While we waited, somewhat impatiently, for our journey to parenthood to begin, one of the things that made it harder to remain patient was watching other people go through a series of events and experiences with their kids that I desperately wanted to do with my own! Social media feeds would be flooded with lovely wholesome craft time or Halloween excitement or family days out and I’d long for it to be our turn to be frolicking through a maize maze or turning little pudgy painted hand prints into Rudolph Christmas cards!!
Well our time did come and I’m pleased to report we’ve done our fair share of all of the above (never a maize maze though- can’t help but think they’d be riddled with rats!!). The thing is, in hindsight, many of the activities turned out to be a bit of a let down! It’s almost as if social media doesn’t always show a true representation of what life with three small children is actually like and glosses over the less glamorous or gritty bits?! Surely not right?!
Top of my hit list of ‘things I’m supposed to enjoy doing with the kids but don’t’ is bloody swimming!!! Lessons are bad enough. I rarely take them, but when I do, I leave with a pounding headache after sitting poolside in conditions hotter than the surface of the sun! And that’s without the ‘who will get to the shower first’ mind games that you have to play with the other parents when they’ve finally finished! But my real vitriol is saved for the occasions when I have to actually get in the pool and swim with them! It’s hard to know where to start with my list of hatred but we’ll begin with the freezing cold changing rooms with soggy, veruca infested, curly-black-hair-ridden, discarded-plaster-covered floors! Vom! And if you make it through those without picking up some kind of fungal infection or slipping on your arse, there is then the gauntlet of over enthusiastic teenage boys bombing from the side and hyperactive small children splashing you directly in the eye with undiluted chlorine! And here’s one of life’s mysteries… how come on a night out when I’m all glammed up and presentable do I NEVER bump into anyone I know; yet when I’m swimming, looking like a drowned rat with questionable winter body hair management and mascara streaked closer to my chin than my eyes, do I bump into a minimum of 5 people usually including ex-boyfriends and people you know in a professional capacity! And just in case all that doesn’t finish you off, you’ve then got to try to squeeze and scrape overtired cold children back into friction defying clothing while they moan constantly that they are hungry/too cold/too tired/too hot/too damp!
Next on my hit list is a range of seasonal goodness that always looks like so much fun but fails to deliver! Let’s start with Pumpkin Carving! What’s not to love about pumpkins?! You start with a trip to an overpriced farm where you trudge through mud on a cold and wet October morning and the kids argue over whose turn it is to push the wheelbarrow, before deciding that actually, pushing the wheelbarrow through mud is somewhat overrated and you are left pushing along 3 misshapen, already rotten, mud encrusted pumpkins while they moan about how cold they are. You then head to the check out and pay three times the amount you would have paid if you’d just stopped off at the supermarket on the way and picked up attractive, non-muddy pumpkins from there! Then comes the carving. The insides of pumpkins are gross! Fact! And kids hate scooping them out because they are smelly and slimy which means that job inevitably falls to you, a job which incidentally, you also think is rank! The kids will then select a design from the always helpful google images and have high expectations that they have suddenly become a pumpkin carving master in the year that has passed since the last occasion they tried to cut out a rudimentary eyes, nose and mouth! Before you know it,one of them has suffered a minor abrasion to their thumb (although the level of drama may lead you to think its been entirely severed!) causing them all to down tools without so much as a freckle carved into the bloody orange spheres of doom and leaving you elbow deep in pumpkin goo for the next four hours!
Decorating the Christmas tree has a similar failure to live up to its promise! In my head, decorating the tree goes something like this…
We all wake up and put on our matching and coordinated Christmas jumpers. Christmas carols play in the background and a selection of festive movies are lined up on the TV to play quietly along in the background. We all have hot chocolate (Coordinated mugs obviously!) and eat stollen,mince pies or other Christmassy goodness! We carefully take out the various ornaments that they have made over the years and reminisce about when they were made and how messy their colouring used to be! We take turns to hang decorations on the tree,at perfectly evenly distributed intervals, and then Jon lifts one of them up high to put the antique angel on the top of the tree, crowning a beautiful masterpiece. At this point we all step back, with our arms around each other, and take a moment to realise how truly blessed we are!
In reality, we tell the kids we are going to decorate the tree and then it takes Jon 4 hours to get the tree to stand level in the pot and to then add the lights. Obviously, as the Alpha Male of the house, he is the only one suitably qualified to apply lighting to a Fir tree. (I can only assume that when we were at school and the girls were all whisked off to have ‘that’ chat about periods and stuff, the boys were given a crash course in how to put fairy lights on a Christmas tree and how to light a BBQ with the correct amount of standing around with hands firmly on hips!) During this four hours, the kids ask on loop if it’s their turn to hang decorations every 36 seconds and attempt to strangle each other with tinsel! If we do eventually get to a point where they are able to festoon the tree, they put all decorations on three twigs and leave the rest of the tree bare and usually drop a minimum of one (each) of the expensive glass baubles I splurged on from my Christmas pilgrimage to the holy trinity that is John Lewis! And then of course there is arguing over who got to put on the most baubles and who gets to put the angel on the top! This year I’m replacing the hot chocolate with very strong eggnog to try to dull the pain!
Craft activities go a similar way; in particular the school enrichment projects where we’re tasked to build or make something along a theme! The fundamental issue with these in our house is that our children’s ambition and imagination far outweigh their stamina or craft ability! The Easter based ‘decorate an egg’ challenge is a perfect example… Last year George announced that he was not simply painting one egg in a decorative fashion or sticking some eyes and ears on and calling it a bunny; oh no sirree!! He would in fact be making a life size replica of a Sheffield Derby football match, creating a stadium from a large box and 11 players for each team, all fashioned from individual eggs! And in theory, this sounds like a great idea! It’s fun, and topical and plays to his interests! I gather materials, buy multiple boxes of eggs, panic buy craft resources from Amazon Prime and settle down to a day of quality time with my first born to decorate his eggs! Oh the fun we’ll have! Oh, but hang on a minute… George appears to have hastily scribbled some red stripes on one egg and half heartedly applied some googly eyes in a wonky fashion and declared he’ll now be going outside to ride his bike!! How can this be?! He promised me this time would be different! Promised that this time he’d stick with me, that we were in this together! That this time he wouldn’t do a half arsed attempt and then lose all interest, causing me to nag constantly that he still needed to finish his eggs and leaving me, a sad 38 year old woman, sat colouring eggs in and trying to make it look like a seven year old did it!
I will obviously continue to endure fungal nail infections from swimming and sandpaper hands from pumpkin carving (is it just me or do pumpkins make your hands really and oddly rough for days afterwards?!?). Ours can’t be the ONLY kids in the world that don’t carve a pumpkin or who are sent to bed and come downstairs the next day to find their heartless parents have put the tree up in their slumbering absence… but I’ll bloody well rearrange the chuffing ornaments when they’ve gone to bed!