I’m really sorry I missed my post last week. Every Sunday I’ve tried to write something vaguely amusing to lighten things up, but last week I simply didn’t have the time. Not one free minute in the entire day. Or in any of the following five days either.
Last week I was out of this world, spirited into a parallel universe. Emails lay unanswered, post unopened, no time to watch the news or go down the pub: I’ve been living in the world of Three.
“Izzy and I will be absolutely fine on our own,” I’d said, as I gave Jo her birthday present: a week in a health spa down south.
It was an opportunity for me to spend quality time with our daughter. While Jo was being pampered with Shiatsu and lymphatic stimulation, I’d have a week off work, relaxing. She could detox with treadmills, healing mud and carrot juice; I would sit in the sun with a good book, listening to Izzy’s laughter as she bounced on her trampoline or picked daisies on the lawn.
Er, excuse me: have you ever spent an entire day with a three-year-old? It started at 6am on the first morning, just as the taxi had picked up Jo for the airport.
“Izzy, it’s the middle of the night, go back to sleep.”
“Daddy, I just want to ask you three questions.”
“Try me,” I said, determined to sound enthusiastic.
“One, shall we play hide and seek? Two, shall we play tag? Three, shall we play on the trampoline?”
“It’s 6 in the morning, Iz”.
“Awright - hide and seek, then. You hide first and I’ll count”.
That’s how it started, and it didn’t let up for five whole days.
“Why don’t you play with your dollies?” I’d suggest, after she used the same tree to hide behind for the fortieth time. I thought I might escape to the unopened Sunday newspapers.
“Good idea, Daddy,” she’d reply, holding out her tiny hand: “Come on, they’re up in my playroom.”
Izzy has twelve Barbie dolls. She’s created a weird fantasy universe where Beauty and the Beast, surfers, fairies, Cinderella and Rapunzel all take part in the same, convoluted soap opera. It’s like Barbie Big Brother. There is a solitary male doll, surrounded by pneumatic, long-legged surfer-fairy-princesses. He has two functions in life: to marry Cinderella, and
pull the plug out when Izzy has a bath. Rapunzel has to switch on the bedroom light, and Cinderella just keeps changing into different ballgowns.
Izzy has a special cup for her “morning juice”, a pink plate for her toast, a purple one for her cereal. God forbid I mix them up: the resulting tantrum would have the dogs cowering in their cage.
And knickers: the morning knicker selection takes an age. There’s a drawer full of them, all white with little transfers of cartoon characters. Even the chocolate bribe doesn’t calm her down if she’s offered the wrong knickers.
At nighttime, Izzy has her own logic about going to sleep. “Stop talking now,” I’d call up.
“Daddy, it’s not me talking, it’s Cinderella and Rapunzel: they’re having an argument.”
I could hear the dolls acting out their drama down the intercom. “Tell the dollies they have one minute to be quiet or they’re going in the dog basket.”
“Five minutes,” Izzy would counter. And we’d negotiate.
“Three minutes – deal?” she’d ask in such a sweet voice, you had to agree.
Three minutes is an hour and a half in grown-up time, by the way.
Five days later, Jo returned, looking radiant and smelling of aromatherapy oils.
“It was the strangest week, and completely exhausting” she said, slumping into the sofa. “It was full of divorcees sobbing in corners and obese businessmen trying to chat them up.”
“How was the food?”
“Bland, with tiny portions. I’m starving.”
“But at least you lost weight”.
“Not a single pound,” she said, sadly.
Unlike me: I lost five pounds in a week. But, as any mother knows, looking after a 3-year-old is far harder than any treadmill.