We don’t have any grand plans for our days at the moment. There’s no recipe that’s guaranteed to result in a good day. The harder you try, the more likely it is to fail in a blaze of spectacular tantruming from the child and tears of frustration all round. Low expectations are key to keeping your cool. Usually each day is a mixed bag. Moods are as unpredictable as the weather and fate likes to throw in surprises. But if you can just roll with it, the day might just work out as one of those where the balance unexpectedly tips in in your favour overall.
Today starts at 6am when the Rascal bounces in our door and prepares to launch himself onto the bed. I persuade him it isn’t morning time yet and that we should go back to his bed and try and rest instead of waking his father aswell. The odds of that working are slim, but then I notice as he wriggles beside me that he is fiercely scratching his neck. When I see the redness I suggest we go use the toilet and remove his PJ top. Which is obviously going to put an end to any hope of going back to sleep. But there’s a big angry rash along his neckline and cheeks. Presumably from the top, which we’re pretty sure he’s worn a few times before with no reaction.
In any case, that’s our morning kicked off. Off we go downstairs, both still yawning widely. By the time porridge is made and eaten it’s nearing 8am. Daddy appears for ten minutes before departing to the bus stop. I set out toast and peanut butter and a drink in the sitting room then sneak upstairs to lie down on the bed. At 8.05 there’s the sound of running feet on the floorboards downstairs, promptly followed by anxious calls. “Maaaaammmmyyyyyyy…. where AAAAARREEEEEE yoouuuuuuuu? Come down!”. He looks disbelieving when I claim I was just retrieving some socks to wear. “How about I have a little rest on the couch before we go out today?”, I suggest hopefully. He isn’t particularly enthused about that idea, bouncing over to lean on me every ten minutes and make small talk before returning to a rousing rendition of his planet song.
9am and my ‘rest time’ is over. We wander about attending to the necessary housework and figuring out shopping lists in between upsets about random topics. A jigsaw piece that gets wedged in a skirting board. A toy that won’t disobey the laws of physics. The leftover pieces of toast that he doesn’t want to eat are suddenly a source of major distress even though he hasn’t been asked to finish them. He doesn’t want to wear shoes going out. We’re having yet another ’emotional day’. “I’m feeling a bit lazy and I want you to carry me to the car”, he announces. I inform him that’s absolutely not happening and he eventually concedes that he will just have to walk the ten steps to the car himself.
We compromise on using the buggy in the shopping centre while I pick up a few bits and pieces – mainly just as an excuse to get out of the house for a short while with him. We’re all suffering head colds and none of us are in good humour this week. A stuffy head and cough on top of the intense heartburn and discomfort of being the size of a small elephant have destroyed the chances of much sleep at night. A cranky 3 year old isn’t helping during the days. Having ticked everything off the list we treat ourselves to tea and pastries in the cafe where he can people watch and I can sit down for a few minutes. We sit amicably, doing our own thing.
Then he’s yawning in the buggy, but getting majorly distressed at the suggestion of leaving. We negotiate one more lap around the shopping centre before heading to the car. I tell him we’re going to relax and ‘go for a little drive’. A euphemism I haven’t used since the last few months before he dropped his daytime naps altogether. There is no hope in hell of him lasting until bedtime, so we take a preemptive scenic drive the long way home which turns out to be totally unnecessary as he’s already conked out minutes after taking the longer turn. Still, the sun is shining, the skies are blue. We may not be out making the most of the rare good weather, but the next best thing is a leisurely drive along leafy country roads through tunnels of greenery with the windows rolled down and chilled music playing on the stereo. A sleeping child in the back. After a successful transfer from the car, he slumbers on one end of the couch, I rest on the other. Typically unable to sleep with the racket coming from the neighbours, but availing of the opportunity to just be still without being jumped upon.
After an hour I brace myself for the prospect of rousing him. For such a reluctant sleeper, he’s a demon about being woken prematurely. But more than an hour napping now means a bedtime in the early hours of tomorrow morning, so no thanks. I resort to the only tactic that has a chance of working, and the theme tune from Dragons Race to the Edge blares from the tv as he rubs his eyes, looking somewhat interested. Not one to waste a bribe frivolously, I plonk him on a plastic chair in front of the tv and switch the hair clippers on. A haircut is long overdue again, and the barber refusal has been going on for over a year now. I attack the back of his head while he grumbles, distracted by the dragons in front of him. We finish the 20 minute episode with quite a bit of wailing and tears as he ducks and dives around the scissors, destroying any hope of a fringe that doesn’t look like I used a hatchet. I don’t care. Goal achieved. He gets a second episode while I sweep and blow dry his fluffy discarded locks into the dustpan.
Snack time, then I work to convince him to come out for a walk. It’s bright, but the wind is chilly. This usually means we will last a whole ten minutes before he wants to come home. We bring the blanket, a football and a dinosaur (as you do). I debate bringing my kindle, but that’s just tempting fate. Off we go out the estate and into the linear park in front of the house. This is not a day for venturing far. He chooses a spot for the blanket, sits down and starts demanding drinks and picnics that we did not bring. I point this out. He complains. I suggest he kick the ball for five minutes and we’ll go home and get a drink. He runs about for a few minutes and then gets totally lost in a dragon world inspired by whichever episode he just watched for the gazillionth time.
It’s a beautiful day, if only I’d brought a warmer jumper. He frolics about picking colourful flowers and throwing handfuls of old dried grass about the blanket. I attempt to lie down and relax. It’s a waste of time as he sees the invitation to jump on me. Then the acid burn starts in my chest and I sit up straight instead. I furtively unravel my headphones and put on a playlist of favourite songs. He comes and goes, requesting the odd selfie. Ranging far on epic dinosaur adventures, returning close any time a dog goes past or to point out a helicopter overhead.
Unexpectedly, we stay out for an hour and a half before I have to drag him home. I keep telling him we’ll leave soon. He keeps insisting we stay out longer. I find myself at a loss for a good reason not to. It’s chilly, but not quite chilly enough to necessitate returning immediately. Dinner can wait, can’t it? Well, probably not, but there are bananas at home that could fill the gap nicely. He does his thing, I watch him scamper about and make the appropriate conversation to the background of mellow music whispering in my ears. Ultimately it’s the incessant heartburn gradually worsening that forces my hand and we deal with the inevitable upset of having to go back home.
I hand him a banana and leave him to continue with whatever is happening in his imaginary world indoors, instead of outdoors. I start the daily grind of chopping and cooking. “Daddy is walking down from the bus now. Do you want to walk up the road to meet him?”. “I want to do a poop”. Right, of course you do.
Tonight is my night off from the bedtime routine (at least in theory). It’s amazing how motivated you feel to go out and do some exercise when the alternative is doing bedtime. I leave for pregnancy yoga class up the road and feel a little guilty when I return an hour later and bedtime is still ongoing. (Not that guilty though – an hour is nothing compared to most bedtimes). I swap in. A couple more tantrums. More messing. Finally, the limbs stop thrashing. Soft breathing. A snuffly snore.
It’s been a good day, I think.