What do you do when you’ve got to take over childcare from your partner to look after a 7-year-old child on a normal working day in summer, and do some work yourself? And you don’t have that free, childcare service called parents or in-laws, which all Maltese use to the hilt to survive the three-month holiday if they are working parents themselves.
Well, this is what I did today:
1. Put junior in child booster seat and hit the road. Discuss your music collection. It’s a good way for your child to continue joining the dots about his parent. Mine now understands the important legacy of the Cure, Depeche Mode, Bowie and Joy Division. I need to get some more upbeat music in my car. And he wants a piano.
2. Sneak out for a morning swimming class. My son’s swimming progress has ground to a standstill on discovery of jellyfish. There are some great swimming instructors in Malta, like Miroslav who runs classes at the Fortina. You actually get an hour of peace while your child goes through the motions.
3. Pick up a book from Agenda if the child needs a reward for the effort. You get some air-conditioning relief and you can use the discount card.
4. Grab some mineral water to rehydrate on way back to the car. Sliema council has had this bright idea of turning most parking bays to residential parking, so you’re walking a fair distance, these days.
5. Head for the office and raid the stationery cupboard. There’s nothing like unexpected goodies – writing pad, coloured pencils and a gleaming new sharpener – to make a boring office look human. Kids this age also enjoy feeling grown-up and important. Just ensure they don’t end up locking themselves in the toilet.
6. Find a kids’ site with podcasts. Today’s choice was a great site called Storynory. Hook up junior to your laptop via your iPod headphones and you get to keep working. We got as far as chapter 7 of Alice in Wonderland. Just in time for the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party to kick in and remind us of food.
7. My office is in San Gwann on an unremarkable industrial estate, except for the excellent Golden Harvest bakery shop that serves anything from fresh ciabattas with whatever you want to ice-cream. And it’s open from 7 am to 7pm weekdays, and closes at 13.00hrs on Sundays. It’s worth remembering if you are looking for a good value pitstop with a hungry kid in tow, and need to collect some provisions for the evening. They also sell beer.
8. Second office shift. Your child needs some time to digest, so either switch back to the podcast, get cracking on the new book or do some drawing. People in the office can be inspirational for a portrait. In ou case, it was the opportunity for Mr Malta InsideOut to start to take shape (see below).
9. Visit a grandparent. Grandparents in Malta are often used as temporary or permanent child-carers by new parents. It’s not a service normally available to me as my father is luckily too busy living his own active life to provide this type of diversion.
10. Plan an event. My son’s birthday is next week. A child can get totally absorbed when it comes to selecting a potential present.
11. If you’re getting towards late afternoon, the sun is now gentle. Use whatever space you have for a run-around or story-telling. My son is a Playmobil fan: they acquire different personas with every loss or addition of a head piece or suit of armour.
12. Get the child to prepare tea. It helps with making sure that the food gets eaten later.
13. Settle down with a ‘feel good’ DVD. ‘Night at the Museum’ in our case, though we were going to go for ‘Flushed Away’. Kids love watching the same script, time and time again.
14. Shower and off to bed. Bed time reading – anything from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to a couple of Jack Prelutsky poems.
Survived, quite well, managed some work, and junior surprisingly not fractious, irritable or bored – despite being in the office with me, and having no particular mega activity planned. Just shows that kids can be obliging and adaptable. Not all offices would allow this, but it might be worth asking. After all, we’re never going to get summer holidays shortened here as our teachers like three month or more off. So something has to give…