I’m not long up but am still lazing in bed, watching the rain fall on the Cornish countryside. There’s a little black and white rabbit hoping around the garden exploring and eating his breakfast. I’m told that he is one of four escapees from the hutch and refuses to be caught and returned to safety. With so many foxes in proximity his days are unfortunately numbered and it won’t be long before he becomes someone else’s breakfast. I’m reluctant to get up at all today, I’m in the most comfortable bed I’ve slept in for months, it’s all cozy and feathery and big. I also feel so incredibly tired, my hectic month at summer camp is catching up with me and all I want to do is sleep. There’s a soft knock at the door.
I’ve spent the majority of my week hanging out with my friends’ six-year-old daughter Katie. She wasn’t supposed to be home, but was made to stay behind because she had tonsillitis while Granny and granddaughter number one went to Wales for a holiday. Surprisingly there wasn’t even the slightest of scenes, “See ya”, said Katie, between coughing fits and petting Granny’s dogs.
Initially my main role was that of nurse, administering medicine at regular intervals, feeding, watering and making sure adequate rest was instilled. But as the fever broke Katie gradually got better and became more active.
Each morning I was held prisoner in my bedroom for hours, only being allowed to use the bathroom on the promise I would come straight back. I was proudly introduced to Big Bear and Big Bunny, their children Lily and Chocolate, and Lester the Pony whom I kept calling Nelson by mistake much to Katie’s disgust. We discovered Photobooth on my computer and spent countless hours in giggling fits taking the most ridiculous portraits of ourselves. And by the end of the week we had progressed to excursions in the car, bike riding along the Camel Trail and swimming in Granny’s fabulous pool. Our last afternoon together was spent wrapped up in our towels napping on the warm paving around the pool in the afternoon sun. Clearly I had made a new friend.
If I’m to be honest this is the most amount of time I have spent with a child, ever. This week I have had a crash course in ‘understanding the basics’ and I’ve learnt many things. I’ve learnt that when one is bike riding one must wait at regular intervals when child is out of sight. Riding too far ahead can lead to tears and notions of abandonment. I’ve learnt that spills and falls can be made less severe by suggesting to cut off the painful part of the body, and that wearing the right footwear on an all day outing is VERY important for delicate little feet. I’ve also learnt that it is paramount to be clear about food likes and dislikes. Seriously little madam, what’s the difference between a buttered and an unbuttered ham sandwich, especially when I know you like buttered bread?
But most of all I have learnt that despite spending years thinking I was hopeless with children I am actually quite good at it. I can’t help but wonder if my recent leap into teaching has something to do with it, or perhaps it’s because I have, as I promised myself I would, opened my mind and my heart to new experiences. Perhaps it’s a combination of many things, I have no answers.
This new revelation couldn’t have come at a better time as in just a few months I am going to become a zia for the first time. I’m bursting with excitement and cannot wait to spend time with my new nephew even though it might be a while before I get to see him in the flesh. It’s only early days so I have time on my side and this suits me perfectly, as I try to figure out how I am going to persuade a little boy to brush my hair and paint my toenails.