Relieved. That’s the look on the faces of the family we’ve just left behind. The car is packed, full of toys, gadgets, oh and don’t forget those ‘two little darlings of yours’. A weekend away just isn’t complete without a toddler.
It all started out so innocently. Let’s catch up with our friends in Inverness. Why I would subject my friends to this, if I wanted to keep them as such was my first mistake? Anyway I set off on a three hour road trip from Glasgow to Inverness. The usual antics took place as I tried to appease Rocco Xavier, two, and bribe him with the promised land; a trip to McDonalds. His brother Paolo Felix, four, is my confidante as we shake our heads in unison, sighing ‘where did we get him from?’
Though I wouldn’t change Rocco for the world, and on the whole I find his naughty mischievous persona quite amusing at home – it’s a different story on tour. He’s got a twinkle in his eye as if he knows a secret, and although I’m being unashamedly biased he’s special, loveable and a downright rogue. At home this little character and his equally adorable but slightly more sensitive brother are a hoot. Paolo adopts the big brother role and quite cleverly steers his younger sibling away from this toy or that, using negotiating skills essential for the Peace Core, and all the while assuring his little brother his best interests are at heart. He’s the leader of the pack and a beautiful wee boy.
Enough gloating. That’s the way I see them but I’ve since learnt that’s not quite everyone else’s experience of them. I, a competent mother of two, decided to take them North to catch up with some friends. We’d moved to Inverness in Summer ’09 and spent two happy years and two very harsh winters in the Highlands. Having met some wonderful and vibrant friends here and an extra special child-minder in Mary, I was keen to get back up and see everyone. There could only be one place to stay and that was Jackie O’s house. It’s the type of house where everyone sits in the kitchen and doesn’t leave. It’s a home, it’s their home but as soon as you’re there it somehow feels like yours too. Well, that is until your two year old breaks a window. We’d only just arrived. And to think I’d stopped off at a park to tire them out – a preoccupation of mine. I’d nipped into the kitchen to russle up some tantalising beans on toast, when I was interrupted and informed of the vandalism taking place in the front room. My beloved, Rocco, had launched a toy off the window. Not the ideal start. Having been trained by C4’s Supernanny, who by the way doesn’t have any sprogs herself which is something I’m always suspect about, I explained to Rocco that there would be no throwing and that he’d been a bad boy to break the window, a status he repeats with some joy. I’m a bad boy, I’m mummy’s boy, mummy’s bad boy he says, a little phrase he knows gets me every time. If I can just get through the next hour or two and get them bathed and to bed without anymore calamities I’m doing well, and then at least I can start phoning round local glaziers. Paolo, always quick to come to the defence of Rocco under attack, explained that they were just seeing how bad they could be, ‘this is what baddies do’, he says.
To my surprise, as Jackie O had never been much of a dog-lover, the family were welcoming a new puppy into their home after years of persistent nagging from Jackie’s two teenage children. The arrival of the new chocolate lab was imminent and in came a beautiful little fur ball called Scout, named after the narrator of To Kill a Mocking Bird – made famous most recently by the Beckhams and their somewhat tacky choice of name.
The boys are going to love him in the morning, how cute I thought? And Paolo did, he stroked her and petted her and wanted to carry her like a baby. Rocco, on the other hand, saw this little napper as smaller and weaker and someone he could finally tower over, and much to our embarrassment he enjoyed taking a volley or two at the little pup. Like any new mother would, the pup’s new guardian watched over her like a lionness as we watched in horror as Rocco tried to throw all two stone of his weight about. I, Rocco’s lionness, didn’t want to believe that anyone could think that my own pup was anything other than cute. In disbelief the puppy was the star attraction and not my babies who once were. Like babies, puppies don’t stay cute for long. Only Mary, Rocco’s childminder who had looked after him since he was just five months old, looked at Rocco and saw the little bundle of joy I did. They loved each other and even a blinded mother like me could see this. I actually felt a bit guilty that we’d moved and I’d taken Rocco out of her life and his.
The potty training of Scout took precedence and when Scout peed and pooped so did Rocco. However Rocco started to take this quite literally and before I knew it I had a dirty protest on my hands and an awkward scenario in the lanscaped garden. Cif to the ready and no one would ever know. To accompany the lemon scented garden, I thought I’d introduce the boys to a spot of gardening and we’d water the plants. Watering cans to the ready, how was I to know that Paolo, not Rocco, would reach for the weedkiller and lovingly spread it over the pretty flowers. And if that wasn’t bad enough, Scout the precious new pup was poking her nose in it and attempting to eat the poisonous plant. Shrieking in horror, ‘what more damage could my two little treasures do?’ Well suffice to say I didn’t stay a minute longer to find out just how bad they could be.