Indoors/Outdoors

Its been ‘the worst summer in living memory’ according to my host father, which is kind of crappy. We hardly get one sunny day, let alone two in a row. Though, after all the complaining I’ve heard over the years about the Irish weather, I have to say that I would have believed that this weather was typical. I am sometimes tempted, when people complain, to say, ‘Is it the worst, really? Or is it just that all summers seem better with the benefit of hindsight and nostalgia? Has your brain just erased all the rainy days, and simultaneously morphed all the sunny days into one glorious summer memory to help you get through the constant bad weather, like a woman’s body secretes a hormone to make you forget all the pain of child birth to ensure you love your baby and get pregnant again?’ But, obviously, I just nod and say, ‘well, that’s a shame.’
Anyway, the constant bad weather, typical or not, has meant many days stuck inside the house for me and the girls. Every time you stick them in front of the TV and do housework, you think, ‘well, next time, when its sunny, I’ll get them to the beach’. But, of course, the next day, its raining again. Its not only the guilt of so many hours of TV watching that gets me down, but just being stuck inside the house all day and night. Everyone gets on everybody else’s nerves, all the washing is hung out on every available indoor surface, and the mess in each room just gets worse and worse and worse. To make things worse, all last week, my eldest charge keeps waking up and saying she wanted a ‘pyjama day’. This is essentially what it sounds like. A day where she sits around all day long in her pj’s and watches TV. The first time she requested it, I thought, well, maybe she’s tired. The second day, I thought, well, maybe she just enjoyed it yesterday, and the next day she would be bored and want to get out of the house. The third day, I thought, I’ll drag your pj’s off by force and dress you in your father’s house-painting clothes before I let you keep me hostage in this house for another 24 hours.

See? PJ’s just make you look stupid.

One day last week, we went to an indoor play area in Cork called ‘Supernova’, which was a true saving grace, a huge indoor climbing area with slides, bouncy castles, ball rooms, ladders, roundabouts etc. Not only could the kids go wild, but because it was only for kids, there was no expectation (or demands) that I get in and play with them as well. I could sit down and read my book, glancing up occasionally to make sure that there were no bloody noses or screaming/crying kids that belonged to me. I have to say, that was more what I had expected when I agreed to be a child-minder. I think one of the reasons a lot of au pairs tend to be younger is that they are meant to be (or usually are) more of a playmate for the kids than a minder. Playmate can be more fun, but it is also much, much more exhausting.
The day afterwards, despite the horrible weather, we took a trip to an open farm, because I couldn’t bear to be in the house for another day. My eldest charge complained and complained and complained, but she ended up having a great day. The farm was fantastic because it had so many bizarre and different attractions all in the same place, some indoors and some outdoors. There was an adventure playground, rope climbing area, a very sad looking camel (whose hump was drooping – not the most happy looking sight), llamas, a maze, a fairy fort, ducks, goats and marmosets to feed, animals to pet, pedal go-carts etc. I even had a snake put around my neck, which was the most terrifying thing I have ever done. I swore I would never do such a thing. It was awful, awful, awful. I could feel it contracting its body like it wanted to strangle me (Dad says that’s just how it moves. I don’t believe him. It couldn’t move anywhere, it was being held still by the farm worker. It wanted to strangle and eat me, I know).
Today, however, was a beautiful, beautiful day. Blue skies and lovely, warm sun. I took the girls to do some shopping, which was necessary, but I told them after lunch we could go to the beach. Both girls were very excited and the eldest asked if we could go to Inchydoney, which is the closest, nicest beach. I said, of course we could, delighted that she had agreed to come, as I had expected arguments. I was not out of the woods, however, as 5 minutes later she told me she didn’t want to leave the house. I told her that was tough and we were going to the beach. She said she didn’t want to. I said it was crazy to want to stay indoors on the first truly lovely day we’ve had in ages. She said she didn’t care. I said, well, your sister and I want to go, so we outnumber you, and we’re going. That kept her quiet for a bit. Then she said, ‘Why can’t we just get out the paddling pool?’ Of course, as soon as her younger sister heard the eldest suggest something, that was what she wanted to do. ‘Paddling pool! Paddling pool!’
I was now outnumbered, and decided sitting out in the garden in the sun was almost as good as being at the beach.
But, when we got home, the eldest girl disappeared inside the house. So, I did various chores, figuring she would come and find me when she got bored. I decided that if she desperately wanted to be in the house all day, then that was her problem and I wasn’t going to beg her to come out. But, as I went about my chores, I noticed that not only did she not want to be outside in the sun, she had gone round and closed all the curtains, so that she couldn’t even see the sun on the inside. This seemed to be making the whole ‘not going outside’ thing into more a ‘sun-hating’ thing, which, in my current mood, I couldn’t really understand. Once I had gotten her sister set up with the paddling pool, I went upstairs to find her. She was sitting on her window sill, hidden behind her curtains, with a book on her lap, talking to herself. This seemed more than a little odd, and a bit sad, so I went to talk to her to make sure she was ok and offered her a pancake, which she accepted. I said if she was tired, she could sit and watch a video, “Matilda”, if she wanted. She was very enthusiastic about this, until I said that I wouldn’t be sitting down and watching it with her again (I have now seen this video upwards of 20 times. These days I don’t even get to watch the blasted thing, we draw all the curtains, so its like a cinema, get some snack food, put on the video, and then the eldest girl proceeds to talk over the top of the entire film). She wanted to know why, to which I was tempted to reply that I couldn’t bear to see the hideous thing again, but instead, I reiterated my previous point that it was insane to be indoors. I said I would be outside, reading a book in the sun. “Matilda” was no longer that interesting for her, and she decided to come out and cut various plants with her mother’s gardening tools. The Little One saw this and decided she needed to do something similar, so I gave her the scissors and she cut the grass.
So, in the end, I got my afternoon in the sun. We decorated the grave of the old cat (it died yesterday, which was very sad, but there are so many other cats in the house, that it doesn’t feel that strange), tried to catch butterflies, played on the swings, the slide, looked at the apples, swung on the gates. It was a wonderful afternoon (as it always is when I manage to convince the eldest girl to get out of the house), so I’m hoping for sun tomorrow and the strength to be able to convince the eldest to go to the beach. There’s only two weeks left of the summer holidays, so I can’t believe that she wants to waste all of that inside watching TV, but I’m not putting it past her. The one thing I can assure you is that I am not spending that amount of time inside watching TV, so if worst comes to worst, I’ll be setting up my own picnic blanket in the backyard for sun-bathing and reading.

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