It’s the last few weeks of term, which is always ridiculously hectic, and there is other stuff going on to generally make life pretty full-on and stressy. Plus, it was my big birthday the other week and it turns out 40 is actually a thing, rather than just a party. Who knew? And now that party is over. Boo! So, lots of good reasons to be generally a bit frowny and cross.
When things are busy and stressful, it is hard not to pick up on the little things that bug you. And this evening on the walk home from after-school club pick-up, it all crystallised and I briefly lost my shit. All three kids took it in turns to stop immediately in front of me on my walk home for no apparent reason and with no warning, leaving my to swerve dramatically to avoid hitting them. This is clearly not unusual. Kids make a habit of it. But it was a final straw moment and I yelled at them.
All three looked up at my with their big, beautiful bambi eyes in a mildly perplexed way. I mean, they weren’t really doing anything that wrong. Mummy was clearly just having a bit of a moment. But oh, to be able to just walk in a straight line without weaving around small people, at my own pace, without boring myself stupid with the sound of my own voice telling them to mind other people and keep moving!
That is one of those things you just never even think about, pre-kids, isn’t it? You take it as a God-given right to be able to walk down the street in a straight line, ignorant in your young and free way that such a thing a kiddy slalom even exists.
Lots of these little things that we say goodbye to with the arrival of kids are well documented. Going to the loo in peace, never being able to drink a warm cup of tea, etc. But most of them are related to very small kids. Well, we’re not in that place any more and many of those temporary problems have disappeared but some of those little luxuries are showing absolutely no sign of coming back, sadly.
Cooking, for example. Remember when you only cooked what you fancied eating when you fancied it? It could even be fun, somewhat unbelievably. A whole Saturday afternoon could be dedicated to choosing a recipe, shopping for the finest ingredients you could afford and then lovingly preparing it over a glass of wine or four. I was never a chef (far from it) but it was kinda fun and relaxing. Romantic even. Pah!
These days? I loathe it. Some days, I can spend half the day in the kitchen. Packed lunches and breakfast in the morning, lunch and prep for the grown-up’s dinner in the middle of the day, over-boiling veg and flinging beige, breaded things into the oven at tea time (taking into account this week’s likes/dislikes x3 and providing three variations of the same meal). And then yet more cooking after the kids are in bed. Add in hiding in the kitchen and drinking wine on bad days (like now) and that’s a hell of a lot of kitchen time.
And then there is the cleaning up after food. I made the mistake of cooking rice for the kids for tea today. I mean, seriously, given the week I’m having, what the hell was I thinking? Utter carnage. Rice grains everywhere. And you can’t hoover the little fuckers up without smearing them all over the floor so you end up crawling about on hands and knees picking each grain up individually, kneeling on one and despositing flat rice grain gunk onto your trousers. I tried hoovering up over-cooked broccoli today. I don’t recommend it.
So, walking and cooking with kids both suck. What about something even easier, like thinking? Surely kids can’t ruin that can they? Wrong! They make it almost bloody impossible to think or concentrate, even when they are not physically present.
Now I know this is entirely my fault for having three kids, but life can be somewhat busy in this household. Try to do anything that you need to focus on for five minutes and you can guarantee you will be interrupted by at least one small voice, more often than not by multiple voices rowing about something utterly pointless. There is no such thing as thinking time in my life any more. All day long, I have little voices to contend with and when they are finally in bed I am so tired I’m incapable to clear thought.
But even worse than that, there is just soooo much to remember for them all that I find it impossible to switch off the organising bit of my brain even when they are not around. There is a little voice in my head, like a chattering monkey, reminding me that I have to pack the ballet bag, buy more Cheerios, pay the swimming fees, donate something for the school summer fair, etc, etc, etc. It never ends. Once you feel vaguely on top of the list, another load of demands come home, another essential item runs out or a totally unexpected problem rears up. It’s like plate spinning. It’s totally exhausting and mostly thankless.
And woe betide you if you drop a fucking plate! The stick I get for forgetting to pack a snack or to buy more bagels is ridiculously disproportionate in a way that only a mob of under tens can be over nothing at all. How dare I forget that this week you don’t like Mini Cheddars?! Poor, deprived kids.
Can you remember sitting and thinking about just one thing? It was bloody amazing. Only it wasn’t at the time. We had no idea it was a luxury, that it would one day flit away and we’d miss it like crazy.
But enough of this poor little me shit. I am very aware that what I get in exchange for these little luxuries is worth it a billion times over. And most of it is nothing a vat of wine or two can’t numb. I’m just moaning because it has been a crap week. And cos I’m allowed. We all are, no matter how much we love our kids. It’s moan or nervous breakdown. I know which one I prefer.
My pack of irritating little brats are simultaneously a beyond adorable bundle of unlimited love and wonder. Such is the paradox of parenting.
Who needs to think anyway, right? It’s totally overrated.