“Hi, I’m Vladimir,” comes a vaguely familiar voice from downstairs in the hall. Youngest has just answered the door while we’re upstairs getting ready to go out, it’s Friday night and we’re late, as usual.
“Mummy, Mummy! You have to come and meet the new babysitter!” Youngest bounces into our bedroom. “He’s from Russia and he can’t speak very good English! He’s never seen a DVD before!”
When I get downstairs I find that Vladimir bears a striking resemblance to our eldest son, but I shake hands with him anyway. It's a brilliant idea. Youngest responds so well to role-play, it’s one of the few things he does respond to. So when we asked Eldest if he would consider babysitting his two younger brothers for the first time, while we go out to a do at the school, I hit upon the sneaky trick of getting Eldest to go out the front door, stand on the step, ring the bell and come in again as ‘the babysitter’. But I can’t take credit for the Russian bit, that's his own idea: a brainwave.
Those who know Youngest in real life, or have been loyally following this blog (she knows who she is and I promise to pay for your cappuccino next time. Large, right?) will be familiar with Youngest’s penchant for pretending. Remember the goat? when he said nothing but ‘maaa!’ for two days and I had to put him to bed in a shed?
Well, the other day he managed to be two different people - at once. He was simultaneously a three year-old version of himself and a teenager called Jake (don’t ask me). It was confusing to say the least. Every time I thought I was addressing Jake, it turned out I was addressing the three year-old and vica versa. Until I discovered the genius wheeze of getting Jake to persuade Youngest to do all the things I couldn’t get him to do (are you following this, I will be testing you at the end, over that cappuccino).
It went like this:
“You really MUST get in the bath now! I’m not going to ask you again. It’s getting late and your hair really smells. It really is time for a wash.”
“I don’t want to! I won’t! You can’t make me!” etc. etc. Whine. Whinge. Procrastinate.
“Please could you help me get my naughty little three year-old here into the bath? I would be most grateful.”
“Oh yes, of course, happy to help,” says Jake (who is actually Youngest…still following?) and then Youngest jumps straight in the bath because Jake has told him to. And then Jake has to be called upon to get Youngest out of the bath, when I’m unable to do it, and then Jake manages to get him up stairs to his bedroom and even encourages him to brush his teeth (his own teeth, in fact). It really worked, even if it did feel mildly unsettling. Is this how schizophrenia begins? I wondered.
So, when we go out on Friday evening leaving Eldest (I mean Vladimir) looking after Youngest and Middle One for the first time, he is also minding a three year-old and Jake. Quite a houseful.
And we only paid him a tenner.