‘Let’s go out for breakfast’ I say with confidence.
‘It will be fun’
I’m silly like that. The memory of a goldfish, me. I've chosen to forget our last traumatising outing. I block it out of my mind and pretend it didn’t happen. I have to.... If I remember I’d never leave the house again.
The difficulties start at the mention of getting ready.
'Right kids, we're going out for brekkie. Get your gear on we're leaving in twenty minutes'
You’d think putting clothes onto cold skin after hot showers would be a normal everyday thing? You’d think putting on shoes before going outside was a ordinary undertaking? And you’d be right it is. But when your 4 nothing matters. My 4-year old lives in a vortex where time, rules and routines don’t exist. In her world my demands are like snowflakes landing in a puddle. My voice melts away while more important things (brushing dolly’s hair and painting teddys nails) take over.
Her fantasy land is full of glitter, mermaids and unicorns. It’s a place where she is president and everyone else are her staff. I only exist to aid her on her journey. I feed her and try and get her to bed on time. I drive her to appointments and organise her diary. Because I am a mere employee of hers my demands land on deaf ears. My requests mean nothing.
‘Socks? I don’t need socks’
No, she has more important jobs to do,
'Maaaam! Ellie the elephant is having an operation and I need band aids, Now!'
I spend ten minutes trying to placate the dictator and rummage through draws and pots for one (mother fucking) bandaid. Please let there be one, please.. I think. Anything to avoid a very time consuming meltdown.
Then it's the shoe battle.
I go through 5 pairs, showing her the options and then listen to the reasons why each pair is not appropriate for this particular outing,
‘They’re my dancing shoes’
‘I don’t like those they’re blue’
I take a deep breath and then lie,
‘Granny said you have to wear blue shoes today otherwise she’s going to give you salad for dinner’
My son is easier. He’s 8. All I have to do is prise the iPad from his vice like grip and make promises of a surf later.
I then have to get the baby dressed, pack a nappy bag, prepare some snacks in case the car journey gets too hectic, find my glasses, find the car keys, find my wallet, brush my own teeth, tell everyone to brush their teeth and find a t-shirt for my husband that hasn’t got a coffee stain on the front, tell him to change out of his dirty shorts, find my phone, the wipes and a hat and pile them all into the car.
We’re only going 10 minute’s drive away.
‘Can we watch TV in the car?’
‘No. You can never watch TV in the car.’
‘Can we have a snack’
‘No, we’re going for breakfast’
‘It’s the meal you eat in the mornings’
‘Can I have pasta?’
‘No, you don’t eat pasta breakfast time’
‘Granny lets me eat pasta at breakfast time... and ice cream’
‘Just shut up and put your seatbelts on’
And we’re off. I feel like I just wrestled a crocodile onto a boat and we’re not even out of the end of our road. I turn the radio up, just enough to drown out the fighting in the back.
New venue. New mood. Let’s start again.
‘Ok my darlings, were here!’
They all roll out of the door onto the pavement. I plop the baby in his pram and put his socks back on, again.
I find a baby seat and tie him in. He is secure, unable to escape. Unable to destroy, bite or run towards the main road.
Then comes the ordering. It’s a menu. There are items to choose from. It a normal cafe with normal food. A list of choices is presented in my most joyful tone.
‘I don’t like eggs’
The food takes ages. Don’t these people know I’m sitting here with three wild chimpanzees that are ready to swing off your hipster light fitting and do a shit in the plant pot. They’ve already undone all the little packets of sugar and tipped over a glass of juice. These people are risking their god damned lives if this food isn’t served within the next 20 seconds.
It arrives with apologies. The waiter passes hot coffees over the baby’s head making me wince, then a knife slips off a plate onto the baby’s plastic tray. I nearly leap out of my chair and shout,
‘Don’t shitting well hand hot drinks over a baby you fucking moron’ but I don’t. I just smile and ask for some ketchup.
The meal itself goes as well as can be expected. Things are spat back on the plate, regurgitated bacon is pulled out of throats, forks are poked in eyes, crap napkins are used to unsuccessfully clean dirty hands and bouncy bits of scrambled eggs are scattered all over the floor.
I have to say ‘Sit down you’re in a restaurant’ at least 13 times and there are 4 ‘I need a wees.’ This seemingly minor task entails getting the key attached to a wooden spoon from the counter, queuing in a car park, taking off three layers of clothes (damn you dungarees) only for the tiniest, most miniscule bit of wee to be expelled.
Yeah I’m done too, I say under my breath as I hold her soft little hands under the cool water.
I pay the bill and pile my family back into the car. I’m exhausted.
‘Can we watch TV now’
‘Yes, you can.’
‘I thought you said we can never watch TV in the car?’
‘I’ve changed my mind’
I drive around for ages. I go past my house while they sit quietly in the back with headphones on. I take the time to gather myself. To breathe.
I look in my rear-view mirror at the three of them lined up in a row and instead of being upset that my idea of ‘a nice breakfast out’ was ruined, I think
‘God, I love you guys’
There is no animosity in parenting. There are only moments. Moments that pass quickly and are repaired before hurt. I catch my daughters’ eye and she blows me a kiss so I lean my hand around behind my chair and tickle her toes.
‘Shall we have raisin toast at home tomorrow morning in our pyjamas’
‘Yay! Raisin Toast’
'Sounds perfect' I say as I pick a bit of egg off my forehead.
‘Maybe we could try that new cafe around the corner next weekend?’