Do you remember those pre-children days when you used to ‘pop out’ to do things? I didn’t used to think anything of popping to places – it wasn’t a big deal in any way. But these days I don’t pop anywhere; I go on missions instead. It doesn’t matter how minor the task – if you have little people in tow, it counts as a mission. There is no popping into a shop – instead you enter a shop, try to prevent small people from dismantling the displays, explain 73 times that no, you’re not buying Chocolate Buttons or magazines and then deal with the aftermath. And that’s a mission.
‘Popping’ anywhere is a thing of the past. But if you do successfully complete any sort of mission with your children, you are quite right to feel triumphant afterwards.
Let me tell you about a mission we managed recently. Three boys and I were on our way home from a day out – the smallest ones were fast asleep in the car and I needed to divert via the train station to pick up some tickets for the following day. You know, the sort of job that would have taken me all of 5 minutes without the boys. But I wasn’t without the boys, so it involved me waking sleeping children and going through the trauma that is getting-everyone-out-of-the-car. I then had to explain to the barely awake infants that no we weren’t home but yes, I had woken them up to walk through a rainy car park and yes, we were at a train station; but no, we would not be getting on a train.
My team and I navigated our way through the car park, and made it to the ticket machine where I broke the news that no, they couldn’t press all the buttons, and there was to be no running off to platforms to spot trains either.
I know, possibly the most rubbish trip to a train station ever.
The whole time I was keeping my fingers crossed that no-one would need the toilet, which would have added another 20 minutes to proceedings (don’t get me started on ‘popping to the loo’ with children).
But, leaving the station with tickets in hand, I felt so triumphant that I actually had to photograph the moment and send the picture to my husband to prove that yes, very occasionally, we do actually manage to do useful things. All we had actually done was get out of the car and use a ticket machine, but it felt like so much more.
I gave myself a little pat on the back earlier this week too – the three year olds and I got home from dropping the eldest boy at school, and when I glanced at the clock I noticed it wasn’t even 9am. I thought back to those new-mum days, when sometimes just leaving the house seemed impossible. But now here we are – four of us actually manage to get out of the house on time several mornings a week, with one boy in a uniform. Yes the uniform might be a bit crumpled, and some mornings I might be carrying one of the 3 year olds under my arm because I’ve told him we’re not taking his larger than life-size Shaun the Sheep with us; but everyone gets to where they’re supposed to be, and I think that’s worth celebrating too.
We all know about the rewarding bits of parenting but it can be relentlessly unrewarding too, with the most minor jobs feeling like the biggest struggles and very little positive feedback to keep you going. I am often hard on myself, and spend quite a bit of time telling myself I should be doing things differently – as do most mums, I think. But every so often I stand back and allow myself a little moment of triumph over something trivial. I hope I am not the only one.
School runs, a trip to the post office, doing any sort of housework, making a phone call, ‘popping’ to the bakers, a meal during which everyone has remained seated and maybe even enjoyed some food – these might have seemed like small things in your old life, but they are major triumphs now.
So let’s all pat ourselves on the back. It may not always feel like it, but we’re actually doing ok.