Yesterday, I took my two to a playground to meet a friend and her two, followed by lunch in a lovely little cafe. Then I got a text from one of my besties inviting us round for a play and dinner for the kids. Sounds pretty damn great in principal doesn’t it?
Well. Here’s the reality.
Arrive at playground at 10am. All four children demand snacks immediately. Friend and I determine the list of topics we need to cover in between directing/coaxing/attempting to ignore children. We wait for children to go off and explore the exciting apparatus around them.
My Toddler: “CHASE ME, MUMMY!”
Me: “Not right now, darling. I’m trying to chat. Look at all the fun things you can do! Or maybe friend’s toddler will chase you?”
My Toddler: “NO! DON’T WANT HER TO. YOU DO IT!”
Friend’s Toddler: “NO! DON’T WANT TO. WANT TO GO ON THAT SLIDE!” <points to certain-death giant slide that can only be crossed by certain-death rope bridge>
Friend: “Why don’t you try that one over there? It’s one you can go on by yourself”
Friend’s Toddler: “NO! THAT ONE!”
My Toddler: “I’M HUNGRY”
Me: “You’ve literally just eaten. Look at that little bridge over there, that looks fun!”
My Toddler: “CHASE ME OVER IT!”
Me: <under breath> FML
And so it goes. Friend and I manage a few snatches of conversation in-between turning to toddlers to tell them to stop poking us/each other/themselves with sticks, walking in front of the buggies and inserting the word “poo” into popular nursery rhymes (my toddler).
At the cafe, food is ordered immediately so as to ward off any potential meltdowns. Ham and cheese wraps for kids, mozzarella melty thing on sourdough toast for me. Yum. Food arrives and kids do not want their own food, they only want mine. Toddler 2 grabs at my sandwich, successfully removes half of the top of it and shoves it in her mouth before I can stop her. She tries again but I block her with an elbow. She is unimpressed and throws her food all over the floor whilst screaming. As I’m picking up bits of wrap from the floor, Toddler 1 has grabbed at, and eaten, what was left of my lunch.
I feel defeated. I could cry, but looking over at Friend and her two has made me feel like I’m not alone. Grated cheese has been strewn across the floor by her baby, and her toddler is persistent in her questioning of, well, everything. Friend is looking as stressed as I feel. It makes me happy. It’s Not Just Me.
We exit the cafe, but not before hissing at toddlers about how we must behave in public (and that it doesn’t include jumping up and down on chairs, yelling at will and chucking everything everywhere). We both breathe a sigh of relief on the pavement. It is over. Although we have finished less than 6% of our sentences, we have collated enough information to know roughly what is going on in each other’s lives.
And so on to the next port of call – my friend, her toddler and brand new baby (who also, brilliantly, live on my road). Her toddler has not napped. There is much emotion. We attempt to instigate games, crafts, dressing up but they just want to watch TV. We half heartedly set up a game of Hungry Hippos, but this descends into chaos within 47 seconds and is thus abandoned. We tell ourselves that they are all very tired and probably should just be allowed to “relax” in front of TV.
Friend has very kindly roasted a chicken for kids’ dinner. Kids do not want food (quite possibly because of the muffins they ate half an hour before due to bad parenting). Food is thrown on floor, chewed up, spat out and pushed away. Friend and I look at each other and a silent agreement passes between us. Wine.
Of course it’s amazing to spend time with my lovely friends. But the reality, as so often is the case these days, just does not match up to the fantasy of it.
So, next time someone rolls their eyes at you saying how lucky you are to gallivant around with friends and collective kids, maybe invite them along one day. That’ll soon shut them up.