On Wednesdays, I get up, have a shower, get half-dressed into some hopefully-but-probably-not matching underwear and a glamorous robe from the sale at Coco de Mer in order to keep my work clothes free of egg, butter, and cereal smears. Then the lovely babysitter/cleaner/best person ever comes just before 8 and I walk the kids to school (but importantly not the baby, who instead can stay at home languishing in his pyjamas all day following Verna around asking for biscuits) and I drop the kids off and keep going to the tube, and I get to work with a nice flat white in my hand and all day I do little tasks that have a beginning and an end and I stay clean and for lunch I get to go to Pret by myself to buy the exact same lunch of kale chips and the gherkin and ham roll and it feels very good. As well as this UNNATURAL ORDER and SILENCE, I get paid. AMAZING.
So this is in stark contrast to the other days, the days where I only have home to go to, and a baby to keep from running out onto the road or using all of my makeup. And you just know everyone thinks that you have these stupid lazy days at home and that by extension, you are a bit stupid and lazy but really, You Do Not, and mostly, You Aren’t.
So this morning, we have the usual shouty dramas where someone won’t let an other one into the bedroom to get dressed because someone has decided to hit everyone, and Ned hates all of the uniform shirts that are left and Casper will only get dressed up to a point – the point of no socks or shoes, and Noah insists on making his own three tiered peanut butter toast tower but keeps burning himself with the fiery toast and is quietly crying when I catch up with him because the toast is so hot that he keeps dropping it into the full sink and drowning each slice. And then we run out of toast entirely. So he makes do with a two tiered peanut butter tower but he eats so slowly that I want to shake him a bit roughly. It is sloth-like and painful to witness.
Anyway, we get out of the flat, five minutes too late but I have set the clocks ten minutes too fast so we are ahead of ourselves, sort of, dog on a leash attached to me because even though it is Noah’s paid job, he wants to take his skateboard to ride down Bishop’s Bridge sending all the people at the bus stop flying, and I think:
and I have the buggy in case the baby is a handful, and the baby starts screaming that he wants to walk, and we have four kids in school bags and uniforms walking ahead and I do let the baby walk, although he insists on wearing the spiderman flip-flops which do not stay on, but they have been bigged-up by his dad because his dad deems them to be manly – a better choice than Otis wearing my heels, anyway.
So we start walking, but Otis is not great with sticking close to the buggy, and the others are too busy telling me that many people actually have tails, and that they just shave them off when they get too noticeable, and Otis walks out in front of a car. So it is all SCREAM and panic, and he is forced to hold the buggy, but then the flip flops trip him up and he faceplants onto the pavement and I get sweary and mad and shove him into the buggy, even though he would RATHER DIE than sit in it. So he screams and cries for 20 minutes, all up in my face about getting out and walking, on and on and on. And he turns around and dumps the lower half of his body into the buggy sleeping bag thing, so the buggy is unbalanced and is nearly tipping, and keeps on with the desperate pleas to get out and all the Marks & Spencer’s elegant youthful head office staff look a bit alarmed at the baby who is so obviously in some sort of pain. But we do get to school, and I tell him that when we get there he can hop out and walk. And so he does, and the tears dry up and the shouting and screaming ceases and we start to walk home and he says sorry for being silly. We walk home by the underpass and he decides to walk along a low wall and I hold him by the hand and I think:
I’M A GOOD MOTHER BECAUSE I AM LETTING HIM TAKE RISKS
and an old man looks out from his window and he eyeballs me in a kind of ‘high-five, you good old fashioned risking-taking mother’ type way and it is sunny and we are snatching back the morning. Then he falls off the low wall while I am rescuing the buggy which doesn’t have a brake because it is broken, and he loses his spiderman flip-flops into the estate garden on the other side of the low wall and scrapes his chin and screams and so I think:
THAT WASN’T HOW THIS RISK-TAKING AWESOMENESS WAS MEANT TO GO AND THAT OLD MAN SAW
And so we recover and we walk along, spiderman flip flops back on the tiny feet which look a little blistered by the plastic straps and then he walks into a massive muddy watery patch and he cries and says he won’t wear the flip flips anymore because they are wet. So I’m like:
OK IT’S ONLY FEET AND WHAT DID GOD GIVE US THICK SOLES FOR IF NOT TO WALK ON PAVEMENT SOMETIMES AND IN NEW ZEALAND WE DON’T ALWAYS WEAR SHOES TO THE SUPERMARKET SO IT’S REALLY OK EVEN THOUGH ENGLISH PEOPLE FIND IT EXTREMELY DISCONCERTING
And so we walk to the nice place with the nice coffee and I get a flat white and Otis gets a babyccino and we walk home with the no shoes and many, many people, mostly those who are nicely dressed and about to enter into various child-free offices look askance and worried and not-amused at the shoeless child and some of them make massive swervy detours to avoid getting close to the shoeless child in case he is catching. And we finally get down the Bishops Bridge to the construction part at Paddington and we just miss the green light but I rush us anyway because I don’t want to spend longer getting home because it has already been about an hour and a man shouts at me for NEARLY KILLING THAT CHILD BECAUSE QUITE FAR AWAY A BUS IS COMING AND IT IS NO LONGER A GREENMAN and I just want to punch his face.
Also we stop a lot to look at ants.
And so I think that sometimes this parenting lark is terrible and tiring and I wish those people who are lucky enough to swan off into a nice office with a tidy desk, probably with many tea breaks and a bit of harmless flirting with Tony from IT should just stop with the parent-judging. And get over the bare feet thing.
Here we are, doing something else that I think some people might assess as dangerous and verboten – sliding down loose scree getting your shorts really dirty and probably ripped:
Here we are at Cliveden on the weekend:
And eating sugar at the Paddington Cavalcade. Lots and lots of sugar. Which makes me REALLY bad:
Anyone else out there a terrible parent who is a) objectively bad at their job by the standards of strangers and who b) prefers the office?
I have no children at all but the ham and gherkin roll from Pret is the single best food item ever to exist and I adore and love it so. That is all.
Isn’t it though. A tiny bit salty, good mouthfeel from the cold butter, stuffed with proper ham and the perfect size baguette. It’s lunchtime GOLD
I used to walk round London barefoot all the time as a teenager, though I’m possibly not a bastion of British normality. My eldest has almost made it to twenty despite occasional questioning of my parenting by members of the public WHO WERE JUST JEALOUS.
THEY TOTALLY WERE
Oh God just reading that gave me heart palpitations. The stress! The Judgy-ness! The Children Who Will Not Listen (I’m assuming that is the case; they are boys after all, and I have given up on trying to get my boy to listen to me, instead I gently (hahaha. Sometimes gently) touch his face and say CAN I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION NOW. And STILL he ignores me) But once a week to be clean and sane and eat nice food all to yourself – that’s a good innings. (My husband – as yours, I assume – gets to do it five times a week and still – despite being kicked in the face all the previous times he has said this – comes out with “I wish *I* could stay at home all day”. Mind you, he also telephones me from his large hotel-bed, where he is languishing and waiting for room service, EXHAUSTED by his long, boring, business class flight where there was nothing to do but watch movies and drink, and tells me how lonely he is and how he misses the children. If we didn’t live in Singapore I would wonder if he was on drugs.) Anyway. Look how cute they are! AND Otis apologised, which is a sign of great parenting, no? (Yes, yes it is.)
Why, yes it is! I’ll take the praise where I can.
And as for those exhausted hotel ph calls…😡 REALLY.
Snap! I also have a lovely babysitter/cleaner/best person on Wednesday morning and sometimes I even ask her to take the kids to school because, even though it is only a 20 minute walk, it is the most stressful 20 minutes of the day and it is, I believe, far better value for me to spend those minutes acclimatising myself to the day, getting ready for work in peace and having a second cup of coffee The cleaning is of secondary importance!
If people knew what trauma we had all been through by 8:30am, they would literally applaud. Or throw money and calming drugs at us. It’s a lot to get through. I think getting someone else to walk the buggers to school is a marvellous, marvellous solution.
It was freezing (for us) in Auckland on Monday. School pick up and just about every single kid comes out of their classrooms in bare feet, shorts and t shirts (uniformed primary). If you moved home you would be NORMAL!!!!
I love that: the mass un-shoeing and short-sleevery and the fact that this is entirely normal kid behaviour. It’s soooooo not like that here *sigh*