one entry/exit point. Perfect! No chance – well, very little chance – of losing a child. I really didn’t want to have to write an article called, “The day I lost my colleague’s children.”

After a swift shoe-removal drill, the kids ran in – and it was at this point that Jo saw her opportunity to flee the building find a nearby café for well-deserved, quiet and, more importantly, uninterrupted cappuccino – with a side of reading. The kind of activity I do all the time on weekends and take for granted.

I resumed my post as faux mummy and supervised the action. And by ‘supervised’, I mean ‘monitored like a hawk’. I tried to look casual about it, but every five minutes or so I did a mental roll-call, confirming that, yes, there were still one, two, three recognisable children in view. Ten good [fake] mum points right there.

It was also great to watch the kids interact with the other tiny people in the enclosure. Caterina made a friend, Philip initiated a friendly game of tip, and Giovanni set a trend of walking up the slide instead of slipping down it. Kids. They’re just like us, just with a lot more energy. Seriously – just watching them made me want to lie down.

Nobody stole their shoes! Success.

Alas, they did eventually tire, and it was time to put the shoes back on, find the toilets (that was fun), take a quick ride on the Peppa Pig mobile and go our separate ways.

By the end of the adventure, I felt way more confident with the kids – and that, just maybe, I had convinced everyone involved that I was completely chill in the role of faux mummy. I scored some very enthusiastic high-fives from the kids as they left. That meant I was ‘in’ with them, and that I hadn’t exposed myself as a total fraud, right?

Well, not exactly. “Hmm – you’re not really strong enough to hold me, are you?” inquired Caterina with a look resembling pity as I clumsily attempted to hoist her up onto my hip as I’d seen other mums do.

Damn. She got me there.


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