Leaving the house

Most people know that once you have a baby it takes approximately 42 times longer to get out of the front door. Luckily (in the olden days) it used to take me less than 5 minutes, which is probably why, now I have three young children, I’m able to achieve this feat in under 2 and a half hours.

I exaggerate slightly. Unless you count today. Today, my children tag teamed their preferred type of havoc. Youngest son does not appreciate being put in his car seat. He likes to be held. Except Mummy needed her hands free to assist middle son. Middle son could not decide which pair of shoes he wanted to wear. We wrestled with a particularly tight fitting orange shoe, successfully installing it onto his foot just in time for him to change his mind. He now wanted his ‘new’ shoes. Except these were on the radiator drying, having required the washing machine treatment. Except I was unaware of this so went to fetch them. Youngest son begins screaming blue murder as Mummy is now more than a foot away. When I returned, middle son and eldest son appeared to be rugby tackling each other. My understaning of the situation was that eldest son’s hat had fallen off and he blamed middle son.

Once he had selected a more sensible pair, I asked middle son to put his own shoes on (he can). He refused. As youngest son was still upset and I knew he would remain so until we were in a moving car, I tried to speed things up by putting middle son’s shoes on for him. On completion of this task, I detected a fragrance in the air. He had skid marks in his pants. Changing them and cleaning him up first meant removing the shoes and trousers etc. again. I now felt heightened amounts of Mummy guilt about youngest son, who was still crying, so I took him back out of his car seat to comfort him. Eldest son chose this moment to open the front door and attempt to get in the locked car. I asked him to come back in and wait because his brothers weren’t ready. Eldest son started crying because “That will take a very long time!” He had a point – it would. Middle boy sauntered back downstairs with pants – not his pants though – so I sent him back upstairs.

Fast forward a little while. Middle son is now dressed again – with shoes, eldest son has stopped crying and youngest son is also contented. I suggest the big boys now get in the car. We exit the house. It is cold. Both forcefully request gloves. We re-enter the house. Eldest son can’t find his gloves. Middle son needs help putting his gloves on. I need to put the baby down again – a minimum of two adult hands is required for the glove fitting procedure. This prompts baby to cry again. And so it went on. We didn’t get to where we’d intended to go. In fact, the minor disaster that was ‘leaving the house later’ set in motion a series of events that sent Mummy into meltdown mode. Wine wasn’t even an option due to baby still breastfeeding. Luckily I found we had a chocolate biscuit left in the tin. It is not there now.

Walking

My children dislike walking. Or so they tell me. It’s not that they’d rather be sitting. Far from it. In fact my eldest struggles to maintain a seated position whilst eating his dinner. With each mouthful, he’ll slowly raise himself higher in the chair, subtlety passing through the hovering stage, until you suddenly become aware that he is now standing – chair neglected and abandoned beside him. Neither can you say that they don’t like to walk because it requires too much physical exertion. Maybe this might apply to myself or their Grandmother – but for them, running is preferable to walking. I’m fairly sure when they were tiny they went straight from crawling to running (maybe taking the odd step or two somewhere in the middle).

Trying to walk even a short distance with them can be catastrophic if I refer to it as ‘walking’. They start by dragging their feet, then begin sitting down on the pavement every two metres or so (because they’ve run out of breath apparently). Sometimes they even deem it necessary to cling to the back of my coat and stop moving their feet, in the hope that mummy will use her ‘levitation’ superpower to get the big ones up the hill without actually lifting them, whilst simultaneously pushing youngest son in his pram. By the end of the walk, their method of moving forwards can only be described as resembling something out of Monty Python’s ministry of silly walks. Therefore, if we need to go for a short walk to actually get somewhere (especially if we have a certain time at which we need to arrive) we can usually be found complete with transport. Their reliance on the scooters has decreased slightly now they can ride their bikes. If wheels are not a viable option, there are a number of tactics I use to get them on the move. Here are my top five:

1) Walking along a wall or painted line on the pavement.

2) Collecting something along the way – usually daisies or some other form of interesting looking weed.

3) Turning it into a race against Mummy. Somehow Mummy always seems to lose.

4) Counting lampposts or orange things between the start point and the destination.

5) Who can be first to spot the….? Choose an object that isn’t actually there to maximise distance covered.

This is why if we’re going for a longer walk I usually use the term ‘adventure’ or ‘exploration’. I remember a time before the arrival (or invention) of youngest son when they walked over three kilometres (at the ages of 2 and 4), armed only with a selection of croissants to refuel. We were going all morning, past sheep, over stiles, along hilly paths, and through woods. They loved it. Not sure what exactly they thought they were doing – maybe the term ‘walking’ only applies if you’re on a pavement.

Crowded places

Another interesting rule I’ve discovered, which applies to my children, is that the amount they play up in public places is directly proportional to how crowded a location is. Take them to a lovely, secluded place and they are amazing. However in amongst a packed audience, within a relatively quiet room and my bigger two boys rival race cars – both with the speed at which they run and the Diesel engine type noises they make whilst doing so.

My timing for school pick up was not great last Friday. The ‘grown up kids’ junior school (next to eldest boy’s school) finishes exactly 5 minutes later. Eldest boy was last to come out and then proceeded to greet youngest boy with a high pitched squeal that I’m pretty sure could only be detected by bat sonar, unless you happened to be stood right beside it – which unfortunately I was. What I’ve neglected to mention, is that when your primary concern is to entertain your baby brother with howling noises, you fail to notice your book bag is trailing through an unfortunately positioned puddle. So by the time I’d rescued aforementioned book bag and made it across the playground, it was approximately 4 mins and 58 seconds later.

We reached the other school just as the doors opened and a swarm of children came flooding out. We had a line of parents on our right, incoming children on the left and families eager to make a quick getaway behind us. It was at this point I became aware that middle boy had stopped walking and was attaching himself to my right leg. I had no idea why and limited time to extract any form of complex reasoning from him on the subject. I took his hand and coaxed him onward. I was fully conscious that if I played the the wrong move here, our little family was likely to be solely responsible for causing traffic tailbacks longer than those found on the M27 at rush hour. We successfully moved forward about 5 foot before he attempted a similar manoeuvre, losing his footing and falling as he did so. I helped him up but we were going nowhere, the crowd seemed to be getting larger, the queue of people waiting to pass us seemed to be getting longer and eldest son seemed to be disappearing further into the distance. It was at this point that a lady I’d never spoken to before, until that point known only as ‘the lady with the long orange coat’, intervened and offered to push youngest son in his pram for me so I could carry middle son. For this, I am very grateful to her. A few seconds later, eldest son reappeared pushing his brother’s scooter for him. On sight of it, middle child seemed completely rejuvenated and was now capable of walking on his own again. Crisis averted with the help of a kind stranger.

Of course, I was then faced with the difficulty of continuing to walk the same direction as this helpful lady for the next two corners – at a ridiculously slow speed – unable to ask to pass her. This was partially as I felt I was now forever in her debt and saying “Excuse me” as well would be asking far too much. Primarily though, if we had gone on ahead, I would have felt like I needed to sustain ‘overtaking speed’ and I couldn’t handle the embarrassment if my boys decided to randomly stop again.