A fortnight ago something monumental happened. After many years of waiting and asking and being told “Not yet”, we eventually got to babysit the nephews overnight! As they’ve never before had bedtime away from their parents, it was a big deal for us all. My sister and Adam had their first date night in six years, Jacob and Luca had their first ever sleepover, and for the first time we got to experience the fun and exhaustion of being responsible for the hurricanes for 24 hours!
I’ve been keen to babysit my nephews overnight for a long time now. About six and a half years! 😉 Although the boys were happy to have fun away from their parents during the day, the night time was a different story. Until recently Luca was breast feeding before bed, so would be tearful if he missed this part of his evening routine. And Jacob, like a lot of children, was scared by the dark so particularly needed his parents cocoon at this time. Neither were ready for the big step. Consequently, since 2010, my sister has spent every night with her boys. Every single night. Not one night away. However, now aged 6 and 4 years, the nephews were suddenly eager and excited for their first ever sleepover! And we were happy to oblige!
It was such fun! We built Lego creations, planted gourd seeds, painted superhero pictures, read books. We talked trains, watched trains, researched trains… and went train spotting (his first Chiltern Railways locomotive!). They baked special chocolates: popping candy, fruit, nuts, coffee beans. They decorated chocolate gift boxes: glitter, beads, butterflies, gems (Mothers Day presents for their Mum and Nanny). There was perilous steering from the little ones as we scooted around the village. There was squelching across mud to stroke the local farm animals. Ignoring their normal diet, we ate sweets and ice cream and crisps and pizza. Ignored their normal bedtime, we binge watched cartoons under the duvet. And later when darkness fell, they wrapped up warm, glow sticks leading the way, and took an exciting midnight walk with Phil. We had such fun with those beautiful boys! And surprisingly, despite them having never spent so much time away from their parents, despite them having never been put to bed by someone else, despite them being a little afraid of the dark… it went smoothly. No tears, tantrums, or homesickness, just big smiles!
The next day, the rest of the clan invaded our house and we had a wonderful family day together. My Mum arrived in time for pancakes for breakfast: a helpful third set of hands as I was starting to tire. Then later we all sat in the garden, eating buffet food, toasting mothers, catching some unusual March sun. It was the perfect end to a fabulous weekend.
And amazingly I coped with it all… but it was exhausting! Thankfully I’d recovered from my month long mystery illness, so felt well and strong for me. However fatigue and weakness are features of Pulmonary Hypertension, so my baseline everyday energy levels are very low compared to well people. I start to lag and struggle after being with adults for a couple of hours, and in the company of children I tire even quicker. Funny voices, singing, continuous questions, playing games… all use much more energy. And my wild hurricanes require more than most! So to be able to babysit for 24 hours, we needed strategies to help conserve my energy. Activities for the boys were planned and organised in advance, so no energy was required for preparation, and there was less opportunity for running riot! We spent a lot of time outside, to use their energy and exhaust them for bedtime. When I started to tire, we watched cartoons or youtube train videos, so I could just be with them for half an hour without needing to talk or move. And later when I was very fatigued, Phil took sole charge whilst I rested upstairs for an hour. As I am more symptomatic if I don’t get a reasonable amount of sleep, my wonderful husband slept downstairs with the boys, and took sole charge of them overnight. The strategies worked, and I just about survived the 24 hours!
Although I was truly exhausted and sick when they left on Sunday evening, it was worth the proceeding days of illness to make such wonderful memories with my nephews. For me, recalling special days helps in my most poorly hours; makes me smile, reminds me of the fun to come, gives me reason to keep going. I hope the boys will remember their first ever sleepover with a smile. And if my call never comes, it will be a part of their memory of Aunty Sarah, and the fun we had together.
So my nephews are already planning our next sleepover. Jacob has requested pop cakes from the Faraway Tree as his midnight snack! Yikes, I hope google has the recipe!