Last week I was sick. Very sick. So were the kids. Between the three of us we helped fund the pharmacist’s new Porsche.

For about three days I was all but useless.

The biggest pitfall of single parenthood is when the chief decision-maker, the cook, the cleaner, the story teller, the nurturer, the homework marker, the chauffeur, the shoelace tier, the tuckshop convenor, the communications director, and principal policy maker is out of action – the world stops.

Davoren Inc comes to a grinding halt. Routine? What routine?

Two minute noodles for dinner? Sure. No problem.

You want to take biscuits and Easter eggs for lunch? Of course.

You don’t want to shower? Ok... fine. Whatever. Just please change your underwear.

Children know when to take advantage of a situation. Any parent will tell you that.

When the head of the house is in any way pre-occupied, be it on the telephone, with a guest, or on the toilet – children know all their Christmases have come at once.

Now is the time they will try to get away with blue murder, knowing the repercussions, if any, will be either less severe or delayed in their metering out.

Party time for under-12s consists of sneaking chocolate at every opportunity, playing iPods secretly under the covers when they are supposed to be sleeping, not coming when they are called because their mother is an invalid who can’t get her hands on them when they ignore her demands.

The same undisciplined display occurs whenever the phone rings – it is the equivalent of an alarm signalling a free-for-all is imminent.

So too, when a guest arrives at the front door.

“Mum will never go off her rocker in front of a visitor. I can refuse to do as I’m told and get away with not doing my homework.”

“Mum is in the shower and can’t hear me beating my sister to a pulp.”

“Mum is sick in bed and has no idea I’m staying up way past my bedtime to play Angry Birds on my iPod.”

Maintaining control when you know realistically you’ve got none, and the little buggers have you cornered, is all a game of deception.

Now is when you need to bluff your children into submission. Bring out the “angry” voice and fool them into thinking hell will rain down, even if all you are capable of is a feeble stretch toward the nearest tissue box.

Amid the misery of my tissues and tablets however, I did witness some moments of magic - my two little beacons of hope abandoned the chocolate stash and the iPods long enough to come to my rescue on a number of occasions, with lots of cuddles and kind words to help ease my pain.

Battling a larger-than-normal dose of mother guilt and feeling the crown slipping from my “mother of the year” forehead  – my two precious little people picked up the slack.

When the 11-year-old adamantly refused to let me make school lunches, I was most impressed with her resourcefulness in piecing together the contents, elaborate sandwiches included, to meet all essential dietary requirements.

Little Miss Nine got in on the act by stroking my forehead and bringing me Panadol whether I needed it or not. I told her she’d make a great mother one day. 

“Just like you Mum,” she replied.

Ah... bless their dear little hearts.

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