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It was a Dark and Stormy Night…..

by Whatever Girl on January 14, 2010 · 0 comments

The door shuts behind me and I pick my way through the shadows across the wet ground. I’m appropriately dressed in coat, scarf, gloves and boots over my skimpy party dress, but still I shiver. It’s black outside, as black as it gets at 6:30pm in the middle of a forest. Rain is coming down in sheets. The van door opens and a weak light shines out for a second which makes it seem even darker outside. Kent backs the van down the driveway and I lean forward for a last look at the lights of the cottage. Through the windows I see Jacob inside moving toward the door. “He’s locking the door” I report to Kent, although he hasn’t asked. The van clears the driveway and as I look back, all I can see is black. Out on the road, the streetlight is having a hard time with the heavy rain. I clutch my purse to me and repeat over and over in my head that it is OK to leave my two kids, ages 13 (nearly 14) and 8 alone together in a cottage in the middle of the forest, at night, in the rain, by themselves, so that their dad and I can attend a function in town. For the whole evening. Until midnight. For the first time ever. They will be fine.

I’m fortunate that my mother lives nearby our home in Victoria and is a willing and able babysitter for Jacob and Zoe. But recently, more and more people have commented that it must be great to have Jacob as a built-in babysitter now. An evening out with friends will be planned and I will comment that I’ll just need to secure a babysitter. “Is Jacob busy that night?” they will say. “Ummmmm…nope….not exactly busy….” I will reply, vaguely, dialing my mother’s number.  I know she will come over, play a game with the kids, read stories, kiss them good night and then check them obsessively every 15 minutes until we get home. Perfect!

 When Kent planned this weekend trip for us so we could attend a party in Courtenay, it was shortly on the heels of a recent trip to Vernon in which the Wilson-Potters endured a long evening/night in a hotel room about which I would prefer never to speak again (see Dear God of Sleeping Children, it’s Me Jane for more on that experience).

So, after making such a fuss about hotel rooms and dramatically declaring that I would NEVER do that again, Kent found us a sweet little cottage out in the boonies in Courtenay. He knew I would be nervous about leaving the kids alone and so he made me look at all the cute pictures of drooping ferns and moss hanging off the roof, the cozy bedrooms, the piano, the full kitchen. It was adorable and lovely and I highly recommend it, don’t get me wrong, it’s just that it also looked like the perfect place for an axe-murderer to go on a rampage without anyone noticing. Our conversation went something like this:

 Kent: “I found us a great little cottage to stay in when we go to Courtenay. It’s out in the forest only a 5-8 minute drive to town and the kids are going to love it and there’s lots of room and a piano and…”

          Me: “Whoa. Back up the cottage bus. It’s WHERE?”

          Kent: “It’s a 5-8 minute drive from town and it’s in the forest and…”

Me: “What do you mean it is in the forest. We’re leaving the kids in the forest by themselves all night? What, are we Hansel and Gretel’s evil parents all of a sudden, abandoning our kids? ‘Don’t worry kids…we’ll be back…(evil laugh)…in the morning (diabolical laugh)…here’s a dry crust of bread…’ Are you crazy?”

Kent: “Don’t be hysterical. It’s a fully equipped cottage, they will have a phone, and Jacob will do a great job of babysitting. No one is abandoning anyone.

Me: “Except me (voice rising in pitch). I’m abandoning my kids. What if Jacob forgets to put Zoe to bed? What if he accidentally puts a fork in an electrical outlet? (sounding hysterical now). What if he can’t pronounce the words in Zoe’s story properly? What if Zoe gets an itchy bum in the night? What if a crazed psychopath stumbles across the cottage? Is Chucky real? WHAT IF…”

Kent: “Calm down. Everything will be fine. I’ve booked the cottage already anyway.”

 The conversation was over and I was left to get a grip on my irrational fears. I forced myself to imagine them happily sitting together in the cottage, doing a puzzle or colouring, drinking hot-chocolate together, Jacob smiling down at Zoe, she smiling up at him, Jason from Friday the 13th smiling in at the window…

At this point I started emailing everyone, telling them about our plans and ending with “they will be fine, right?” My ever-patient friends (who I’m sure were rolling their eyes) reassured me repeatedly.

Fast-forward to Saturday night in the cottage. Kent is right, I do love the cottage. It is as cute as can be. And, coincidentally, we know the neighbour – she lives right next door through the murky wet forest and knows the kids are there – they have her number etc. Perfect, I think irrationally to myself, she’ll be just out of range to hear their screams…

We feed the kids dinner (don’t want them choking on pizza while we’re out). I obsessively review how to use a cell-phone with Jacob (who probably knows how to build one from scratch), and quietly take him to one side to remind him to call 9-1-1 in an emergency BEFORE he calls us. He looks at us like we both have three heads and says ‘of course’.

I turn to Zoe, mentally preparing myself for her tears:

 Me:  “Now, honey, daddy and I are leaving now but we’ll be ba…”

 Zoe: “Yeak OK Bye” (turning back to Jacob and the game on the table)

 Me: “Make sure you liste…”

 Zoe: “Jacob, can we watch Pocohontos?”

  Me: “Ok then…”

 And we turn to leave.  At the party, I resist the urge to call until 8:15pm, all ready with a lecture/speech for Jacob about how it is bedtime for Zoe now and he mustn’t keep her up late. “She’s in bed already” he says. “Oh” I say. “Great!” Apparently I am not needed as the parent anymore. “Yeah, she wanted to go to sleep right after the movie ended so we brushed teeth and read stories and so everything is fine”. Subtext: I told you so, you spaz.

 I call a couple more times but really there is no need. Everything is absolutely fine, and I sense that Jacob is enjoying some peace and quiet without the parents to boss him around. And we had a great time at the party, too, especially as we didn’t have an exhausted overtired 8yr old to deal with at the end of the night.

 And so I survived the Night at the Cottage. I now have renewed faith in humanity, trust in my dear son’s abilities as a competent babysitter, and a sense of freedom at what this might mean: Movie nights? Evening walks? The door to possibilities has opened up before us. And when I woke up to clear skies and no more rain, I realized I had also weathered a pretty good storm in my own mind. Thank goodness that one has passed.

 But I suspect it is too soon to leave them alone while we go to Hawaii for a week. Maybe when he can drive. 

Thanks for reading!

Cheers,

Jane

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