I know that having children is a privilege, and that some people who don’t have kids would swap places with me in a heartbeat. I know it’s wrong to think that people who don’t have children have it easy by comparison, and that their frustrations are of lesser significance. But sometimes when I hear people without children moaning about how hard life is, I can’t help going into the ‘Yorkshireman sketch’ in my mind. (“You had a cardboard box? You were lucky…”)
So last week when a lovely and well-intentioned colleague said to me: “What a morning I’ve had! Traffic was awful.” I smiled and made a sympathetic face, but this is what was going on in my head…
You think you got it tough? This was my morning this morning:
I wake to my daughter crying because her nappy leaked overnight and give her a cuddle even though I know there’ll be a big damp patch on my arm when I put her down. Then I go to the loo with her on my lap because she won’t let go of me. Meanwhile my son is already bouncing off the walls and asking on repeat whether he can play a game on my phone.
I get my daughter her bottle of milk and then try to get her dressed, which is pretty difficult since she insists on being in my arms the whole time. Meanwhile the boy is jumping all over the sofa and asking over and over if he can watch Scooby-Doo until I manage to locate the remote under the sofa (my daughter cries when I put her down so I can get on my tummy to retrieve it).
Luckily the telly keeps both children occupied for long enough for me to go get breakfast ready for all. I make myself a coffee, which of course I do not drink, and some toast, which I am allowed half of before my daughter decides the other half is hers. My son is asking repeatedly when the adverts are going to finish.
My daughter takes off her entire outfit – top included – to go to the potty. I get dressed and brush my teeth while she is doing this knowing from experience that you just can’t hurry pee pee.
I bring down the damp sheets from my daughter’s bed and put a wash on. I get her dressed for the second time, (all but the cardigan which she refuses to put on until she has been offered a selection to choose from, and even then only when we are at the front door will she actually wear it), while asking son repeatedly to get out of his pyjamas. Unfortunately he is too engrossed in Scooby-Doo to pay attention.
I end up taking son’s pyjamas off myself and get him dressed even though he is plenty old enough to be doing it himself – ‘cos if I don’t we’d be there all day.
I coerce them back up the stairs to brush teeth, with threats of no sweets, biscuits, juice or pudding all day if they don’t do as they’re told. Mother of the year. Yay. Teeth are finally brushed, but not without a fight over who gets to stand on the step at the sink, and who gets to control the tap.
After tears and a time out we’re finally ready to go when I realise that daughter has done a number 2 in her nappy pants.
A “quick” change, and the third time of dressing later, we really are tantalisingly close to being able to leave, except for the small problem of locating shoes. And then persuading daughter to wear them. Daughter wants to put them on herself but refuses to be convinced that she is putting them on the wrong feet. Plus they’re kind of hard to get on, so she decides to ditch that pair in favour of her brother’s crocs. I put her shoes in her nursery bag and give in. The clock is ticking louder and louder in my head now.
We get out of the door – me carrying coats because it’s just a battle too far to get them to wear them – and the kids find the nearest puddle to jump in. Water splashes through the holes in the crocs but there’s no time for a sock change. She’ll just have to wait until nursery. Oddly she doesn’t enjoy the cold and wet feeling so we have some more tears. I give in, we’re back in the house and changing socks.
By this time I know I’m going to be getting my son to school late. The only question is by how long. I get the kids into their car seats with promises of stickers and/or brioche, followed by threats of no stickers and no brioche, followed by threats of NO Scooby-Doo tomorrow morning.
Now I do two drop offs, at opposite sides of the town. The nursery drop-off is relatively painless – daughter only cries a little when she is prised from my neck – but school drop-off should be a new event on Gladiators. Parking is a mission impossible, but let’s not go there. Even once within school gates, it takes all my cunning to get my son to the classroom. Every painted game on the playground is a distraction. Everything that can be climbed upon and jumped off must be climbed upon and jumped off (“I’m the king of the castle…”). I try to enjoy it, to marvel at his innocence and enthusiasm and the joy that he finds in just skipping around, but I know the bell went long ago, and the stress mounts in spite of me.
Finally, two hours after I got up I am back in my car and heading to work. Once it’s done I look back on the morning fondly. The stress recedes and I am back to seeing the positive rather than the negative. The wonderfulness of cuddles with my daughter. The fun of racing my son down the road or twirling him round while we sing ‘I like to move it move it’.
Come to think of it, I would hate it if I had nothing to worry about but a traffic jam to worry about in the morning!