Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Witching hour on Planet Baby: a play with four scenes

Am I touching a nerve?
My lovelies, tell me, do any of you have a spare bottle of crisp, chilled riesling to share with me? I’m craving one right now. None in the fridge, only a bottle of bubbles and I don’t trust myself with that alone. It could get messy. And it can’t. Because I am still responsible for the pixies. Hmm, Mr PB is still at work. At 8 pm. Hmm, after the witching hour, no, make that hours, from hell. How many of you are nodding along out there? Anyone feeling my pain?

The day had been pedestrian enough. India and Sam at home with me and Joshie at school. Just the neighbours’ boy popping in and out all day, to play with India intermittently as their moods and squabbles allowed. Nothing unusual there. We even managed to keep the front door deadlocked all day so Quicksilver Sam didn’t make a getaway attempt from PB. We collected Joshie from school and then the usual afternoon commenced with the pixies watching the last half of ‘Play School’ while munching on muesli bars and Cruskits. My parents visited for a while and all was fine on our little planet.Then at 5.30 pm, the witching hours started.

Here’s a summary of the little play acted out on Planet Baby this evening.

Scene One: Dinnertime

Actors: Joshua, India and me (Sam in bed having his night time bottle and Mr PB at work)


Variously at the pixies’ table, on top of the pixies’ table, at the ‘big table’, on the sitting room couch, on the lounge room couch, in the pixies’ bedroom, in the bathroom, in our bedroom, on the verandah…(so are you starting to get the picture?)


India was content with having fish fingers and chips for dinner (her request as it was “her turn”). Joshua was not. Much protestation. Tears. Joshua resolved to eat his dinner.

Someone poked someone and then it started. Squabbling. Tears. Pixies running to me to “tell on you”. I sent them back to their table. Repeat performance of actions.

I requested Joshua to sit at the big table so they could both eat in peace. Joshua fled to his room, howling because he didn’t like getting into trouble. India started crying because well, I forget why. Two children crying.

Sam started laughing. Joshua leapt into his cot to play with him. I pulled him out. He cried. I started, yes, yelling at the pixies to “Sit down at your table and eat your dinner!” Repeat performance ad infinitem for about an hour.

Oh, and then there was the ‘dessert squabble’ as they didn’t want to share one tub of Frûche. Many tears and much fleeing to the bedroom. Arguments. Eventually resolved by sharing. Grudgingly.

Followed by plenty of ‘mucking around’. I was ‘busy’ in the bedroom, listening to Sam laughing. Hmm, not asleep. And no Mr PB.

Scene Two: Teeth cleaning

Actors: As above


Variously in the bathroom, outside the bathroom, in our bedroom and in the pixies’ bedroom.


I cleaned India’s teeth. Joshua was still eating his dessert. I waited patiently for him to finish eating. India decided she wanted more dessert. I protested that her teeth had been cleaned. She wailed. I was exhausted. My PND was hitting home hard. No Mr PB in range. I succumbed. I was picking my battles tonight. She started eating again.

I cleaned Joshua’s teeth. India was still eating. It was now 7 pm. I agreed to take her toothbrush to the bedroom to clean them there.

Scene Three: Skylarks

Actors: As above

Setting: The pixies’ bedroom


I walked into their bedroom to discover a mess. Everywhere. As usual. Muttering under my breath as they ignored my entreaties to assist, I scurried around, collecting clothes to put in their open drawers and throwing their blankets back on their beds. I discovered they’d been playing with ‘Hungry, Hungry Hippos’. Are any of you familiar with it? 

See those pesky little balls?
There should have been 24 little balls. Make that 23 as one went AWOL months ago. There were 21. Hmm, two unaccounted for. The kind of thing Quicksilver Sam would find on his cruising travels tomorrow. Hmm, a potential choking, make that death, hazard. I scoured the floor. No pesky white balls in sight. No assistance from the pixies who were ‘mucking around’. Maybe they had rolled under Joshie’s bed.

I upended the heavy mattress, leaning it against the wardrobe. The pixies pounced on it, using it as a springboard to fly across the room. The mattress fell and smashed the plastic fitting on the bed lamp attached to Joshie’s bed. Oh, and the new globe broke. Hmm, I was tired, irritated and still no Mr PB in sight. Oh, and did I mention I was starving as well? I ferreted around under his bed, pulling out about 5,000 of the pixies’ artworks. No balls. Hmm, not happy, Jan. Then I found one hidden away. One more to find. I was too exhausted to bother looking for the last one.

The pixies were becoming increasingly ratty and I started bellowing at them. Most unusual for me. But I had had enough. There was more carrying on. The pixies refused to let go of the mattress. After much arguing and heaving, I finally managed to prise it off them and land it onto the bed. At this point, I was SO OVER IT. I then did something most uncharacteristic and smacked their little Pull-ups-padded bottoms. Torrents of tears followed. I prised India’s lips apart and cleaned her teeth. She spilt the water all over the carpet. And you know what? I didn’t care. I kissed them and sternly admonished them not to even consider leaving their beds and to go to sleep immediately.

Scene Four: In our bedroom

Actors: Just me. Older pixies quiet and Sam finally asleep. Mr PB still at work.

Précis: I sat down at the computer and started typing…

Hmm, it’s 9.30 pm. I’m starving. And exhausted. Still no Mr PB. And no wine...

PS Two days later, I found the missing white ball. Just as Sammy was putting it in his mouth...


  1. Ok Jane, that is tough. As the queen of spending month after month home alone with children, in particular, a handy war which broke out in Afghanistan which kept my husband away from 4 children under 6 for 9 months - that's about as close to your scenario i can get.
    My tips - you eat dinner with the children, everyone at the big table & no matter what the headache, PMT, husbandless - if you have the smile & happy attitude (fake it) it will get you through dinner well. My 4 have always eaten at the dinner table, one seat apart, so no one can touch & i'm RIGHT THERE so no peas can be flicked & so on.
    If you miss your husband, you just have to go with it, say "you know what guys, daddy is still at work providing for us, so i can be here all day with you, but think how happy i will be after we've all had a good night's sleep" - see it sounds loving, kind, maternal, but it's technically blackmail, with your personal rest as the bribe.
    Can i give you one final shock - our children very rarely get dessert, now i sound like i'm giving them nothing to live for but they are really good at not asking for anything & really, how many desserts are sugar free - icecream to natural sugar in fruit, it only winds them up again.
    Oh i've never ever had witching hour in our home . . . really, amazing, i used to bathe my little ones around 4p.m., then they'd be fresh for another round of play (they were never really interested in television, no, we're not Amish) & they just had dinner, no snacks, no afternoon tea, no dessert, nothing. They never even knew what morning tea was until they started preschool. We're not mean, it just works for us. Our guys are easy but man, i worked at making life very simple, knowing i'm only my own for such long chunks.
    All the best, it will smooth out, sure some days are crazy, but tell them what is happening (dinner in 15 minutes, dinner in 5 minutes, dinner now) & keep at what is acceptable. I used to do that for everything, going out, baths, bedtime, so no one had that "what, i'm not ready" procrastination - trust me, with tweens, they are so vague & unprepared, all over again.
    Ahhhh, hope you gave your husband a big hug when he finally got home, love Posie

  2. Oh Jane!! I completly hear you and trust me have been there done that and often- not by my choice- end up back there. My hub has only just got back home from work- this also happens at least 3 nights a week I am flying solo- this is the worst time of the day for me- I am a sufferer of Chronic Fatigue and I know just how difficult it can be to cope with it all some nights!! I think you have done well- it is over now and you need to go get something to eat and do something that u love for a bit of time to "re-charge" - thinking of u ~ courtney xxoo

  3. Oh dear. Seriously there is no wine? You gotta join a wine club and get it delivered!
    It's very sweet of you to wait for Mr PB to have tea but really, I couldn't last that long. It sounds like a rotten evening on PB. The great thing about kids though is they wake up all sleepy headed the next morning and hungry for Mummy cuddles and we forget about the witching hour - until the next time.

  4. Wow... are you sure you weren't watching this unravel at my house last night? To make matters worse I know there will be a repeat performance tonight... Oh happy days! These are the happy days too... well that's what everyone keeps telling me... makes me wonder what's around the corner?? Lx

  5. Oh Jane, I groaned with you, laughed with you, nodded with you....I think most mums and homes have some resemblance to the planet PB that you describe. Hope that Mr PB read your mind and came home with that chilled bottle of Riesling, or at least a big hug? Hope tomorrow brings lots of smiles and perfectly behaved children. X

  6. I can't completely nod my head with you on this one, as I only have one child. No squabbles etc. to deal with yet.
    But teaching a class of 14 year old teenagers sounds similar. I remember regularly saying to myself that 3.30pm would eventually arrive.
    Any chocolate in the house. a good substitute for wine I think.

  7. we call it 'peak hour' when its just go go GO !!!
    Love your blog Jane - Well done xx

  8. I'm solo parenting a couple of day a week for the foreseable future and it's hard. I have to remind myself that in every household with pre-schoolers the same thing is happening and that my kids are completely normal (even if I'm not).

    The thing that saves us is eating together at the table (or breakfast bar) - if the husband is not home by 6pm then he's eating alone! Same applies to me if I'm late home from work.

    I'm hearing you and I'm glad to see that you finally ate and got wine before bed!!

  9. Oh, ladies! Thanks for all your support. Just when I needed it.

    Posie, you are an amazing and compassionate woman to find the time in the middle of all your domesticity to write such a long comment to me. Unbelievable. I am fascinated by your take on life. Thanks for the tips. I might give some of them a try (if my PND-addled brain can remember).

    Oh, Courtney, I'm sorry to hear you're doing it tough as well. I had no idea you suffer from CF. We really must arrange to meet up for lunch or something one day and have a proper chat.

    Ah, Deb, I agree, no wine = not good. We didn't even have any cask wine we use for cooking ☺. The wine club idea is brilliant but not possible given the current single income situation. In fact, even one bottle is mostly an unaffordable indulgence. Hmm.

    As for waiting for Mr PB, it's actually another consequence of my PND. After a long day on PB, I rarely have the energy to cook for us. We do it together occasionally but most of the time he cooks dinner. A good man indeed. Oh, and the pixies had forgotten about it by this morning.

    Oh, Laura - know you are not alone!

    Jackie, Mr PB works in the Cadbury factory so he brought home handfuls for me to scoff as I lined up my riesling!

    And thanks, Kate. So funny to meet up in Blogland - school seems another lifetime ago!

    Oh, and I still haven't found that white ball yet. And the water on the carpet didn't leave a stain. The bed lamp is still broken...J x

  10. Thanks, Ange. That sounds a good plan. J x

  11. MR PB works at the Cadbury Factory!!!!! Is that not every childs dream.....

    Anyway, I had a similar evening at my house last night. Me alone with children, sans husband who is in Brisbane on a business trip... The evening began with a horror witching hour and culminated with me treading on a plastic drill bit, squealing with pain, falling over and ripping all the skin off my forearm on a very dangerous tonka truck and bursting into tears on the baby's floor. Finally got it together and got them both to bed and then drank 3 beers. I don't even like beer! Thinking of you and glad to see that you got your glass of therapy in the end!!! Now to re-read Posie's comment and take some notes!

  12. Rough day at the office Jane! Eating early and all together at the table (usually without Stephen) works best for us. I just pop Stephen's in the microwave when he gets home. So the kids just have to eat what I've cooked (I would only let them choose what's for dinner if's their birthday!). And we don't usually do dessert, unless we have guests. After dinner it's straight in the bath. Actually, Posie's idea of bathing before dinner has worked really well for us too at times, but Griff just gets so messy that he really needs a wash after tea...

    My final thought (and I hope this is not too controversial) and I can't be certain but in the photo it looks as though the hungry hungry hippo ball is probably too small to kill Sam if he put it in his mouth... Just a thought - it's got to be big enough to block his airway.

    Just one more day till the weekend. Make sure you organise some time off again!

    x Sarah

  13. I wish witching hour were a bit calmer here, Sarah. It sounds like you have it sorted. Unfortunately, I don't have the energy with my PND to prepare dinner for Mr PB and me. And I wouldn't want to eat what the pixies eat (a story for another post). I only give them two choices of meals I want to offer. It's just that they can be painful and often argue over which choice they want. They only get dessert such as yoghurt if they have finished their dinner.

    You may well be right about the ball but the worrier in me doesn't want to take the risk. And yes, some more 'Jane time' is on order! J x


Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, you gorgeous soul. You've just made my day! J x

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