Urban dictionary defines “hospital pass” as: a panicked pass in a sporting match, to a player likely to be tackled heavily as soon as the ball is received.
I define “hospital pass” as: two parents leaving the country and asking their eldest son to look after his two younger siblings.
For 10 days.
While he works full time.
And they start school.
I’m torn, really. I don’t know whether I should feel honoured my parents entrusted me with their two youngest children for ten days, or sour at the fact I had no choice in the matter.
It’s day three of ten and they’re alive. But I’m a little peeved at the lack of nomination for Father of Year.
I’m in envy of my siblings, and their opportunity to have me as a Dad for the week.
My sister (11) and brother (8) are both blissfully ignorant as to how little I care about them misbehaving.
I’m approaching these ten days with a long-term goal in mind: when I hand them back over to Mum and Dad, they must be living. That will be a mission completed successfully.
Anything that happens in the interim is irrelevant; unimportant; meaningless.
Listen to Holly Wainwright and Andrew Daddo discuss the perils of suddenly becoming a single parent, on This Glorious Mess. Post continues after audio…
10am – Drop parents off at Sydney International Airport. Compulsory kerbside goodbye hugs while many men in yellow vests shout some things.
Brother and sister sad etc. Drive away from drop-off point complaining about poor organisation of airport traffic. “Why is there one lane? Biggest airport in Australia. Not good enough. You’d think they could do better”.
Realise am becoming my Dad.
10.15am – On way home. Small voice from backseat asks about Concord plane crash. I explain fire and many deaths etc. Teaching moment. Pleased.
4pm – This thing happened where we arrived home and I forgot about them for five hours.
4.05pm – Shout out. No response. Plan search through house. Make toast in case search is long and arduous.
4.06pm – Scour upstairs. No one there. Finish toast. Rations low.
4.08pm – Sister watching videos on computer in living room. YouTube. Much laughing. Safe and also alive. Success.
4.09pm – Brother (8) in TV room. Playing Xbox.
Has found shooting video games, which are hidden, on account of him not being allowed to play them. Clearly not well enough.
Call of Duty: Black Ops. Look on his face resembles dog caught peeing on carpet. Well aware this is defining moment for me as parent. Ask self ‘What would Phil Dunphy do?’
4.10pm – Decide best course of action is sit down and also play Call of Duty: Black Ops. Am cool dad. I supervise, explain benefits of throwing grenades when enemies in large groups etc. Teaching moment.
4.30pm – Leave brother to play Xbox alone, satisfied have imparted sufficient knowledge.
5.14pm – Celebratory beer.
5.30pm – Friend comes over. More celebratory beers. Children quiet. Call out to confirm wellbeing. All ok.
8pm – Realise neither have moved in 10 hours. Also, dinner is a thing I am responsible for. Order pizza. Brother wants hawaiian. Sister wants salami. Swim while waiting for delivery. Happy times.
8.23pm – Eat pizza together at table. Kids tired after difficult day on respective couches. Sister removes salami from salami pizza.
8.40pm – Ask for help clearing table. Much eye-rolling, despite fact we didn’t use plates. Inform both children TEN MINUTES TILL BEDTIME.
10.45pm – Check on sleeping children. Beds noticeably missing sleeping children. Minor heart attack.
Locate in TV room. Wearing clothes from this morning. GUYS I JUST… I’m not angry. I’m just disappointed.
*mic drop*. Walk out.
10.46pm – Walk back in. “No but seriously go to bed.”
7.14am – Debrief (with self) on events of day prior. Decide congratulations in order, as both still alive.
9.45am – Brother playing Call of Duty again. Forgot to eat breakfast. Still in pyjamas.
It is at this point I come to a conclusion: small children are inept in the realm of self-sufficiency.
If I don’t tell him to shower, he won’t shower. If I don’t tell him to drink water, he’ll shrivel. If I don’t remind him to eat, he will die. Without a doubt. He’ll be hungry, sure… but unable to process how he could POSSIBLY make food go from the fridge into his face. It’s just… it’s too many steps.
I feel like I’m caring for an incontinent blind man.
11.45am – Have to run off to work for the afternoon. Organise friend to play parent role in my absence. Brief stand-in parent on long-term goal:
Watch. Feed on occasion. Keep alive.
5.30pm – Return from work and all well. Check siblings for bruises/scars to confirm well-being. Relieve stand-in parent of duties. Order burgers because we had pizza last night and burgers have lettuce, which is part of a balanced diet.
6.04pm – Sister removes lettuce from burger.
9.40pm – Suggestion of showers met with cries of ‘Do we have tooooo…’
Yes, you have to. You smell homeless.
10pm - Enforce bedtime, this time by WATCHING THEM GO TO BED.
Both in bed. Give goodnight kiss and tuck in tight... sort of 'cos I love them, and sort of 'cos reduces chances of escape. Brother clearly scared. 'Is Call of Duty real?'.
Spend 45 minutes explaining in detail the game's plot, before realising I haven't answered his question...
"No little man. It's all pretend."
Day 3 - First day of the school year.
6.30am - Sister going into Year 6. Cool, calm, collected. Wakes up, gets dressed, etc. Brother going into Year 3. Neither cool, calm, nor collected. Wakes up, cries. Upset he has wrong tie and may get in trouble. Inconsolable.
"Dude, it's going to be absolutely fine. It's the first day, a million kids are going to have wrong uniform. You're going to grab a new tie from the uniform shop and it's all going to be okay. I promise."
"The uniform... [sobbing]... the uniform shop's not open today."
"It's gonna be fine, little man. Everyone's going to need new uniform. I totally get how nervous you are."
Sobs fade; turn to laughter as I recount story of my own uniform mishap. Remind him to eat breakfast. Dawdles off to kitchen. Forgotten about tie. Am actually Father of Year. Win.
7.30am - Finish brushing teeth. Ask siblings to jump in car. Somewhere between walking into kitchen and actually eating food, brother forgot to consume breakfast.
Ask why. "Got distracted playing with my feet."
7.50am - Out door. Call Mum from car so siblings can share any concerns, tell her how great I'm doing etc.
Drop sister at school. Smooth. Arrive at brother's school. Nervous.
Talk through every possible scenario and situation that could ever happen on his first day. What if my friends aren't there. What if a burglar comes. All valid concerns.
"Love you dude. It's all gonna be absolutely fine. Have an amazing day. Can't wait to hear about it." He slings on his backpack - which outweighs him - and waddles through the big black gates into school.
6pm - Debrief on day. Many smiles. Dinner is fish and veggies. Sister removes fish, and also veggies, from fish and veggies.
6.50pm - Help her pack for school camp tomorrow. Teach to ROLL clothes. Takes up less room. Stuff socks and undies inside shoes. Take plastic bags because you'll definitely need them for everything. #teachingmoments.
7pm - What if she doesn't have the right clothes? What if she gets sick? What if she gets first period on camp and doesn't have a tampon or know how to use one and what do I do? Do I sneak one in her bag? Do I talk to her about it?
This is beyond my pay-grade.
7.04pm - Realise feminine hygiene least of my issues when packing list includes 'dishwasher safe plate' and cup and also cutlery. Sister distressed at my firm stance on fact she not allowed to take ceramic dinner plate.
"Take a plastic plate. And plastic cutlery."
" [becoming teary] but Luca they SMELL."
7.05pm - Convince sister to RELAX and it's fine and I will finish packing for her and don't even worry 'bout it. Wait for her to leave room. Stuff MANY plastic plates under clothes. Hope she doesn't notice until far away.
7.10pm - Decide emergency pad also necessary. Hide in side pocket of bag - like feminine hygiene version of the Easter Bunny.
The kids are in bed. I checked this time. We're three days down. There are many to go. In terms of my long-term goal? I'm on track. Both alive. Both unharmed.
Sister at school camp for next two days, clearing me of any and all legal responsibility. Brother will be fine, as long as I remind to eat, sleep and use the bathroom every two hours.
Sure, their nutrition could have been better. They could have been more active, slept longer, and spent more time outdoors. But it's been an entire 72 hours, and they're still alive. So far, mission successful.
I wish that was the end... you can read Part Two of the story, here.
Any nominations for Father of the Year will be humbly excepted. You can nominate me, here.
On an unrelated note, if you would like to look after an 11-year-old girl and 8-year-old boy next week, let me know in the comments below.