Back to work, and interning in the Food and Beverage department has given way to babysitting: sucks to be the newest female on the island.
So there I was, in sole and clueless charge of a four year old with a mean case of tonsillitis. True to such tales as this he was utterly angelic, not least because a fountain of jet curls sprang from his head to fall into his big round brown eyes. But he was fractious, feverish, in pain and he wanted his mum.
Nope. “Mummy is working, she’s going to get your teddy, then she’ll be right back.”
Note to working mothers DO NOT LIE TO YOUR SICK CHILDREN. They hear you. They understand you. And they are elephants. THEY DO NOT FORGET. This poor little boy clung to her like a baby monkey. It was as if he were composed entirely of limbs which latched themselves to his mother and would not let go no matter what. And yet, inch by inch she peeled him off her and cajoled him and promised him she’d be back and bribed him with the promise of Teddy. Until at last he was sat disconsolately on the tall bar stool in the beachside restaurant. She dodged a tiny grasping hand and I, motherly instinct appearing from god knows where, stepped into the breach. Five tiny fingers closed firmly on a lock of my hair and that was it. I was doomed. From that moment until sundown 13 hours later I was absolutely forbidden to put this little boy down. He gripped me like a shipwrecked man grips driftwood in an ocean.
However, he hadn’t forgotten Mummy’s wretched promise to return with Teddy so not only was I left carrying many kilos of four year old for an entire day but my imagination was sorely challenged to come up with excuses for mummy. Four year olds are discerning little monsters you know, not just any excuse would cut it. I’ve never wracked my brains so hard in my entire life! At last I just gave in and raided mummy’s room for the teddy. By the end of the day I was a little jealous of Teddy’s lack of nerve endings. Who knew toddlers had grips of steel!?
And then there was lunch time.
After about half an hour I had achieved little other than a light coating of tomato sauce. This little boy was most definitely not up for eating anything. Not wanting my diminutive charge to perish from malnutrition while under my care I made an executive decision. I went full tactical.
1) The Element of Surprise.
Objective: refuel sick, stroppy, stubborn four year old with Margarita pizza.
Method: reduce the pizza to a number of very small pieces. Dispense with knife and fork. Pick up a morsel of tomato-y goodness. Wait for child to look away. Tap child excitedly on the shoulder and whisper like you have a thrilling secret. “Hey, what’s this?” Hold pizza at child’s mouth level. When unsuspecting target turns with mouth open in expectation – deploy pizza nugget. Repeat for 2 hours until at least three slices of pizza have been eaten.
Alas for dinner he had got wise to my wily ways come the evening and chicken stir fry was a whole different battle ground.
2) The power of jealousy.
Objective: line sick, stroppy, stubborn four year old’s stomach with fried rice so he can take his tonsillitis medication.
Method: This one’s a doozy. Simply assume an air of excitement and anticipation, dramatically poise your spoon quiveringly aloft over the child’s dinner and…. pretend it’s yours. Instant desire to eat! I learned this slight of hand after my poor little charge bullishly demanded a mouthful of olive tapenade for the unavoidably logical reason that it was my dinner, not his. The look of anguished confusion that painted his face as he tried to distance himself from his tongue, which had so cruelly betrayed him with this tart, salty substance… heartbreaking. Unfortunately the only thing I could find to save him was a painfully crisp and white table napkin. I felt a little sorry for the rest of my team back in Food & Bev who would have to deal with the now offensive napkin. But I had bigger problems to worry about….. it was time for pyjamas.
Never have I been so tempted to advocate sleeping in your clothes! Never! He threatened to jump fully dressed into the pool to protest the concept of pyjamas. Naturally getting a child out of their clothes and into their pyjamas couldn’t be one cohesive process, that would be much too easy. So, of course, I passed a surreal half hour or so while a stark naked four year old careened gravity defyingly around the room. I was wise to him though, and turned the air con up to arctic. He soon came begging for PJs then. Not exactly ethical I know, dispensing Guantanamo hospitality. But needs must when the Devil won’t get ready for bed.
After a sheepish phone call to housekeeping about the lake of soy sauce we had created in the middle of the swanky white sofa things got a little real. My charge decided to demonstrate all the ways in which the room was a death trap for tiny humans. He tightrope walked the edge of the infinity pool, beneath which (I checked) were a number of very solid rocks. He ran full-tilt around the bathroom after first ensuring the floor was the perfect degree of life-threateningly slick with soapy water. He skidded up and down the stone steps, which suddenly seemed to me to have razor sharp edges. He flung himself off the bed, the sofa, the deck chairs, the cabana – any item of furniture he could scale really – seemingly under the indelible belief that he could fly.
And then… then! Housekeeping came with fire! Into the pool went a very attractive, very aesthetically pleasing, hypnotic and soothing…. floating FLAME! The little curly-headed injury-magnet made a beeline straight for it. I snapped. I locked the door to the garden and *shudder* returned Surf’s Up to the beginning…. again.
Sorry. At this point I have to go lie down in a dark room. My PTSD is kicking in and I’m having flashbacks about surfing penguins with tribal tattoos and a penchant for the word “Duuuuuuuude.”
Bye for now.