I have never had much luck minding Other People's Kids (OPKs). That's an understatement. Mine is a record of disasters.
Take the case of my son's little three-year-old mate, Tristen. Yes it was plain stupid. We should never have let the kids play there in the first place. We were renovating and the yard was strewn with timber and rumble. But then Tristen was the kind of kid who would find a feather and trip over it! This fateful day he found a brick. Splat on the head. Blood gushing everywhere. Much howling, panic and chaos.
In my characteristic reaction to a crisis (especially where blood is involved) I began screaming hysterically. Quite obviously I missed my calling as a nurse. Guilt-stricken, I rushed the injured over the road to his mum who was known to be Cool, Calm and Collected (CCC). Although hugely pregnant with Number Three, she was serenely composed, pacified us both and whisked the little fella off to Casualty for stitches.
Undeterred by this mishap, some months later I invited Tristen to stay over. After agonising over what to serve my fussy toddlers I settled on fish. The instant the dish was placed before him, we watched in horror as Tristen's face swelled and turned pink, his eyes puffed, his throat constricted and he emitted the most unholy wail. Tristen was allergic and of all the foods in the culinary world, I had to choose fish!
Then there were the Rambo Brothers; tough little dudes in black t-shirts with spiked hair and faces a mass of freckles. The youngest Rambo had met with misfortune and split open his forehead the previous week. The stitches had been removed that very morning. I volunteered to take the gang to the park. Well of course they would be careful as boys always are!
Whack in the head with a swing. Cut opens. Copious blood. Much howling, panic and chaos. Rush home to CCC Mum who philosophically declares the stitches were taken out too soon anyway.
Out of luck with boys, we opted for a sedate Sunday picnic with our well-behaved twin nieces. Usually a health food fanatic, this day I relented and magnanimously shouted chips, coke and ice-cream. I wish the shyest little girl had shouted before she vomited in the new Volvo. Inspired by her sister, the other joined in just as we pulled up outside their home.
It was a fine piece of timing as CCC Mum quickly came to the rescue with bucket and dishcloth while I fled retching and shrieking in the other direction.
With my track record I hardly qualify to give advice however as popular wisdom states, we learn best from our mistakes. With that in mind I offer the following tips to all eager novice minders.
You are entering dangerous territory. Never underestimate an OPK's ability to sustain injuries by splitting his/her head, breaking an arm or getting attacked by sand flies, mosquitoes or cane toads. OPKs are prone to vomit without warning and possess strange medical conditions like allergies and inexplicable loss of speech when he/she wants a wee-wee. They tend to blubber incessantly at 3 am "I want my mummy".
Therefore never be complacent about safety precautions. Here are the rules…
Allow OPKs to play only in padded rooms.
Dress OPKs in protective suits and helmets.
Attach a monitor to OPKs which bleeps when vomitting is pending.
Never feed OPKs.
Never let OPKs stay overnight.
However, if you relent on the sleep-over, demand a complete medical history and legal disclaimer for offloading parents.
If all this sounds daunting, do as I do. I have given up minding OPKs. I leave the job to Mums certified Triple C.