Being a remote control mum can be great. I’ve been away for almost two weeks and things are ticking along quite nicely at home – despite the recent outbreak of Cold War hostilities with the loaded Russians. Richard has finally got the routine down pat, and the children usually have what they need every day (give or take the odd ‘forgotten’ PE kit – they have to sit out if they forget their kit, in an effort to get them to ‘take responsibility’, which just means that they ‘forget’ their kit whenever they can. Whatever happened to ‘well you’ll just have to do it in your vest and pants!’). I remember the important things – homework deadlines, school trips, dentist appointments, and usually Richard remembers to feed them etc. I call every few hours to micro-manage from a distance -‘Did you remember to sign them up for cricket? Have you sent that form in about the parents’ evening? Don’t forget to book tickets for Saoirse’s concert’ but recently he has been so on it my reminders are redundant. When I call they are all doing exactly what they are meant to be doing and Richard is either trying to finish his college work while the kids play or overseeing rigorous piano practice. They have finally achieved their goal of the last four years – jumping up and down on my nice prized Habitat leather sofa until the legs collapse – so Richard has banned them from watching TV on the grounds that there is nothing to sit on to watch it. After a few initial grumblings they have given up (what’s wrong with kids? Why don’t they just say they can sit on the floor?) and now when I call they are usually involved in a weird and wonderful role play game. Yesterday I phoned and spoke to Thady (who was hammering through a particularly ear-splitting and unharmonious rendition of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star on the piano) and in the background I could hear children chanting in an eerie way.
‘What are you doing?’ I asked when Saoirse finally deigned to come to the phone.
‘We’re playing Egyptian priests. Frank’s got grandma’s old dressing gown on, Orla is wearing your white dress and I’ve got my orange skirt and my Pharoah wig on. Bye!’
They are too busy to talk to me. I used to Skype but I’ve given up because even if I managed to get through I would end up staring at an empty kitchen. They would come to the screen for a few minutes, take it in turns to stick their faces as close to the camera as possible, have a fight about whose turn it was to put their thumb over the camera then wonder off to do something else. I would find myself sitting in my rented digs or some swanky international hotel staring at the dirty washing on my floor at home. Sometimes the dog (RIP Lulu) or the cat would wonder past and throw me a pitying look but mostly it was just an empty, untidy room. So now I just phone. If I call Richard’s mobile and one of the boys has got hold of it they press ‘busy’. Who wants to talk to their absentee mum when you could be playing minecraft? If Frank does answer the phone here’s how the conversation goes.
‘Hello – who’s that?’
‘Hi Frank! What you up to?’
‘Ooh! Is it good?’
‘How was school?’
Pause while I wait in vain for an elaboration of some sort. Nothing.
‘Can I go now?’
Maybe I’ll just stay on tour.