One of my New Years Resolutions was to take the children out more often, create memories of our great day, even if it is just the three of us during the day. I had my first attempt at achieving this by visiting our nearby castle and to begin with, it was great. Trying to leave the house made me say ‘fine we’ll stay home’, in a half shouty, half huffy voice a dozen times. Even while putting their shoes on, the threat to not go still cropped up, although it became less believable by this time. But once we arrived everyone was happy.
The toddler was excited to see the geese, ducks and swans and threw his sandwich, my sandwich and his sisters sandwich to them, creating an ‘attack of the birds’ scenario. I don’t think he realised the feeding frenzy he caused ”look mummy birds eating”, I made a mental note not to let the toddler hold the sandwiches again, as I charged the stroller through trying not to get bitten by the bastard things. And there went our lunch, a pack of cheddars and an apple between the three of us it was then.
As we were wandering the grounds of the castle I kept thinking ‘wow they’re so well behaved’, the toddler was walking and talking, the baby was chilled in her stroller and nobody was whingeing. I lived in that moment, to feel like I had this parenting thing down, ‘oh, your baby is crying? Mine isn’t’. For once I could own the moment and be the smarmy mum, holding hands with my toddler, pushing the stroller, smiling, laughing and really enjoying our time together. It felt so stress-free.
Little did I know about two hours later I’d be crying.
Stupid smarmy mummy.
When we visited the castle park, we carried on making these sickly sweet memories. Both swings were free, which suits my children perfectly and they swung, for what felt like forever. We sang nursery rhymes and played games in the park, it really was so lovely. I remember thinking how happy they looked and how happy I felt, was it really this easy to entertain the children?
It was all going so well until Mr Firstooth called. Actually his phonecall had nothing to do with the downward spiral of the babys temper, it was just coincidentally from that moment. So, we can agree, it was all his fault.
The toddler wanted an ice cream.
Ice-cream shop was closed. Of course it was.
I managed to divert his whining from the ice-cream shop, that had closed for winter (I understand why, but try explaining it to a toddler who REALLY WANTS SOME ICE-CREAM). We saw an owl being trained for the shows and the toddler was absolutely fascinated.
But the baby couldn’t care less.
The second my bum touched the seat to enjoy watching the owl, the baby wriggled, grunted and squealed. That’s code for ‘get me out or get me moving’.
Please, kids, we were having such a great day.
I had promised the toddler we would stop off in the cafe for tea and cake because they were being such little angels (this was promised as we left the park, because we were leaving the park), this stop was looking increasingly impossible with an extremely unhappy baby. My child was suddenly the child everyone can hear and turns to look at.
The idea of stopping for tea and cake was now swept under the rug, along with any ideas that our great day would end just as perfectly as it started.
Shit started to get real.
Baby wanted to be carried, no problem, I can hold a toddlers hand, carry a baby and push the stroller. No. I can’t do that.
I needed to persuade the toddler to be strapped in to the stroller, cue a shameful amount of biscuit bribery before he obliged.
Baby still crying in my arms I realise she wants to walk. She wants to do what her brother has been doing all day while she’s been strapped tightly in the stroller, plied with cheddars. Other than the swing, she’s not been free from her stroller and hasn’t stretched her legs.
I understand her frustration but the logistics of having two tiny children running around a castle with ditches, ponds, lakes, streams and deathly sharp walls, just isn’t well, logistical. Anyone that’s had a 1 year old (or 14 month old) knows they don’t walk where you want them to, they won’t hold your hand, they want to run with legs that go too fast for their body and they want to touch EVERYTHING. Add that to a 2 year old doing similar, it’s just not something I could risk without the safety of a second pair of eyes and hands.
But, the toddler agreed to sit in the stroller. Now there wasn’t a reason she couldn’t walk. Except, she wouldn’t wear her shoes. Part of me thought ‘fine, as you wish’, but the mum side of me overruled and told me to stop being such a ratty, impatient asshole and power through putting her shoes on.
Then there it was, pure joy in my daughters face as she walked everywhere and she held my hand. She held my hand so tightly and walked with me, instead of away from me. We looked like the happy family we were, when we arrived.
Until she didn’t want to hold my hand or walk with me. Fantastic.
I couldn’t hold her or convince her to come with me, the overwhelming feeling of being a failure crept up, who can’t control her baby or make her happy. I stood there holding a screaming baby desperate to break free from my arms and I sobbed. Wanting to just abandon ranks and walk off into an area of pure silence.
I held her tightly as we walked towards the exit of the castle and the closer we got to the car, the more I kept thinking how unreasonable I was being, whereas before I blamed her for not cooperating. We were having a great day, it was only when we were leaving that the tears and tantrums started. Up until then we were the vision of the ideal family enjoying a day out, with two exceptionally behaved children. That’s forgotten all too quickly when we try to negotiate calm with a small child that’s past the point of caring what calm even is.
If I had a rational mind I’d think that this was all down to tiredness, theirs and mine. We were having a great day. However, in the moment I’m irrational. That’s ok I think, I’m one of life’s over-reactors. I let the small things niggle at me inside until spilt milk tips me over the edge and I’ll cry about it.
Although I haven’t forgotten how difficult it was on the journey back to the car, I will always remember how much fun we had until then. That’s the funny thing about memories, we forget the stressful events, and remember the more important, happy moments.
We had a great day kids, next time I’ll make sure nobody’s tired (or I’ll wear trainers so we can run like the wind back to the car).