It’s half-term and my three-year-old nephew Max is coming to stay. Max is the apple of my eye but I still like to think that I’m a firm aunty – able to say ‘no’, when he reaches for a gingerbread man in Caffe Nero.
The Husband, on the other hand, is a soft touch, and it took Max all of about two minutes to realise this. It’s no longer, ‘Aunty Katy, can I have a gingerbread man before lunch?‘
Oh no, he heads straight to Uncle Pushover and minutes later, re-appears, grinning like the cat that got the cream – tell-tale crumbs scattered around his mouth.
I left The Husband in charge of getting Max dressed for the morning and he managed to put his shoes on the wrong way round (Max’s shoes that is, not his own – although that isn’t beyond the realms of possibility either).
Having Max to stay is a lot of fun. From the minute he wakes up at 6am to the minute he goes to bed, his conversation is one long series of zany questions.
‘Why do dogs have bones in their body?’
‘Can submarines live in reservoirs?’
‘What would happen if Buzz Lightyear went all the way through space and kept on going?’
‘Where do you buy your multi-grain bread from?’
‘Have all the apartments got taps like your kitchen tap?’
He also has a strange condition called Barry Scott Tourette’s – where he is prone to suddenly shouting out ‘Barry Scott’ at random, usually in a public setting. Given my recent dealings with the hate-mailing Barry Scott impersonator, the irony of this does not escape me.
My sister had drilled it into me that Max needed to go to the toilet just before he goes to bed, in order to avoid to any nighttime accidents.
‘Now, you need to go to the toilet before bed,’ I said, having overseen bath-time, pyjama-dressing and teeth-brushing.
‘I’ve tried,’ he said. ‘But nothing would come out.’
‘Can you try again?’ I pleaded, having visions of my pocket-sprung Habitat mattress being stained for ever.
‘Okay, Katy,’ he sighed, with an air of world-weariness.
That night, there was a wail at 1am.
Alarmed, I scurried down the corridor. ‘What’s wrong?!’
‘I can’t see Big Ted,’ he said. Big Ted is a big teddy bear that I’ve had since I was 2 years old. He was safely ensconced under the sheets next to Max (you can see his head in the picture).
‘He’s right next to you!’ I said.
Two hours later, and there was another wail. I hared down the corridor like a scullery maid.
‘I’d like some freshly-squeezed orange juice,’ he said.
I didn’t have any oranges and I didn’t have a juicer. I fetched him some water instead.
4am. Another wail. Back down the corridor I went.
‘What is it now?!’ I said.
‘I need my curls flattening,’ said Max, patting his hair.
Curls flattening? Freshly squeezed orange juice? This was like dealing with Little Lord Fauntleroy.
The next afternoon, Max said he wanted a tuna sandwich for lunch. We bought him a tuna sandwich but it wasn’t up to Fauntleroy’s exacting standards. Apparently it had cucumbers in: slimy, green things that his delicate palate just couldn’t contend with.
‘Can’t you just pick them out?’ hissed the husband.
Driving frantically around Leeds, looking for another tuna sandwich (sans cucumber), it slowly dawned on me that far from being the firm but fun aunty, I had lost all control.
Later, I phoned my sister to tell her of Fauntleroy’s demands.
She was flabbergasted.
‘He’s running rings round you,’ she said. ‘You need to GET FIRM.’
His lordship arrives tomorrow and this time I’m determined. There’ll be no flattening of curls in the night; no thoughts of feverishly juicing ripe Valencian oranges in the early hours, and certainly no careful removal of cucumber from Fauntleroy’s dolphin-friendly tuna steak sandwiches.
He’ll be lucky if he gets a bowl of gruel before being parceled off to bed early.
You might wonder how I’m going to resist these angelic blue eyes.
But NO-MESS aunty’s back in town. And this time, she’s getting tough.