Parents. Worried your teenager isn’t using contraception?
Step 1. Ask him/her to look after small children.
Step 2. Leave the country.
My internet search history is littered with terms like ‘age’, ‘requirement’ and ‘vasectomy’. I’m definitely leaving New South Wales, where abortion is barely-legal. And there’s no way I’m ever having sex again. It’s not worth it. What if something goes wrong?What if the condom breaks? Is there a limit to the number of condoms you can wear during sex? Is three too many?
If you missed Part One, you can catch-up here.
I guarantee the little people I’ve spent the past week looking after will take any preconception you have of the word ‘dependent’, and smash it to pieces. Think two-week-old kitten. With no legs. Who also can’t hear.
I love them to bits. I really do. The adoration I have for my 11-year-old sister and 8-year-old brother is up there with that I usually reserve for crusty bread. And clean sheets.
But we’re three days into my week-long parent role. There are four to go. And my adoration is wearing thin.
It’s the night before my sister’s school camp, and we’re in front of the TV. It’s way past their bedtime. But we’re watching a cool animal documentary. And – not unlike the previous three nights – the whole ‘putting them to bed’ thing isn’t showing up on my priority radar. That can be future Luca’s problem.
Apparently, when a lioness goes out hunting she leaves her cubs alone in the den. David Attenborough says so.
The cubs don’t sit there waiting to die: they don’t hang around until they’re eaten by a cheetah; they don’t wait for Mum to come back and help them use the lion toilet.
They lift their game.
If a cheetah comes, they hide. If they’re thirsty, they find water… they’re left to fend for themselves and when push comes to shove they pickup the responsibility in order to survive.
I only wish my human cubs were lion ones…
Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo asked their kids to give a parenting performance review, on This Glorious Mess (Post continues after audio).
Luca asks his siblings to review his parenting performance, later in this post.
0600 – Sister due at school by 7am. Still asleep. House dark. Realise haven’t exercised in three days. Sit-ups.
0604 – Bored of sit-ups.
0607 – Sister awake. Eating breakfast in kitchen. Dressed and ready and packed for camp and this is what successful parenting looks like.
0645 – Forgot to wake brother. Still sleeping. Shout out from downstairs. “Um. Duuuuude. HEY. We leaving early to get your sister to camp. Could you do me a huge favour and be ready to go in eight minutes. Thanks.”
0651 – Brother downstairs. What’s happened is he has done his hair impeccably but also forgotten to put on pants.
0705 – Pull up at sister’s school. Camp buses await. Hugs, farewells, high fives. Sister carrying many things. Clothes bag, sleeping bag, pillow. Like camel strapped with supplies for long trek through desert.
0707 – Makes it onto bus. Me: “Have an amazing time little one you’re going to smash it!” Inner me: I am purged of all legal responsibility of you for 48-hours.
0720 – Brother’s school not open yet. Too early. Take dog for walk together. Discuss meaning of life etc. “Luca you… you know there’s this one gun that’s in EVERY SINGLE Call of Duty?” He’s eight. Definitely shouldn’t know that. But I’m a little bit proud.
“That’s the AK47 dude. It’s a real life gun. From Russia.”
“Woah, that’s… awesome.”#teachingmoment.
7.50am – Drop brother at school. Goodbye high-fives. Feel like many things have been accomplished – unsure how is only 8am.
5.30pm – Finish work. Try picking up brother from after-school care. Encounter mean childcare worker:
“Sorry but um… you are not on his registered list of guardians.”
“Oh uh- … sorry. Had no idea there was a list.” Little brother spots me from across playground. Bolts over for hug. “I’m his brother and I’m looking after him while our parents are overseas. I will make sure I’m on the list for next ti-…”
She cuts me off: “I actually can’t let you take him today, unless you’re on the registered list.” She steps between my brother and thinks she is a hero. “There’s just no way I can prove that you’re actually his brother.”
If only. IF ONLY THERE WAS A WAY TO PROVE THE KID WHO JUST RAN THE ENTIRE LENGTH OF THE PLAYGROUND TO HUG ME IS ACTUALLY MY BROTHER.
“I am his guardian for the week. If I don’t take him home, no one else will. He will literally sleep here.” I present my driver’s license and family Medicare card, which shows his name under mine.
Also find photo on my phone in which I’m holding him as a baby. But obviously, “that could be any baby.”
5.41pm – Inform childcare worker I will be stealing my brother.
5.43pm – Steal brother.
6.45pm – Eat fishcakes. Debrief on kidnapping.
8.30pm – Put child to bed. Check news for missing persons.
6.40am - Go for early morning walk. Return. Brother not in bed. WTF. Shout loudly. No response. Find him outside.
Not only is he fully dressed (pants), but his bag is packed. He's eaten breakfast. And he's throwing the ball for the dogs. It's the most organised he's ever been and I'm basically speechless. "Dude... are you... ready for school? Like organised?
"Yeah." He smiles. If he had a tail it would be wagging.
"You know we don't have to leave for another hour?"
"Yeah I just thought I'd get ready early."
This is me. I have done this.
In five days of fatherhood, I have single-handedly instilled in my younger brother all the qualities my parents forgot to: responsibility; awareness; organisation.
Not only is he alive under my care... he's a more functional human.
7.50am - Driving to school. Smiles. Many high-fives. Consider becoming teacher, child behaviour specialist.
6pm - Arrive home. Brother showers, puts on pyjamas, eats dinner. Without me asking. Parentgasm.
8.25pm - Takes self to bed. Because he is model child and I am home hero.
4.20pm - Pick sister up from camp. "Camp was fine but I didn't shower". Shudder.
4.48pm - Compulsory shower for any and all children under my care.
5.10pm - Family dinner at Grandma's. En route. Sister and I in tracksuit pants, pyjama top. Brother dressed as if auditioning for Farmer Wants a Wife. Flannel shirt, cinos, farm boots. Hair done. Boom.
6.50pm - Concern from relatives. "Are you sure you're okay and do you need any help and what can we do?"
Guys. GUYS. I've got this.
11.23pm - Assumed brother was in bed. Incorrect. Playing zombie Xbox game instead. Terrified. Explain zombies aren't real. Doesn't believe me. Inconsolable
11.25pm - Refuses to sleep alone. Sets up blankets on downstairs couch. Upstairs scary. Cuddles.
Day 7 - The Final Day.
10.20am - Sister announces she has "just watched Boy in the Striped Pyjamas on Netflix" and that "it is a good movie."
Shit. Are you allowed to watch that? Is it up to me? Should I have been monitoring? Do you have questions?
"It was good. The ending was pretty sad though."
Yes, yes it was. "You know what would be funny? If we NEVER told Mum you watched that movie. HAHA."
Under my care, I made the decision to broaden my sister's horizons by exposing her to an educational and poignant film about genocide. I think she's a better person for having watched it.
11am - Brunch at café. Brother orders bacon and egg roll. Picks off bacon. Also egg. Enjoys roll.
3.45pm - Five hours till handover. Experiment time. Decide to ignore kids for a few hours. Hide in room. Let fend for themselves: no instructions, no orders, no observations. Test resilience. Like abandoning in desert. But with TV and air conditioning.
4.30pm - Silence.
5.40pm - More silence. Worried. Do they know I'm gone.
6.14pm - Fridge doors open. Many giggles. Unsure if hungry siblings or happy burglar.
7.28pm - In bed. Watching Netflix. Guilt. Four hours since proof of life. What if they've been captured? Are these hours billable?
8.02pm - Concern mounting. Conclude resilience test. Also, Thai food I ordered is here.
8.04pm - Initiate search of house. Here's what I'm expecting to find:
8-year-old brother nude. No food in five hours. On couch. Xbox. Didn't notice my absence.
11-year-old sister semi-clothed. Ice cream for five hours. On couch. YouTube videos. Disappointed at my return.
When I eventually find them, I'm floored. Yes, they're exactly where I thought they'd be - killing zombies and watching cat videos on the couch. But... they're wearing pyjamas. PYJAMAS. Their little heads are wet. Two half-eaten plates of leftover chicken lie beside their feet.
Not only are they alive... they're clean. They're fed. They're clothed and waiting to be told it's bedtime and I don't have to round them up like the confused sheep they have been in the past.
8.07pm - Curl up with them on couch. Watch Animal Planet. Laugh at fact sister ate ice cream for breakfast without me realising.
8.22pm - Parents home. Official handover of small children, who are alive. I know they're still my siblings, but I'm a little bit sad they're no longer my kids.
Hear them fighting over a biscuit. No longer sad.
I asked my siblings to review my efforts. Here's what they said...
Listen: my 11-year-old sister and 8-year-old brother review my parenting. They have fairly different opinions on how I went.... (Post continues after audio).
Here's what I learnt.
There isn't a single human being on Earth who would allocate any value to 'Luca's long-winded parenting diatribe'.
Mostly because my week as a parent entailed holocaust films and soggy cereal dinners. (Also because I'm not actually a real parent).
However. I plan to treat this post as a time capsule... a place I can store my parental learnings before they're absorbed into an alcohol-fuelled abyss. Future parents take note...
- "I promise I've showered" is a lie.
- If crying, will stop.
- If continuously crying, assess injury.
- If uninjured see, point 3.
- If injured, apply frozen peas.
- If still injured, band-aid.
- Jeans will be worn in Summer. Shorts in Winter.
- Give an inch and they'll find a mile.
- 11 is the age of the power struggle. Don't negotiate with terrorists.
- If given the option kids will consume cyanide over vegetables.
- Self-sufficiency won't be learnt unless it's forced.
Obviously, most parents are across all this. I'm not preaching a groundbreaking new gem of parental advice set to change the world. I'm not pretending to be wise or peddle information that's been doing the rounds for centuries.
I am, however, certain of one thing: I can't wait to be a father one day.
You can catch up on Part One, here.
How did I play it? Would you have done anything differently? Let me know in the comments below.