School holidays and the things we learn

Every school holiday I learn something. Like that October half term when I thought that what we all needed was some chill-out time at home, and so I planned practically nothing. I’m not sure what I was thinking really – I think I had visions of cosy days full of baking and games and crafts; but by the end of the week we were all in tears and I was ready to poke my eyes out. I made a mental note to fill future school holidays with plans; to remember that days at home with all three children are very rarely either relaxing or productive. Now I approach each school holiday knowing that plenty of plans are very necessary in order to stay sane; and this tends to work.

The school holidays also remind me that providing three meals a day every day for all of my children is so much harder than I ever remember it being before they started school. Nothing I produce can ever compare to what the school cooks manage to rustle up and therefore is, very often, a disappointment. I am running out of ideas……and generally apologising for not being the school cook.

But this holiday, aside from trying to keep busy and struggling to keep up with the never-ending meals, I have learnt a couple of other things too.

Number 1 is that incorporating some named, timetabled elements into the day is, apparently, a good thing.

At the start of this holiday, I decided that every day we would have 15 minutes quiet reading time. There are always books around the house and my boys can often be found with one, but the difference with Quiet Reading Time (notice the capitals – it is now a thing) is that it would apply to everyone in the house at the same time, and we would all sit together for 15 minutes. It’s amazing the difference that simply giving something a name makes. Hundreds of times a day I ask my children to calm down, to stop shouting, to go and do something rather than poking a sibling with a pencil or sliding around on the stairs; but saying to them, ‘Right then, now it’s Quiet Reading Time‘ actually means something to them. They know what to do; and believe it or not, they all do it – at the same time. There is usually one boy (the same boy) Quiet reading timewho spends a couple of minutes insisting that he is off to do something else; but in the end he appears with a book looking sheepish. The youngest two usually also ask me a never-ending string of questions about what they’re reading and why Batman is chasing X and whether this guy is a good guy or a bad guy; but essentially, we all sit down with some reading material. Occasionally, if the books are going well, quiet reading time lasts for longer than 15 minutes – it is bliss.

When I think about it, I suppose it’s not surprising that my children prefer to have us all sitting down doing something at the same time rather than listening to me telling them all to calm down as I attempt to cook the dinner, clean the kitchen and nag a child about handwriting and spellings. Quiet Reading Time has helped calm the fractious moments and helped me to realise that sometimes, I need to do less yelling and more sitting.

Number 2 is that sometimes, you need to recognise when it is time to outsource. That sometimes, you can’t do it all yourself; and that’s ok. This holiday, I realised we needed to outsource the ‘learning-to-ride-a-bike’ thing for the biggest boy. I had been putting off the outsourcing, because I felt like riding a bike was the sort of thing that we should be able to teach him ourselves. I felt like we were letting him down, like this was an important part of parenting that we really should be able to do. But he just was not interested, and on top of that he was frustrated. So frustrated. Having always struggled with co-ordination, just learning how to use pedals had proved to be enough of a challenge. He was frustrated with himself and frustrated with us, and in the end he lost the will to even practise.

Thankfully, I came to my senses and realised that we needed an outsider to intervene, and so I booked him onto a Learn to Ride course over Easter. The first day, he absolutely categorically did not want to go – he ‘loathed’ cycling, so he said. He never wanted to be able to ride a bike……apparently he would walk everywhere, or run. That morning, he woke up and cried, and my heart broke as I dropped him off. But predictably, when I picked him up a smiling face appeared – he ‘loved’ it, he felt ‘confident’…..and he hasn’t looked back. It has taken him longer than most but who cares? I am ridiculously proud.

It takes a village -that’s what they say. Not many of us tend to have a village these days; but trying to take it all on ourselves isn’t always the best way forward. If outsourcing is what it takes then occasionally outsourcing is the thing to do. And in this case, it was one of the best decisions we ever made.

So here’s to Quiet Reading Time, or whatever your activity of choice might be, and to thinking about outsourcing some of those things which just aren’t quite working. And to keeping busy and staying sane for the last remaining days of the holiday…… which, incidentally, feels like it’s been going on for months. It’s not that I’m not enjoying it, but it does feel like Easter weekend was about 3 months ago.

How many more meals to go??

Boy on his bike

Yippeeeeeeeeee!

 

Advertisements

Be curious

What lives in the centre of the earth?

Is the centre of the earth hotter than the sun?

Are the stars spheres?

How do volcanoes erupt?

How do the sun and the rain make a rainbow?

How do clouds stay in the sky?

Why does my drink stay together? What do you MEAN you don’t understand? Look at my drink, mummy…..how does it stay TOGETHER?

Do koalas only eat eucalyptus leaves and nothing else?

How do windmills work?

Why did Henry VIII want to chop people’s heads off?

Does Prince William chop people’s heads off?

Did everyone take sides during the Cold War?

Would you die if you went into space without a space suit?

How does water stay in the toilet?

What is the life expectancy of hamsters?

Does everyone have a wife?

How do babies learn to talk?

These are a few of your questions, boys….just a few – you have many more than this, usually fired at me in quick succession. And yesterday, as we were watching Newsround, your questions were all about Professor Stephen Hawking. If he died on Wednesday, does that mean that he was still alive on Tuesday? How did he talk through his computer? Did he ever go to the National Space Centre in Leicester?

All your questions were fitting really, because Stephen Hawking asked a lot of questions too – questions about the world and our place in it. When he was 21 he was told that he was very poorly and would probably only live for another two or three years; but he lived until he was 76, and he never stopped trying to find answers to difficult questions.

“Be curious” – that’s what he said. And you are……all children are. You have questions about everything…..things that many of us grown ups have stopped questioning, because we are usually too busy thinking about uninspiring things like renewing our car insurance or paying for the next school trip. And I feel bad about that. I feel bad that sometimes I give you unsatisfactory answers, or tell you we’ll look it up another time but then forget; or ask you to please concentrate on putting your shoes on. I’m sure you’ll admit that you do choose particularly inopportune moments to ask tricky questions – just as I’m turning the light off and saying goodnight, for example; or when we’re already running late for school and trying to sort out everyone’s book bags. But still, I know that I should be encouraging the questions……particularly given how few of them I actually seem able to answer – I’ve obviously got a lot of learning to do too. So I’m sorry for sometimes hurrying you along; and for the times I’ve forgotten about the things I promised we’d look up.

I’m not going to promise not to lose my patience occasionally, boys; because I know that’s a promise I’ll break too quickly. But here’s something we’ll try – the next time you ask a question at a particularly busy moment, which let’s be honest is pretty much every day, we’ll write it down. We’ll try our best to make sure we come back to it, and to keep asking more questions.

Let’s remain curious; because asking questions is the key to everything.

books.jpg

 

The many faces of mum

The tears are great, huge puddles. Those tears you can see when they land. You can’t look at them, or you’ll start crying them too.

It is 7.45am and you know this mood – this mood that starts shortly after your child gets out of bed. This mood that nothing can calm until it decides it’s ready to calm itself. It might come before a big event – the first day back at school after the holidays, for example. Or, like today, the morning of a sharing assembly.

This morning, everything is wrong. Your already teary child misses his chance to lay the table because he is too busy crying over this morning’s choice of cereal. Then his brothers dare to get their own spoons out even though it is HIS turn to get everyone’s spoons. Then he is the last to get the fruit to go with his cereal, because he has been too busy crying over the spoon situation. Then there aren’t enough raisins in the bowl full of raisins. Then he realises that he won’t have time to play after breakfast because he has spent all of breakfast time and more crying over everything and nothing.

You try your hardest to stay calm – you are marginally better at this in the mornings than you are in the evenings. You try to be calm and firm and sympathetic all at once. You take him away from the situation but he won’t have it – he is wriggling and sobbing and fighting to escape as you try to give him a cuddle. And you sit at the bottom of the stairs struggling with a 5 year old, hoping that your other children will just sort themselves out and wondering whether this will be the morning that you have to phone the school and say I’m sorry, but I am actually incapable of getting my children out of the door.

You give up the struggle and he calms down a fraction, until it starts again over something else. And you try to find out whether there is something worrying him, but he says there’s NOT; it is just MUMMY making everything go wrong with his BREAKFAST. It is just all MUMMY’S fault.

Of course. At least now you know what the problem is.

And you need to get ready for work but you feel like you have done at least a day’s work already and no-one has even gone anywhere yet.

You would love to curl up and get back into bed. But everyone’s got to get to school and there’s the assembly to watch, and then it’s straight to work for you so there is no giving up and definitely no going back to bed.

The upset child drives some toy cars around and calms himself down – once his moment is over he is relatively quick to recover. It’s just that the moment itself lasts quite a long time.

You put on your ‘Morning! Yes we’re fine thanks‘ face as you leave the house; even though you feel like you’ve been put through a spin cycle and hung out to dry. But your children have got their coats, hats, book bags and water bottles; and they are happily walking to school. They are fine, you know that. But you also know that this slightly knotted up feeling right there, in the pit of your stomach, will be with you all day.

And your little ones give you the biggest hugs and say ‘See you at assembly, mummy‘. You see – everything is fine. No-one would even know about the heartache and the upset over a bowl of raisins and not having laid out the spoons.

Then you go into assembly and wear your proud but also slightly teary face, because you are convinced that this is what it was all about. It wasn’t about the raisins at all. And the assembly is joyful and brilliant and your children say their little lines and you just want to wrap them up in the biggest hug.

Then you get in the car and drive to work; and you allow yourself a little cry. Because so far today you’ve worn the I’m-doing-my-best-to-stay-calm face, the sympathetic face, the firm face, the ‘Morning! Yes, we’re fine thanks‘ face; and the proud-mum face and sometimes it just feels like too many faces.

Because you remember those big puddle tears and those angry little limbs.

Because you’ve got 5 minutes to yourself, and you can.

And then you get a tissue, dry the tears; and put on your work face. And you start the day again.

school run boys

Home

You ran into the house all excited with your little friend, who had come to play after school. As he walked through the door, the first thing you told him was that we had new blinds. These new blinds have been such a big event in our house, I don’t know why I’m surprised that you think everyone else will interested in them too.

When it comes to home improvements, we’re just…..well, a bit rubbish really. It is partly that we’re not much good at doing things ourselves, but also that we aren’t very good at picking up the phone and calling someone to do jobs for us either…..and that the thought of disrupting our routine to have a new kitchen fitted just seems a bit daunting. I know it’s possible to juggle work and family and house renovations, but it’s just not something that we do. So while we’re faffing about trying to make decisions over a couple of sets of blinds, friends are having walls knocked down, extensions put on, new kitchens, new doors, two rooms knocked into one…..you know, they are generally busy making their homes look lovely. Whereas I look at our house and think about all the things we could do if we put our minds to it; before sitting back down on the sofa.

I have been thinking about our home a lot lately and wanted to try and capture it for you. Because yes it is a bit cosy and noisy and chaotic; but we also love it. So this is it, boys, this is where we live…..

You walk in the front door to our slightly too narrow hallway, where you all fall over each other as you take your shoes off. Some people have lovely spacious hallways with tables and shoe storage and things…..well that is the dream, but for now we make do with tripping over each other and squabbling over who gets to open the front door. The walls are grubby and need a new coat of paint, but the hallway opens onto the dining room and the staircase and everywhere else so painting the hallway sometimes seems like too big a job because it involves painting half the house. So for now, the walls stay grubby.

If you turn right off the hall, that is our sitting room. This would be our logical mess-free grown-up space but it isn’t, because we’re not quite organised enough for that. There are various toys strewn across the floor, a beanbag which doesn’t have anywhere proper to live, and half a dozen soft toys which have made the beanbag their home. There are nice little features which we haven’t really managed to make a feature of, because they are too full of Lego and Playmobil and crates and boxes.

Leading straight off the hall is what should be a dining room, but what we call the middle room. I am looking around the middle room now. On the floor is a giant storm trooper helmet, two light sabers, a Brio bridge, tunnel and station, and Dog Bingo laid out as we are mid-way through a game. There is a dining table – occasionally this is used for eating at, but more often it is a dumping ground for unopened post, drawings, Bird Bingo, lists, reminders, water bottles, spare dressing up clothes and anything else which we plonk there ‘temporarily’. The middle room also contains a piano, which there isn’t really space for. The piano was given to us for free by someone who was moving to Australia, so it seemed too good an offer to turn down despite the fact that we had nowhere to put it. It desperately needs tuning – this has been on the to-do list for about three years. When the piano first arrived, mummy asked that it wasn’t used as another place to pile papers. The piano is, largely, used as another place to pile papers.

Under the stairs is the dream storage unit. The dream storage is often admired, and I feel quite proud of it – it is one of the only major things that we have had done to the house since we moved in (not that I installed it or anything, obviously). We thought the dream storage would solve all our storage issues; but we still don’t have anywhere to put anything.

And at the back of the house is the kitchen. When we first moved into this house, it felt like the dream kitchen. There was an island, and room for a table. I imagined clear worktops, space to bake, and a KitchenAid. And now, the island is an island of clutter. As well as the fruit bowl, scales and giant bell which we use to announce mealtimes because we got so fed up of no-one listening to us when we actually spoke; there are tins of biscuits, a panettone, treat tins, a jar containing conkers and pine cones, and, as of this week, two potatoes with googly eyes, and cocktail sticks sticking out of them. You 5 year olds have been making ‘Supertatoes’ at school…..I wasn’t anticipating you bringing them home.

In the corner of the kitchen is our kitchen table. This is where we eat most of our meals. Mealtimes at the kitchen table are generally full of squabbles about who is touching whose foot. On the wall by our kitchen table are a variety of vintage-y posters and postcards because we like that sort of thing. There is also a weekly to-do list which has never been filled in and which you boys are desperate for us to start using. You don’t understand why it is up when we never write anything on it……and you have a point. And there is a blue wooden plaque that says ‘Anyone can be a father. It takes someone special to be a dad.’ This is not our sort of thing at all – we are not into overly soppy statements. But eldest boy, you are a sweetheart and you chose it from your school ‘Secrets Room’ for Father’s Day…..so it is up. You think we love these, so much so that wesoppy words.jpg have two more upstairs: another one for daddy, and one for me which thanks me for always being there to pick up the pieces.

Above our kitchen window is some bunting which we put up when our friend was over from America. That was almost two years ago. We haven’t quite got round to taking it down.

Our fridge is covered in photos of nieces, nephews and friends’ children – they go up on the fridge and never come down. Some of these children are practically adults now. There are also key words, drawings of robots, and a Pudsey bear which the eldest boy coloured in about three years ago. Stuck up on our cupboards are drawings and paintings you boys have done – every so often I look at them and realise they desperately need updating now that you are capable of something a bit more visually pleasing than a splodge of paint on a piece of paper.

But let’s leave the kitchen and go upstairs, past the gallery of photos which are also desperately in need of updating as well as always being knocked off the wall. One frame got broken and hasn’t yet been replaced, so for now we just have the photo hook to admire instead. At the top of the stairs is where you boys like to fling yourselves down dramatically, exhausted after the tiring walk up the stairs. The second boy up will always trip over the one who has flung himself down, and then the boy who has flung himself down will scream that he’s been TRODDEN ON! I am always asking you not to fling yourselves down at the top of the stairs, but you all do it anyway. And here we are, outside our only bathroom. Every so often, you ask why we don’t have a downstairs toilet – this is another dream, along with the larger hall and new kitchen. I just hadn’t anticipated how much of an effort stairs would seem to small children who needed a wee. I’m sorry about that.

There are various posters along the landing, including a Blue Planet poster courtesy of the OU, a scratch-off map of the world, and our height chart. Height-wise, in January 2018 you are as follows:

  • Eldest boy – the longest green bean ever grown
  • Twin 1 – a munchkin
  • Twin 2 – a grass snake.

You boys have lovely bedrooms – bright and cosy and busy. Eldest boy, for 2018 you have a Planet Earth calendar, and 5 year olds you have a penguin calendar. The day I gave you your new calendars you reacted like I had given you the world. That made me happy. There are, however, little things in your rooms that need addressing. Eldest boy, your floor is covered in books – you desperately need some new book storage, as well as a wardrobe. Littlest boys, the bottom drawer of your chest of drawers has completely come apart. We are sorry about this, and at some point we will think about taking some action.

And now onto our room. I love the idea of a peaceful haven where I can relax after a tiring day. A room with crisp bedsheets and lovely lamps and a clear bedside table with nothing but a journal, a nice pen and the book I’m currently reading. We have not yet achieved this ideal. A key feature of our bedroom is the ever full laundry basket, which is a constant reminder of all the washing waiting to be folded/sorted and put away. Just behind the laundry basket is the giant bag of too-small-clothes to be sorted out. And just under the window is the enormous Christmas box, which hasn’t yet made it back up into the loft. We do, however, have new blinds in here too…..which I look at when the laundry basket is getting me down.

My dressing table has two giant piles of papers, unopened letters and cards made by you boys. I feel strongly that none of this should be thrown away, but not strongly enough to have sorted through it yet. I like to tackle it at the manageable pace of one item a day, but have realised that this doesn’t work when you are adding more than one item a day to the pile. Daddy’s bedside drawer is full of mysterious plugs, adapters, wires, earphones and more. I do not go near this drawer.

Everywhere I look in our house there are wicker baskets and plastic boxes and piles of papers to be sorted and put away…..only I’m not sure where. There is a whole drawer dedicated to takeaway menus (why, when we only ever really use two of them); and another full of instruction booklets for equipment we no longer own.

I would love someone to come and tell me how to organise our house. To tell me where we should put all the drawings and the crafts and the junk modelling and the photos. But also, well…..I also sort of love the chaos of our house. I love the fact that there is bunting up from two years ago. I love the fact that there are little stories practically everywhere I look.

And if I need to look at something perfect, well then I’ll just admire the blinds.

blinds

2017 was…..

I like to write an end of year post. Last year’s post ended ‘here’s hoping that 2017’s summary will be a bit more straightforward.

HA!

I won’t be writing that again.

Yet again, I struggled to know where to start with this one. Because, whatever was going on inside my own home, things outside mainly felt wobbly and uncertain.

This was the year that people were shaken, careful, and hyper-aware of what was happening and what might still happen in cities they knew and loved.

This was the year that we were once again reminded how lucky we are to have a roof, four walls, and warm beds. The year that you, Twin 1, regularly asked me what had happened to the people from the tower who had lost their homes. The year that you made me cry by asking me what those people from the tower would have for breakfast and where they could go for it. When you stood outside the house your friend was moving out of, and asked whether some of the people who had lost their homes would be able to move in.

Life isn’t quite as simple as you feel it ought to be.

2017 was the year that I occasionally ran out of patience whenever you commented that things ‘weren’t fair’. I know it’s not your fault – you can’t help the fact that you have a comfortable frame of reference.

And, although 18 whole months have passed since that referendum vote, still out of nowhere you, Eldest boy, ask me why and how it happened. And still I struggle to give you an answer. While you are pondering that, your little brothers are pondering ‘the wall’ – will Donald Trump really build it? Will anybody help him? What if the police find out?

But against the background of uncertainty, normal life went a bit like this….

About you:

This year, you turned 7 and 5.

For Christmas, Twin 1 you hoped for Star Wars figures. Twin 2 you hoped for a bobble hat. And Eldest boy, well you didn’t mind; but you got a Harry Potter hoodie and some games, which you declared ‘a dream come true’.

Eldest boy, you moved up to Junior School in September, and finally got the hang of your buttons and even your tie. Our next challenge is shoelaces….and your bike, in which you still have limited interest. This was the year you started your three year journal, which asks you a question every day. This has given me a fascinating insight into what goes on in that head of yours; my favourite being your answer to ‘Nobody knows that I…………’, to which you answered ‘don’t like pastrami‘.

It made me happy to think that this was your biggest secret.

You decided that duvet covers with cars and dinosaurs were too childish for you, and should be replaced by grown-up duvet covers with checks and stripes.

You continue to keep yourself amused primarily with a paper and pen – anything with potential for lists and tables is bound to be a hit. Your new interest this year was kings and queens. Your little brothers have tried to show an interest too, regularly asking whether Henry VIII is still alive, and whether Prince William chops people’s heads off.

You have a huge collection of train timetables, and draw endless maps of real and invented places – North Moor, Upper Moor, Ratford. There are so many imaginary worlds whizzing round your head.

Twin 1 and Twin 2 – you moved up to Year 1 in September, and for you school is still mainly about Lego, helicopters, and playing hide & seek at lunchtime. You have started calling each other ‘dude’, ‘bud’, ‘buddy’ and ‘mate’. You look embarrassed when you spot me listening, as if I’m intruding on your secret little buddy world.

Twin 1, you announced the other day that your first favourite thing is Elvis Presley, and your next favourite thing is roast potatoes. Well done Elvis for knocking potatoes off the top spot – that’s not an easy thing to do.

Twin 2, you are still my chief helper and an earnest little soul. The first to rush to my side whenever I ask for anyone to lay the table, or for help with the washing up.

2017 has been the year that you little boys have properly discovered Lego. Particularly you, Twin 1. You love to sit with your giant box of bricks constructing huge towers. Or houses. Or a vehicle with 15 sirens. I’m not really sure that school is your thing; but Lego definitely is.

And, having never been boys who enjoyed colouring, crafts or any sitting activities; this was the year that these suddenly clicked too – particularly for you, Twin 2. You now have a room full of rockets, ships and helicopters made out of cereal boxes and toilet rolls. I know that the moment I throw one away you will instantly ask for it, so for now they continue to take over the house.

Things you watched:

As well as watching Mary Poppins over and over and over, daddy introduced you to the Star Wars films. Now, your chatter is full of references to Darth Maul and Qui-Gon Jinn; and you littlest boys have talking Darth Vader and Stormtrooper helmets – Christmas gifts from your uncle and auntie – which are a little disconcerting when I am caught unawares.

We loved Paddington 2. In particular, I loved Paddington 2. If you haven’t seen it, you must. With children, without children. It is perfect.

But as well as Star Wars, Paddington and Mary Poppins; 2017 was your big Strictly Come Dancing year. You had never watched it before – mummy had always put you to bed and then watched it later – but this year we decided to do the whole ‘Saturday night family viewing’ thing. And oh my, how you loved it. You now play Strictly regularly, and squabble over who gets to be Craig ‘Gravel-Hall’ and whose turn it is to be Head Judge Shirley. I regularly find you practising your Viennese Waltz or your Charleston swivels, or standing at the bottom of the stairs saying ‘Here come our Strictly stars!‘ I once got told off by you, Twin 2, for not calling you ‘Giovanni’ when we were performing our jive. Strictly has taken over the last 3 months or so, and I have loved seeing how it has captured your imaginations.

Things you read:

This was the year that you, Eldest boy, discovered Harry Potter. You knew nothing of all the hype that surrounded these books, but were instantly sucked in. Just as I was beginning to fear that you might be starting to veer away from story books, it was a joy to see you reading first thing in the morning and then picking up your book again the moment you got home from school. Aged 38, I am now reading them to catch up with you.

We have tried to slow you down (you are itching to start Book 4), so you started the Narnia books. Magical worlds seem to be your thing – you wouldn’t put those down either.

And little boys, for you the reading has finally started to click this year. You often want to read your own books at bedtime – I am trying my hardest to be patient and let you. Some nights this is easier than others.

Out and about

We have loved running free in open space. I have realised how much you need this – more than playgrounds or structured activities; you need fields, hills, hedges, trees and sticks. We have explored woods and gardens. We have got ourselves up and out for early morning walks – as if we have a dog……which we don’t. We have done fun runs, children’s boot camps; and our new Sunday morning routine is Junior Park-Run. I have realised how much energy you need to burn in order for our days to be a success, and if this also involves fresh air then that’s even better.

Mummy’s year

The constant ‘I’m tellin mummy‘, ‘He called me a blue wacky doodah‘, ‘Mummy, he just said ‘oh my hecko‘ and ‘mummy, mummy, MUMMYYYYYYY’ has occasionally got too much this year, so I have attempted to do plenty of things that remind me of who I am outside of this chaotic house. I decided that 2017 should be a ‘book it’ year. Going to see things – plays, concerts, ballet – was a huge part of who I was pre-children…..and this would be the year I would start to get it back.  We even booked a spur of the moment mini-break – it might have rained (in Portugal), but it did make me realise that many of the things we used to enjoy are do-able again. Even if they are not quite as relaxing.

I finally got into the routine of taking my vitamins (resolution from two years ago, I think); and, having talked about it for at least seven years, we finally ordered our new blinds and ALMOST managed to get them fitted by the end of the year…..except that John Lewis had to re-schedule our fitting. At least it wasn’t our fault. I’m feeling semi-triumphant about the blinds; and my mission for 2018 is a new carpet for the living room. I don’t believe in big resolutions – I just end up letting myself down.

Thank you for reading this year, and here’s to a happy and peaceful 2018. Who knows what the new year will hold, but if you haven’t seen Paddington 2 – consider making that your resolution. I’ll be getting it on DVD.

One of those weeks

Sometimes you have one of those weeks.

One of those weeks when the dishwasher is broken and you forget your son’s doctor’s appointment and everyone is getting ill.

One of those weeks when your husband can barely move because of his bad back and then discovers he can no longer work from home on his working from home/doing the school run day, which means you have to leave work early even though though you have a mountain piling up on your desk which you were really hoping to get through.

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when you’ve left work early to pick up the children, but then get home and realise you’ve locked yourself out. You empty out your handbag and your pockets in a desperate hunt for your keys and you try your neighbours who have a spare; but the neighbours aren’t in and you really need to go and get the children from school….even though you’re not sure where you’re actually going to take them once you’ve got them. So you set off for school ready to break the news and you look around for a friendly face and try to think of a plan. And you try to communicate with your husband to say there’s a little, actually quite a big problem and is there any chance he might be home a little bit earlier like he suggested this morning so that he could let you in the house; but he’s locked away working on high security things with no access to a phone, and the neighbours are out looking after their grandaughters and right now you have no way of getting into your house. Thankfully there are plenty of friendly faces and soon you are sitting down with a cup of tea and the children are on an unexpected playdate; but you’re still not sure how or when you’re going to get back home and you’re running out of answers for your children and your eldest one keeps reminding you that you promised him a new pack of MatchAttax and you try to tell him that MatchAttax aren’t your priority right at this moment.

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when you have to call your mum-in-law and say I’m-so-sorry-but-we’re-locked-out-and-the-neighbours-aren’t-in-and-your-son-can’t-get-home-and-please-could-you-drive-to-our-house-during-rush-hour-and-let-us-in.

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when you wonder whether there was some ‘how to be a proper grown-up’ test that you forgot to take because right now it doesn’t really feel like you’re doing a very good job at it.

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when you forget a doctor’s appointment and your dishwasher is broken and you lock yourself out of your house and work is non-stop…….and then your eldest child sits staring at his breakfast and announces he is too poorly to go to school. Just as you’re about to leave the house for work. And you thought you’d be on time today…..maybe even early. But now you’re in a panic and can your mum-in-law possibly look after him and how much more are you going to ask of your mum-in-law this week?

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when you are behind at work and behind at home and then you open the book bags to discover you need to produce two robot costumes for the Christmas play.

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when no-one will co-operate and get ready for school and you’ve had enough of hearing ‘He hit me with BATMAN‘ and no-one understands that you really need to leave the house NOW right NOW…..there is actually no more time to be building train tracks. You are shouting ‘SHOES‘ and ‘COATS‘ and ‘HATS‘ and ‘BOOKBAGS‘ but you might as well be shouting into the abyss because no-one is listening. And finally you’re by the door and about to leave when the 5 year old who has just been to the toilet looks at you anxiously and says he really needs to go again right NOW, he’s DESPERATE. So you shout even though you know you shouldn’t because you’re meant to be the calm one in all this craziness, and now you feel bad about shouting as well as feeling bad about running late. And you run to school and the boy who needed the toilet falls over and his brother has a stone in his shoe and you tell him you’re sorry but that will have to wait.

Sometimes you have one of those weeks when you get home from the manic school run and realise that the zip on your very favourite pair of boots has broken and that really is the last straw. Everyone knows how much you love your comfiest boots in the world ever. You really want to sit down and weep but you can’t because the dishwasher man is at the door ready to fix the broken dishwasher. So you let him in and make the coffee and find out that the dishwasher will cost £220.00 to repair. And as it’s been one of those weeks, this makes total sense.

But the worst thing is still the boots.

It’s been one of those weeks.

one of those weeks

Ups and downs, highs and lows

Sometimes I watch as you amuse yourselves building rockets out of bricks and think yes, we’re all doing ok. You play, you build, you feel proud. You are loved, you are warm, you are fed. But then a few minutes later, it all falls apart – one of you wants to build a monster, another wants to build a zoo. Nothing is fair, it’s all his fault. Mummy tell him!……TELL HIM OFF! 

And I realise I was getting cocky. I let myself think too soon that it was all going well.

Sometimes I feel like I can’t stand any more squabbles over whose turn it is to help get the breakfast ready. One of you sobs your heart out and tells me it is definitely YOUR turn, definitely. You haven’t done it for AGES. But then there is your brother……No, mummy…..I haven’t done it for ages. It is definitely MY turn, mummy. Please mummy. PLEEEEEAASE.

And I don’t know how I’ll get through a day with this going on in the background.

Sometimes I watch the three of you sitting down happily poring over a book. And I think yes, this is just as it should be. Look at you, content just being together – nothing makes me happier than this. And then you all need something from me at exactly the same time; and suddenly I feel totally inadequate. I realise I’m not doing the right thing by anyone – half-heartedly answering a question for one boy while I attempt to draw a gingerbread man with another and stick a plastic bottle onto a margarine tub with the third.

Sometimes I watch you all walking along together: chasing each other, hiding, laughing; occasionally holding hands. My little unit. And it makes my heart sing.

And other times I see everything start to unravel and I wonder why you are suddenly so ANGRY. What is behind your rage? Is it something I’ve done? Is it something I’m doing? At those times, my evenings are spent Googling ‘Angry 5 year old‘ and my head is full of strategies and tactics; but I know that the next morning I’ll be watching you again as you happily potter around with those bricks, and all those worries will melt away.

Sometimes it hits me how grown up you suddenly seem. We can have proper conversations. You are interested and interesting. And then out of nowhere you urgently need to know how scaffolding is erected. Scaffolding. It is not satisfactory that I have absolutely no idea. And we’re walking along a busy street so I just can’t find out for you right now. But apparently I am not understanding your question. I need to LISTEN to you; I’m not LISTENING.

I am listening to you, I promise; but I still don’t know anything about scaffolding.

And that makes me feel inadequate too – I don’t think I ever realised that I wouldn’t have all the answers for you. Or maybe I imagined us sitting down quietly to look up the answers together…..which just isn’t possible when you’re walking along a busy street; or when there is always another child demanding time, energy and answers to different questions.

Sometimes I realise how behind I am with everything. That I’ve missed a birthday. That I haven’t replied to a text. That I haven’t read the latest school newsletter or seen the list of upcoming events.

Sometimes I see the pile of laundry and just want to weep.

Sometimes, like this morning, I open a drawer and it falls apart. And all I wanted to do was put clothes away.

Sometimes, in fact most of the time, I vow that I will start going to bed earlier. I know that will help me to deal with the challenges in the daytime. But then I also know how impossible I find it to give up my evening. My time to just be, without all the noise. Without the mummy, mummy, mummy demands.

Sometimes, I realise that I really had no idea what a rollercoaster this whole thing would be. I knew there would be challenging times, but I had no clue that I would regularly experience the whole spectrum of emotions over the course of one day, or even one hour. I had no idea that my heart would swell with love and pride one minute, and that I would be tearing my hair out with frustration the next. I had no idea that sometimes, I would feel like every  last bit of goodness had drained out of me by midday….or earlier.

Sometimes…..well sometimes raising children is just a bit overwhelming. There are up-and-down days, seemingly impossible days; but then there are also days when I see my boys kicking their way through leaves or marching along happily with a giant stick. Hooray for those days – those are the good ones. And when we look back at these days in a few years…..well, hopefully we’ll have forgotten that mummy didn’t have any of the answers to your questions about scaffolding.

boy with a giant stick.jpg

My little boy with a giant stick. Because a giant stick makes everything better.