Just accept the tantrum will happen.

The morning school run: this short time period can evoke some powerful emotions. On some occasions, my boys notice details about the world around them, which leads to some interesting or unexpected questions and some quality mother/son time. On other occasions, it can be one of the most stressful points in the day. Which one of these we experience largely depends on if something dramatic happens just as we are leaving the house. 

For a while, youngest has been very keen to use his scooter. Every time the garage opens, he fetches it. When his brothers are scooting he’s not just keen, he’s insistent! (but still a long way off keeping up with them). Being only 2, he can’t understand why his brothers have the opportunity to use their scooters to go to school when he has to go in the pushchair. This results in a tantrum. The type of tantrum that begins with an arched back and flailing legs, before moving onto the folding arms (twice for good measure) then finally the bottom lip comes out. Sometimes there is even a cute little foot stamp to accompany it. So, after a few weeks of scooter practise, I made the mistake of trying to not only prempt but avoid the tantrum, saying that he could try scooting too one day. 

The morning came. All three boys had been informed that we would need to leave the house by 8 to make this happen. I gave them an hour’s notice. It was always going to take them three times as many requests to get dressed, find their school bags and put their shoes on than normal, followed by twice as long to complete each request – with half the usual amount of independence applied. Eldest son insisted on socks being arranged a specific way and middle son rejected the first pair of socks I located in favour of another, near identical pair. It even took a significant amount of coaxing to get them down for breakfast when usually they are attracted to a bowl of cereal like a shark is to blood. Despite everything, I didn’t want to go back on my word and got the scooters ready. 

We hadn’t quite met our 8 o clock target, yet we were still an elusive pair of gloves short of being ready. They weren’t in the usual places and we didn’t have time to search for them, particularly as there was a toddler with his own set of wheels loose on the driveway! But to middle son the gloves were essential for human survival. When a car alarm sounds no one actually panics. Everyone just stares in disapproval. Walking up the road with a howling child is similar. I felt like I should be supporting the youngest with his first solo trip up the hill but in reality, here I was having to hold the hand of his older brother. Meanwhile eldest son did his usual disappearing act. The one where you assist removing a scooter wheel from the mud it is stuck in, look up and he’s not there. I know he’d never cross a busy road and he always comes back, but panic still begins in set in. You question every little decision you made that led you here and soldier on.  

Being against the clock doesn’t help. We were passed by so many families heading for the same school. One by one they disappeared into the distance as a little reminder that there was just a 10 minute window for school arrival. When the last friendly face in sight reached us, I admitted defeat and asked for help. My junior aged child was able to resume a sensible pace with his classmates parents and I’d just bought myself 15 minutes (as the infant school starts later). Things improved. There was time to stop for extra hugs. A chance for mummy to think straight and I was no longer outnumbered, arms to children – all moving at disproportionate speeds. Everything was right with the world again. Until the way home when youngest son decided that as no one else was scootering any more, he’d like to be carried. We successfully took an hour and a quarter to complete a 15 minute walk. Next time I’ll just take the tantrum.

The unexpected horrors of Halloween

We’ve been chaos free for a little while now. I am pleased to report that today made up for it. We visited the stunning grounds at Exbury. Our trip did not pass without incident.

We had several factors that were working against us: the relentless rain – a disadvantage of having to book ahead, overtired boys – following early mornings and later bedtimes, and the fact that I hadn’t checked the ‘seasonal status’ of our location. The problem with October half term is that more and more places are now going all out for Halloween, with scary decorations etc. This is great for the majority of children (including middle son), but for the few children who get scared easily and struggle with all things spooky, it can be somewhat problematic. There was panic even getting through the entrance (adorned with horror figures). Next, the bitter disappointment for my little steam train enthusiast upon discovering the the engine had now become a ghost train that he wouldn’t go near.

Once we’d established the places to avoid, I was very impressed with Exbury Gardens itself. A beautiful place full of adventures. Ours started in water…obviously.

Baby turned 14 months today and clearly decided this is a good age to do his own exploring, despite his slow little toddle – the type that results in a wobble or fall every time you cross uneven ground. Evidently he hadn’t read the signs explaining that there were 20 miles of pathways here and felt this was a sensible distance for such little legs to tackle. Every time I tried to put him back in the pushchair he would cry in protest! In contrast, middle son wanted to be in/on the pushchair, even eldest son kept plonking himself on the little footrest at the front. Sometimes I wonder how this pushchair has survived so long without buckling! So, after a few hours of exploration, we headed for the play area with the 4 year old in the buggy and the 1 year old trotting along beside – all whilst trying to shield the 6 year old from all things scary near the rock garden.

Youngest son absolutely loved the wooden play zone. I think it had something to do with everything being wet, muddy and slippery. Handfuls of mud and bark chippings also have an appeal. Rain means faster slides. He made several attempts to go down forwards. Luckily mummy was wise enough to anticipate a head on collision with the ground and assisted him adjust to a seated position.

Lunchtime was interesting. Hand washing three pairs of hands with a combination of water poured from drinks bottles, baby wipes and sanitiser would have been more successful if they didn’t find the dirtiest surface within reaching distance to touch immediately afterwards. I’d managed to supply the whole family with waterproof trousers, so sitting on a wet surface shouldn’t have been an issue but the drizzle meant the small people elected to eat inside a little hut. ‘Little’ being the operative word there. There was no way baby would sit in a civilised manner, this meant I also had to bend my ridiculously long legs into the damp wooden playhouse and hold the baby on my knee with one hand whilst organising, opening and handing out picnic food to the big two. Youngest son was in a ‘wriggly’ mood so a large portion of food ended up on the floor. Further food was discarded on the back of my head as I bent down to pick up the first lot. Having successfully fed the littlest one and cleared up the mess I started my own lunch. Approximately 2 and a half mouthfuls later and my smallest child got restless gesturing towards the slide again. We were back on the move.

The after lunch toilet trip was even more interesting. We found a baby change facility that fitted us all in. Middle son was desperate for a wee, however waterproof trousers with straps over the shoulders take significantly longer to remove when you have a jacket over the top and an elder brother using the tiled floor as an ice rink – evidently taking the opportunity to conduct his own friction experiment. All I wanted to achieve was a nappy change for the baby and avoid middle son’s clothing ending up on the floor.

Many sensible people would have given up at this point and headed home. As we’d driven so far to visit, we continued onwards, hoping to move the hide and seek game that the older two were now engaged in…away from the toilet block. It was a good decision, as it meant the children discovered the giant bell, found the crooked tree, went on a stick hunt, scaled tree trunks, playing more pooh sticks and hid amongst bushes.

Then, when we were at possibly one of the furthest points from the exit, middle son decided he could walk no further and collapsed dramatically on the grass making accompanying groaning sounds. I managed to coax him onward and he began the slow crawl on his forearms (much like a zombie from the ‘Call of Duty’ game). He was briefly amused by a selection of pretty flowers before doing a vanishing act, while I was talking to eldest son on the stone bridge. As it turns out, he’d felt the best course of action was to sit himself at the bottom of a muddy ditch – as you do.

He was done walking. He was adamant. The sense of relief that I had my double buggy with us was indescribable. (I’d only brought it having run into trouble earlier in the week when off-roading – the wheels on the single are not suited to mud, but that another story). Middle son sat beside his baby brother and within 5 minutes they were both fast asleep. Somehow we made it back to the tea room to provide eldest son with a hot chocolate. I never thought sitting outside under a dripping shelter could be so relaxing until today.