I have been waiting for the good bit for longer than I ever imagined. It has been a decade in the making. There have been so many hard times, frazzled nights and far far too early mornings that I had begun to accept that there was no such thing as a good bit when you are a parent. I had begun to feel that child-rearing is simply a war of attrition and you have to grasp the tiny golden moments before they fade away into the morass of mess and temper tantrums that is daily life with small children. I am happier that i can describe to tell you I was wrong. There is a good bit and I am finally living it.
After years of practice the kidmin is no longer a terrible hassle, it more just sort of slots in as part of the natural order these days and I am not likely to self-flagellate if I forget some date in the school diary. Over time I have learned these problems are usually easily fixed without too much hassle. We have built up a support network over the years that means we are all looking out for each other; adults, kids, friends and family. This shared parenting bond with others makes life better, smoother and happier.
I am so so lucky to have kids who attend school happily (for the most part anyway), who can apply themselves to a bunch of different activities, who like learning, who enjoy playing with their friends and who, praise the stars, can do all of this without needing much support from me or their other parental unit. I had no idea it would take almost ten years of weeping, shouting, cuddling, more weeping, going hard, going soft, more cuddling, doubting, asserting and accepting to get here. But, now that we are finally here, what a wonderful place it is.
I have rediscovered the joy of a lie-in. Obviously I don’t sleep in anymore - two kids with ever clashing sleep schedules put paid to any more than six hours a night years ago - but by god I can enjoy staying in bed and listening to them fixing their own breakfasts, entertaining themselves (well, letting the telly entertain them at any rate). I have even begun to read actual novels for grown ups at a rate of more than one a year. I am discovering the joys of a child-made coffee in bed, joyfully toasting my husband with posh instant coffee that tastes all the better for not having to go downstairs to get it. The big man was initially sniffy that he wasn’t getting a proper artisanal crafted caffeinated beverage but the simple pleasure of not having to get up to get one more than makes up for a lack of freshly ground beans.
Chores in general have become much more of a shared responsibility. I must admit, it takes a little bit of thinking to ensure there are jobs to be done - leaving the dishwasher to be emptied when they get back from school, not doing all the laundry myself etc. However, it is far far easier to remember to not do something than those first few hellish years of learning how in fuck you keep a house in order when 50% of the household seem hell bend on demolishing it. I was almost sick with delight the first time I discovered small kid picking up all the toys in the living room and taking them back to her room without being asked. Chore-sharing is an important part of the good bit because it frees up both time and head space and the more they do without being asked the nicer life is for all of us as I can finally spend the time colouring in or playing with Sylvanian families. Sometimes the kids are even allowed to join in.
These days I get to watch TV I actually want to watch. I will accept that my tastes now run more to Autumn Watch rather than Watchmen these days, which does help when there are children present. Nevertheless, sharing delights such as Father Ted, Blackadder (from series 2 on, natch) and Bake Off with our smaller humans is an unparalleled joy. Watching a joke land with a 6 year old is one of the best things in life. I highly recommend the first episode of Father Ted; kids get the shit fun-fair and watching them explode into giggles over it is in my top ten moments ever. 75% of our family are more than happy to snuggle down for over 2 hours in front of Strictly with only minor outbreaks of boredom, usually when Bruno won’t shut his chops. The big man currently is not convinced but I think we will win him over/beat him down by week 8.
Films are so much better these days as well. The only films I genuinely want to watch in the cinema now basically belong the the behemoth that is Disney - Star Wars or Marvel suit me fine, with or without children in tow. (I am so so looking forward to taking both kids to see Captain Marvel.) Hell, even the My Little Pony film wasn’t awful - patchy, yes, but clearly made with care and respect for its audience of tiny girls and twenty-something boys. When I was a kid I remember my mother broke at the prospect of having to sit through a Care Bear sequel (*shudders at the thought*) and sent me and my friend in alone. However, she then got the fear and was forced to buy a single adult ticket to the film to make sure we were safe. (You can tell it was the eighties, not one eyebrow was raised at either of these somewhat misguided choices.)
I think part of the good bit is the fact that the kids still respect us. Big kid will take book recommendations and will talk about what he is reading in a way that is actually interesting. I am mildly jealous that the big man was proactive enough to start reading Jeeves and Wooster with him as a bedtime story. Small kid has hit the Dahl books hard and it is a pleasure to watch her dive into these worlds and find her own pleasure in the jokes and the language he uses. I can now fully cherish those babyish moments, snuggly cuddles last thing at night, sharing stories together as I know they will slip from us soon enough.
Sometimes I think the good bit of having kids is basically the bit I remember from being a kid myself - those lates nights staying up, silent and still as a statue so I wouldn’t get sent to bed, watching nature documentaries; I am now the gatekeeper to that delight. Sharing take aways in front of the telly, going to the theatre, having a lovely walk in the woods - all of these simple pleasures are now genuinely pleasurable. No one needs to shit at the worst possible moment, green stuff sprinkled on pizza no longer elicits shrieks of horror, no one has to leave the show in the interval because little legs are getting a bit kicky and little brains are getting a bit bored. Pre-kids I thought all of child rearing was made of good bits simply because I cannot remember the bit when I was young enough to be a human monster. Dear reader, I have learned my lesson.
I am currently sitting on my own in a Starbucks at 7:30 in the evening. I have a glorious hour and a half all to myself with a laptop, a strong coffee and my own brain whilst the children partake of improving activities without needing the slightest bit of support from me. This is the selfish good bit - the bit that is good for me and me only. This is the bit I took utterly for granted before I pushed out a couple of mewling beasts and changed my life forever. This is the bit I wasted, assuming I’d get round to writing, to actually doing the thing I define myself by. It is only the cessation of that unlimited freedom that has actually made me knuckle down and actually write. I have stopped looking at my kids as hindrances to my creativity and instead I can now see they are the fuel that makes this fire burn brightest. This is the good bit… and I thank my kids for giving it to me.