Last week I had a bad day. When I say a bad day, of course I mean that relative to my life as a mum of three small boys – I know that there are people going through far worse every single day. The low point of my bad day was when I ended up sprawled out on the ground at the entrance to my eldest boy’s school, clutching the distraught three year old I’d been carrying when I fell.
As my bad mum days go, I’d say this one was up there with the worst of them.
On paper, it should have been a lovely day – the eldest boy’s last day of term and the 3 year olds’ Christmas party at playgroup. But the 3 year olds had been simmering away all week and I knew they were about to bubble over. They may not be at school yet, but they definitely had that end of term feeling – they were tearful, tired and tetchy from the minute they woke.
So I knew that at some point it was all going to go wrong, and it did – on our walk to school. Because Twin 2 refused to do that very basic but essential thing you need to do when you’re walking anywhere – put one foot in front of the other. He was on strike. To make his point, he would just sit or lie down on the pavement. We had 5 minutes to get to school – it felt like I had no choice but to pick him up.
He’s proper boy-sized now though, which makes walking more than a few paces with him almost impossible. And I fell. Fell whilst holding him – something I had never, ever done before. He banged his head, I screamed, kind people hurried to help us. There I was on the ground with three bewildered children, a twisted ankle and proper puddle-like tears rolling down my face.
It was definitely a low point.
I felt terrible for the 5 year old – as I pulled myself together I was desperately trying to claw back a bit of normality for him; but this was definitely not the happy drop off I so wanted it to be on his last day of term.
I did, though, learn a few things from my very bad day:
- Photos rarely capture a day – my photos from that day last week make it look pretty good; and whilst the day did, thankfully, improve; it certainly wasn’t the jolly affair that the photos make out it was. There are pictures of the 3 year olds meeting Father Christmas and tucking into party food at their playgroup Christmas party, and pictures of the eldest boy home from school and opening his Christmas cards. If I look through these in 20 years, maybe the memory of the fall, the twisted ankle, the tears and the over-tired children will have faded. If you feel inadequate when looking at friends’ perfect family photos on social media, just know that these rarely tell the whole story. People just don’t tend to photograph the everyone-falling-apart moments.
- People are kind, especially other parents. The school run is never easy, everyone is in a rush; and yet so many people stopped to help me. Friends reassured me, made me laugh and offered me tea. Some even offered to take my children off my hands for an hour. It was a bad day, but it reminded me that things are never quite as bad when you’ve got lovely people around you.
- Children are fickle little creatures – a bad day can be instantly improved with a chocolate finger.
- The end of term can be a huge challenge for everyone. There is no reason why younger siblings won’t be ready for a break just as much as everyone else. Being rushed out of the door twice a day when you don’t really want to go anywhere, then being rushed out of the playground when actually you’re quite enjoying yourself – it all takes its toll.
- On a bad day, there is nothing wrong with admitting defeat and getting everyone into pyjamas at 4pm.
And this weekend, I did something I very rarely do – practically nothing. The eldest boy went to his grandparents for the weekend so we were 2 adults to 2 children. Somehow, this felt do-able. I drank a lot of tea. We had fish & chips. I let the boys watch a lot of tv. I dozed on the sofa.
It felt amazing.
My boys and I were obviously tired out, I’m not surprised it all fell apart in spectacular fashion that day.
Christmas is the time when we all feel pressured to do everything isn’t it. We feel pressured to cook and do crafts and go ice-skating and fill our days with festive loveliness.
But this year, I’m trying to remind myself that a few days of nothing is sometimes all we need.
Merry Christmas x