My twins are grown now but I still recall that endless early evening hour struggle between 5 and 6 pm when I was prone to lose my parenting patience with my three boys who were all under 6 years old. In spite of my best efforts to create a harmonious rhythm with three high energy boys all day, it all seemed to unravel in those early evening hours when I was tired. At these emotionally vulnerable moments, my children, with their unerring instinct for chaos, would alternate between fighting with each other, needing help on the potty, being bored and hungry at the same moment, or exercising their arm strength by flinging toys around the room while my back was turned trying to make dinner. Enter the witch, screaming and threatening and occasionally burning the dinner. Then one evening when I was at my lowest ebb, I realized that the wicked witch now had the whole house piled on top of her like in Oz. Something had to change. Out of great fatigue, and an off-beat sense of hidden humor, a new character type emerged and came to my parenting rescue, Eartha Brooka.
Eartha Brooka was the fantasy nanny that suddenly emerged from somewhere in the depths of my overworked brain cells. I turned and marched calmly into the playroom, the soul of efficient British crispness. I announced, in a strong British accent, that their dear saintly mother was upstairs taking a much needed nap. Eartha Brooka was now in complete charge. I told them I was no nonsense but loved a bit of fun and reminded them that I was like Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way. I observed the obvious chaos around me with bemused detachment and a few jokes and set about getting everything into “spit spot” order. Amazingly enough, the boys bought it. We had pick-up trains that ran to stop watch schedule with one twin shoving the blocks towards the red wagon train while the other twin piled them in and the oldest boy conductor got everyone moving along the train of toys and into their proper places. Then they sat down and had a light tea time complete with little cups and tiny sandwiches that was just enough so they wouldn’t “spoil” their good dinner that their wonderful mother would soon make for them when she was good and ready. They practiced behaving like “young gentlemen” and then “scrubbed up nicely” in their bathroom sink. Meanwhile, mom would emerge from her nap upstairs and be in the kitchen cooking dinner. The boys would come in from washing up and I would speak to them in my normal voice. They told me all about Eartha and I listened attentively, remarking that I had slept through it all, and marveling that I didn’t even have to pay her for her excellent service!
One never knew when mom would disappear and Eartha Brooka would reappear to restore household order with her, “Tsk, tsk, I see we have definitely gone a bit awry, haven’t we?” The twins were actually convinced that Eartha Brooka existed and that she could appear magically, often at early evening. They knew that Eartha Brooka looked exactly like me but couldn’t be me because she was in a much better mood and had a funny accent! I think that the twins were at least 5 ½ before they realized that Eartha and mommy were one and the same. Even then they sometimes suggested that mom go take a nap so that the amazing Eartha could come down once more and make them all behave!