kids

'The text I got at my office Christmas party that no parent wants to receive.'

It was the Mamamia office Christmas party last night, and I’d been looking forward to it for ages.

Babysitter booked six weeks ago? Check. Approximately $700 put aside for said babysitter so I could enjoy myself with my colleagues for a few hours? Check. Impractical yet highly Christmassy dress and even more impractical shoes sorted? Check.

At 7pm on the night, I was frocked up, and ready to rock ‘n’ roll.

“See ya, wouldn’t want to be ya,” I thought, as I waved goodbye to my 11-year-old, Winston, and his babysitter, and ran as fast as my ridiculous high heels would let me towards my Uber.

A mere extra 30 minutes on top of the 10 minutes it should have taken to drive into the city, including a trip back and forth over the Harbour Bridge, I arrived at the venue in Circular Quay. Party time.

My son was also excited, because an evening with his babysitter always meant a trip to McDonald’s, and a fun time with someone whom he loves and who’s amazing with kids. They were both under strict instructions for Winston to have a bedtime of 9pm, because it was a school night. And also, because I didn’t want a curfew, because I’m an adult, dammit.

So, we were all set… or, we should have been. A mere one hour and forty-four minutes after I left the house, and an hour since I got to the party, I received a text message no parent ever wants to get.

“Are you coming home now?” my kid asked.

Yes, one of those texts.

FTLOG. Image: supplied.

Oh, honey, no. Please don't kill mummy's vibe.

I was more than a little surprised: was I not clear that I was going out for the night? And that I would not be home for hours? This was an 11 year-old-child, who is accustomed to me having a life occasionally. It's not like I never go out... I do so, regularly. So I was a little... confused.

My mummy guilt was starting to kick in (yes, yes, it doesn't take much), and a few thoughts crossed my mind: had something gone wrong at home? Should I call?

As I stood there with my phone, my colleagues around me wanted to know what was happening. I showed them - and they had quite a different response.

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"Oh, no! Mummy's not coming home for quite some time!" they all yelled in unison, laughing at the innocent question. And in that moment, I relaxed and saw the situation for what it was: a kid who was missing his mum.

I texted back and explained again that I would be out until quite late, and he needed to get to bed. Was everything Ok? Yes, he assured me. He was watching a show we usually watch together, and it made him miss me. Which is all very lovely, but... not quite enough to make me come home at that moment.

Then one of my workmates grabbed my phone to send Winston a video of herself and another colleague explaining the following:

"Hi Winston! Mummy's not coming home right now. She's having a few wines. She's having a fun time. She loves you very much."

For obvious/legal reasons, I can't show you the full video. The group was... merry. But they did offer some sage advice to my son.

"Don't do drugs. Don't get in cars with strangers. Good night."

Winston's response to the video text was an admittedly appropriate: "WTF".

And then, there was a little more back and forth about precisely what time I would be home... but, finally, the kid realised I was not coming home to watch Netflix with him. The texting stopped, and I enjoyed a very civilised evening.

So what did I learn from this experience? Just when you think you've got things sorted as a parent, kids happen.

But you know what I also realised? I'm going to remember this story fondly one day, when the exact same situation will be reversed, except it will be 2am, he'll be 15, I'll be terrified and frantically tracking his phone to find out if he's alive.

Ah, kids. They really are the gift that keeps on giving.

If you'd like to hear more from Nama Winston, check out her stories, and subscribe to her weekly Mamamia Parents newsletter here.

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