I’m not really one for Mother’s Day - it seems like just another fucking chore. I spend the week beforehand being shouted at by my children if I even step foot in their bedrooms for fear I may see whatever bit of mangled card they are going to offer up this year. (Don’t get me wrong, i love a bit of mangled card as much as the next mother, it’s the incessant shouting that irks me.) I have to think of what I want, because I can’t abide a pointless tokenistic gift, I have to make sure my kids have heard me mention it at least 50 times in the week running up to it and then I have prompt their father to ask them about it. I then absolutely have to follow this up 3 days later to make sure he has pulled his finger out, so the children are not disappointed they don’t have the perfect present for me and finally I must act surprised and grateful when I am given what I could have bought with one click on amazon anyway.
Truth be told, I would much prefer to celebrate the gifts my kids give me without a huge amount of effort on anyone’s part. As they grow and we are definitely reaching ‘the good bit’ of child rearing I’ll take this mother’s day to acknowledge these precious presents; the ones they give without even realising they’re doing it.
I used to dread the thought of the kids staying up later. I genuinely did not believe I would be able to muster the energy, grit and inner calm required to put small children to bed after 6:30 in the evening. Well, the joy of older kids is that they don’t need Dalai Lama levels of calm; Sandi Toksvig dealing with the panelists on QI levels of calm will suffice. They generally do what they’re told and no longer seem to view bedtime as a crystal maze level where the aim is to stay out of bed for as long as possible. They are almost civil at bedtime these days. The amount of physical labour bedtime requires has gone from a WWE Royal Rumble to a visit to a petting zoo. Cuddles and bedtime stories are a joy, not a bribe these days.
One cannot emphasise strongly enough the sense of bliss that comes with hearing your children fossicking about downstairs, heaving a contented sigh and going straight back to sleep. My children can make their own breakfast and life will never be the same again. I can spend so long in bed now they may forget what I look like
Yesterday big kid spontaneously tidied up the board games and put them back where they live. I instantly rewarded him with cold hard cash. I mean, I can’t risk letting an opportunity like this slip away. Hell, he could be cleaning the whole house for quarter the minimum wage by this time next year, if I play my cards right.
I have written about this before and how hideously stressful it can be. Not any more! Through a combination of adult colouring books and cold hard experience I no longer freak out when helping my kids with their homework. If I do start to spiral we either stop or the other parenting unit takes over. A special mention has to go to small kid as well for the calm and the focus that she brings to her work. These are not characteristics typically associated with small kid, so kudos to her teacher for this, I think. Of course, it helps that I don’t have visions of her working the streets for money if she writes her e’s backwards, the way I did with big kid, so I tend shriek less when helping her, but she is definitely bringing some good shit to the table all on her own.
The fact that there are way way fewer of them is pleasant enough; we can go out because we want to, not because we have to. I no longer gaze at a rain-stroked window, jaw clenched and eyes wide thinking, “What the fuck am I going to do with them so I don’t kill them today?” Now I can send them to their rooms to play, give them books to read, hell I can let them do crafts without losing my will to live. They are entertain-able without needing me to drop fifty quid to look at a few miserable rain-soaked sheep at the local farm, or breathing in the stench of a soft play centre. Life is cheaper and easier and I’ve always loved being cheap and easy. Now when we go out we can actually go to place I want to go - theatre, museums, art galleries (well, for 5 minutes at any rate), the world is our cultured pearl.
Two weeks ago we managed to have a three course meal with family and at no point did an adult have to leave the table. The children themselves also stayed at the table, playing games using pen and paper, participating in conversations and generally acting like human beings.
I watched a family with a two year old at another table like it was my favourite sit-com. I chuckled to myself as they removed the sharp cutlery she was trying to jab into her own eye, I sniggered as they picked up her soppy cup for the fiftieth time, I chortled loudly as she tried to flip her entire high chair backwards in a desperate bid for escape. I looked down at my little cherubs, sitting beautifully and decided to push the boat out and let them both have coke with their dinner… Clearly, there are still some lessons I need to learn.
The best thing about the kids being a bit older is that we can finally play games I actually like. We can play games that don’t dissolve into temper tantrums and tears - admittedly it was usually me and the big man to be honest, having the children involved has really mellowed us. I reckon we are a bout a year away from introducing big kid to Settlers of Catan, at which point our lives with change measurably for the better. At the moment, I love a game of Uno with both the kids, Cranium is always a favourite and the Post-It Note game (or Rizla game, depending on your youthful proclivities) is always a sure fire hit. My rule of thumb is if I enjoyed playing it at university I will probably enjoy it now. i may even introduce ‘Never have I ever’ with shots of Calpol up for grabs.