Sarah's away on business at the moment so I'm entirely in charge this week. I should probably take advantage of the freedom to act without veto by getting all the kids jobs down a mine and then organising a poker night to celebrate. To be honest, though, I'm too tired. Last week was pretty hectic - Sarah had lots of preparation to do for the trip and the children had an unusually busy social calendar. I seemed to spend most of my time rushing children backwards and forwards between clubs, activities and birthday parties.
Fraser's own bowling party went well (in a dark, deafening sort of way). One boy did bring along six sharpened pencils, specially so he could be Wolverine, but thankfully we de-clawed him before there was a major disemboweling incident.
Strangely, half the kids at school seem to have been born at the end of May. After months without any, we've had four birthday parties to attend in a few days and, somehow, I keep returning with more party bags than children. Why I get the spares is a mystery. I think I must just look like a guy who could always do with an extra bottle of bubble mixture and a balloon. Anyhow, the upshot is that we've collected an awful lot of little bags full of sweets recently. I have no adult back-up but the kids are running round the house, pumped up on sugar and waving about all kinds of plastic tat.
There may be screaming as well but I have party blowers stuffed in my ears to block out the noise...
Ho hum. I should get the kids to help me with the household chores so I can conserve my energy until the cavalry has returned and recovered from jet-lag. Unfortunately, it would almost certainly be more effective leaning out a window and singing, in the hope a host of woodland creatures hop in and do the washing up. Even if I did manage to get the kids to do a satisfactory job on the housework, I'd use up twice the amount of energy training them than I would doing the cleaning myself. Of course, I'd be better off in the future, but this isn't the best week for long-term planning.
By the time Marie is the age Fraser is now, I'm sure I'll have the kids drilled into a crack team of hygiene specialists, capable of abseiling from a helicopter to scrub toilets. As things stand, however, I'm still getting used to the idea that Fraser really is old enough to make himself useful and that with a bit of instruction, he might be capable of such advanced tasks as emptying the lounge bin and cleaning the bathroom sink.
I suppose what I'd find particularly handy would be being able to send him round the corner to buy some bread. There's one quiet road to cross and another with a pelican crossing, so the undertaking should be perfectly feasible - I just haven't yet managed to shove him out the door with a pound coin and an order for a loaf of medium-sliced own-brand wholemeal. This is partly because he's bound to argue that he prefers white bread but mainly because I haven't had the courage. The list of potential disasters is almost endless. I'd spend the whole time he was gone visualising catastrophe.
It wouldn't be so bad but Lewis and Marie are worse than me:
Fraser comes out from school twenty minutes later than Lewis and walks home by himself. Last Thursday, I started to become concerned when I'd been expecting him for a quarter of an hour and he still hadn't showed. That's a long time to be hanging around.
"Get your shoes on," I said to the other two. "We need to go and see where Fraser's got to."
"Maybe he's in Heaven," said Marie helpfully.
"Erm, well, let's hope that..."
Lewis chipped in. "Perhaps he's been run over by an ambulance."
"I'm not..." I began to reply but Marie cut me off.
"Or maybe he's been eaten by a bear!"
Any other day, I could have dismissed this suggestion out of hand but it just so happened that Fraser's class was meant to be on a visit to the zoo. I hadn't been too worried until then but I had a sudden vision of Fraser being mauled by a panda and then flattened by the responding emergency vehicle. It wasn't good.
"The bus is probably late back from the zoo," I said, trying to remain calm. "Get your shoes on and we'll go and find out.""
"Why's he at the zoo?" asked Marie.
"He's on a trip... Hang on, didn't you know he was at the zoo?"
"Then why did you think...? Oh, never mind. Let's go." I wasn't in the mood to explain that, under normal circumstances, the chances of Fraser being eaten by a bear in Edinburgh were more remote than being struck by lightning or having an aeroplane land on his head. Besides, I knew it would only end in Marie gleefully proposing a scenario involving some cataclysmic combination of aircraft, storms, carnivorous wildlife, paramedics, X-Men and a totally enormous spider.
I didn't want to go there.
Lewis was already out of the door and at the gate, peering along the road. I finally got Marie outside but then realised she didn't have a coat. As I turned back to fetch one, Lewis shouted out, "I can see him!"
"Thank goodness," I said. "Back inside, Marie."
I ushered her back through the door again and went down to the gate to confirm the sighting. I scanned the whole way along the street. Twice. I couldn't see him.
"I thought I saw him," said Lewis. "It might have been someone else."
There wasn't anyone else. The street was empty. "OK," I said, rolling my eyes. "We're going again, Marie. Out you come."
She'd started taking her shoes off and was wanting to watch something. I had to threaten to withdraw dessert privileges in order to get her outside once more. Then I grabbed her coat, locked the door and headed for the gate. We got there about the same time as Fraser.
I was relieved but surprised - he was sauntering along and hadn't had time to get all the way from the other end of the street since I'd looked. I had to suspect he'd seen me first and hidden behind a wheelie bin in an effort to freak me out.
It had worked.
I gave him a hug and checked him for panda bites and tyre marks but it turned out that the bus had simply been late getting back from the zoo. At least I think that's what happened. I didn't get the chance to quiz Fraser for long because Marie and Lewis started loudly demanding my keys so they could get inside to the telly...
So, yes, it might be a month or two before I can pluck up the nerve to send Fraser to the shops. Although, now I think of it, the bathroom sink is in a bit of a state. Maybe I should work myself up gently to giving him more responsibility and independence by teaching him to use a damp cloth.
I mean, what's the worst that could happen?
Actually, maybe I'll wait till Sarah gets back...
Yours in a woman's world,