My name is Mary Kippenberger and I am not 35 anymore.

It wasn’t the child who wondered why my skin didn’t fit. It wasn’t being directed to sit in a chair for the family reunion photograph. It wasn’t our eligibility to use ‘elderly parking’ at Pak n Save Porirua that did it.

It was two small, beautifully behaved children and five long days that have brought me to my tired confession.

It is Sunday morning, five days after Emily and Alice’s parents flew off to Bali and eight days before they return. It is 11:20 am. We have eaten, fed pets, washed dishes, read books. We have drawn, stickered, scissored and glued our way through a magazine mountain and now I am watching as they wander up the hill to play with their cousins.

If I drank coffee, now would be the moment; instead, I might just have a wee lie down.

Eight more days, nine more sleeps. Highlighted pink instructions plaster the fridge at Emily and Alice’s house. Spectacles dangle as Peter and I decipher the rules of lunches at kindy versus lunches at school, bedtimes, bath times, homework times, dinner times, reading times, swimming lessons, play dates, who picks up whom from where and for why.

I talk myself through the day. A low sort of mumbling mutter, I think I’ve started shuffling. I definitely dither. Peter’s brow furrows as he tries to tame golden tresses. Finally hats are secured, sunscreen smeared, bags packed, water bottles filled and I farmbike Emily to the over-the-road cousins.

The eight-seater carriage awaits, time to buckle her in. My great well-endowed self is forced to lean over the slender child; that very same wellendowed self that once set off a public loo hand dryer just by walking out of the stalls. Emily could suffocate. With one hand I try to balance the stupid slidey-in things. If they don’t match they ‘aint gonna click’. Once precariously balanced I then have to heave the other end so they can meet. Nothing meets. It’s a conspiracy.

I have hardly recovered from the trauma when I find myself at the end of the school day and I have arrived to pick up various members of the whanau. Kindergarten Alice shoots off to find her sister. The roll call begins … Hamish you’re with me, can you get your sister please, where’s Alice, can someone find Alice, Danielle and Hayden you’re catching the bus to mum’s work, where’s James, has anyone seen James, where’s Alice, have we got Alice, so who have we got, Hamish, Rebecca, Emily excellent, Rebecca I’m taking you to swimming lessons, can you get Alice for me darling, thank you, where’s James, has any body seen James? Hamish, can you check by the gates, the pool, the field. No luck?

I’ll ask the principal, I can’t find James. You can’t find James? No, I can’t find James. The principal calls to the teacher, have you seen James? No, I haven seen James; have you tried the pool? Yes we’ve tried the pool. The teacher calls to a child … have you seen James? No, I haven’t seen James. The school scatters in search of James. Faces concerned, breath bated, my heart starts its thud, my imagination sensibly concludes … HE’S BEEN KIDNAPPED.

Oh no, wait a minute; Sarah told me he’s going with Liam to cricket. As you were everybody.

I’m off now for my nice wee lie down. Matt and Florence are taking the kids for a picnic and I will wait happily for their running hug return.

I do have to take my hat off and lift all my chins up to the grandparents out there who are the full-time carers. Much respect. Important work.

I have eight days and nine sleeps before Pete and I return to our traditional sideline support roles. I might just stick with that. My name is Mary Kippenberger and I am not 35 anymore.

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