So I’m quite the old hand at this parenting lark these days. Unfortunately that doesn’t actually mean I know what the flip I’m doing at any given moment
all the time. As bad luck would have it, I’m constantly being left on my own with small children (and sadly a degree in American literature is no qualification for dealing with the task of herding two full on, obstreperous little people). At no point, for example, has either child referred to naturalism in the novels of Mark Twain, and sadly, What Maisie Knew by Henry James hasn’t shed any light, for me, on what goes through a child’s mind (then again, my husband hasn’t left me for the governess yet – pah ha ha!!).
Maybe it’s because I lived 38 years of my life quite happily sans children before embarking on this incredible journey into parenthood, or maybe it’s because I’m just not what I would think of as a ‘natural’ – you know, we all have one friend who we would go to with our troubles, rely on for tea, sympathy, hugs… that person who knows you better than you know yourself, tucks in that sticky out label on the back of your t-shirt… just simply knows what’s wrong and how to soothe it, picks up waifs and strays and knows how to make someone else’s screaming baby gurgle with delight? Yeah, her? That ain’t me. I am reserved, uncertain, lacking in self-confidence. These are not the best traits in a parent. Never let them see the whites of your eyes, you know?
Having said that, I know what I’m dealing with here – two boys, full on physical, toilet humour gags abounding.. Listen, it’s hard to describe to a childless friend just how huge a mental leap you have to make to go from sophisticated woman about town ( 🙂 ) to the butt of a ‘poo poo head’ joke. But I digress.
I was once again alone with the little mentalists this weekend as the hubster was sleeping off late shifts. What to do, what to do? I had to bundle them out of the house eventually after the noise reached critical levels but I had no idea where to take them. I realise that there are people out there who research stuff, or even people who would just take their one, chilled little girl to see the latest Tracey Emin at the Tate, but that second adult, or that child’s temperament really do make a difference.
To cut a long story short, we ended up at the local playground. It was flooded. It was muddy. Some friends unexpectedly showed up. I bought them tangfastics from the cafe in the park*. They bloody loved it!
Two hours later, we returned home. It was only 2.20pm. Plan B: let them loose on the ‘washable’ paints! This is something I have always avoided like the proverbial plague in the past but I was a) past caring about whether my child likes the taste of black paint more than the taste of peas, and b) desperate.
I knew that my children probably weren’t going to take after my father who made a career as an artist but apparently, mixing red, blue, green and yellow to a murky brown and proceeding to ‘brown-wash’ an A4 sheet of paper is the best thing since, well, jumping in muddy puddles (hmm, beginning to suspect a connection there…).
Yes, there have been meltdowns, yes the kind of injuries you might incur when rushing to stop someone from emergency dialling Father Christmas may have occurred (ahem.) And yes, I may be secretly thrilled with the very thought of heading to the office on Monday morning (something I never thought I would ever hear myself utter), but when I look back on these lessons in common or garden parenting in years to come, I’m guessing they will only make me smile.
*Our town boasts a local charity that provides support services for adults with learning disabilities and part of the remit is to promote inclusion in the community for their members and offer them work experience in this little portacabin cafe. It’s open quite irregular hours but it’s a lovely little place and also bloody good value for money – what’s not to like?!