I’ve been feeling pretty smug about my parenting recently. Over the last few weeks, the kids and I have spent very little time together in the house if the weather has been good. Instead, we have been going on adventures. I call them adventures because it makes them sound like exciting outings when I’m trying to drag O away from his train set or his LeapPad. Really, they’re just little trips to the park or into the woods or to the beach.
On Sunday morning the sun was shining. Properly actually shining after a rather shitty, cold and wet Saturday. So at 10am, just as N was getting ready to head out for a run, I announced jubilantly, “Get your shoes on kids; WE ARE GOING TO THE BEACH!”
The first sign of trouble was the fact that it took half an hour to get out of the door. F clocked me picking up his shoes and he made a run for it. He rolled around like a seizing baby shark on the rug in the lounge for the entire time it took me to put his socks and shoes on which, of course, took for-fucking-EVER. Then O couldn’t remember where his shoes were and it turned out that F had hidden one in the playroom and the other in the kitchen. Then I did an undecided dance by the coat pegs in the hallway as I tried to decide how cold it might be and which coats the kids should wear. And, of course, I had to pack the changing bag with drinks and snacks and all of my shit that I usually keep in my handbag because I did not want to take two bags on my solo beach mission (which may or may not have been a good decision, as you will see).
When we got to the beach I locked the front wheel on the stroller so it wouldn’t spin round and dig into the sand, then we set off to find a good place for digging holes and building sandcastles. Of course, the second I let F out of the stroller he ran off in the opposite direction to O, so I had to yell at O to “STAY THERE!” while I chased after and retrieved him. Once the buckets and spades were out, we all plopped down on the sand (which was bloody cold and I wished I was wearing something other than leggings) and I helped F to make sandcastles while O dug a hole and made a pile of sand and jumped on all the fucking sandcastles because I guess he was just in that mood. This mostly happy little activity went on for quite a while until F decided he was bored and wandered off to investigate a pile of seaweed. Eventually he got fed up with that too and toddled over to the promenade wall where the sand was littered with all the shit the sea had thrown up at high tide. He then spent the next twenty minutes handing me cigarette butts and bits of polystyrene cups and ice lolly wrappers – “Dank oo!” “Dank oo!” “Dank oo!” – while I mostly repeated, “No, darling, that’s dirty. Put that down. Please stop” with ever-increasing desperation. O pretty much just carried on digging the whole time until I scooped F up and mildly suggested that we move further along the beach where more hole digging and sandcastle building ensued.
By this time we had been on the beach for over an hour and F was starting to get hungry and grizzly, so I decided it was time to start heading for home. O was okay with this plan and helped me collect up the buckets. F was not. I reached to pick him up and he threw himself facedown in the sand, then started howling because he was mad and now cold with a mouthful of sand. I wrestled him into the stroller, strapping him in with one hand while I tried to stop him from arching his back with the other. I tried to hand him a snack and he threw it on the sand. Fine. Be like that.
So we walked along the beach and O chattered happily while F screamed bloody murder in the stroller, and then we discovered that the sodding slipway off the beach was closed for building work. Which meant that I would have to drag the stroller up the steps instead. In fairness, the level of the sand against the wall was pretty high, so there were only about four steps. But the combined weight of F and my bag meant that the stroller wheels were digging into the sand and it just wouldn’t budge at all. By this time I was totally done with our little adventure and just wanted to go home and empty the sand out of my shoes. So I grabbed the front wheel, tipped the stroller back and dragged it across the beach. I was just turning it around to pull it up the steps when a very kind man ran over to help. I could have wept with gratitude. So we set off back in the direction of the car and I realised that the bloody wheel was still locked. And the stupid knob wouldn’t turn and I was just about crying with frustration when a different very kind man ran over and offered to help. He got the wheel unlocked and we carried on. More almost-tears of gratitude.
We got around the corner away from the beach and I reached for my phone to give N a call and let him know that we’d be home soon… And my bag wasn’t there. It was just gone. I stopped and looked around and had no idea why it wasn’t there or how I had managed to lose it and not notice while the cold-sweat horror mounted at the realisation that I had no phone, no car keys and no purse. And then I realised that it must have fallen off the stroller handles when I tipped it up to get it off the beach. So we turned around and ran back to the beach – which O thought was a great game – while F continued his yelling and I panicked and tried not to let O know that I was panicking by over-compensating with an eerily calm repetition of “Mummy just needs to go back and get her bag, baby”. After a lot of frantic scanning I finally spotted it on the sand and almost collapsed with relief. I got the stroller as close as possible without taking it back onto the beach then turned to O, said “Stay here, okay?”, leapt dramatically off the promenade and ran/stumbled across the sand in the direction of the bag. As I grabbed it and turned around, I noticed a grumpy old couple standing next to the stroller, looking at the kids and then glowering at me. As I leapt back off the sand and skidded to a stop bedside the stroller, the old guy muttered something about “shouldn’t leave children unattended” and I fumed silently. I pretended I hadn’t heard him, all the while thinking Careful. I will kill you with my Jedi Death Stare. Seriously. Why do people have to be such dicks sometimes, especially when it’s clearly obvious that it’s the last thing the person they’re being a dick to needs at that precise moment?
The journey back to the car was, thankfully, uneventful, as was our afternoon trip to the farm with my mom. F climbed things he shouldn’t have and made friends with some pigs, O warily avoided the pigs and took the best part of a week to finish his tea. All very standard.
By the time the kids had gone to bed I was knackered and I kind of collapsed on the sofa in an exhausted daze and ended up watching reruns of Scott & Bailey. Until about half 10 when I decided it was time to go bed, which was, obviously, the exact moment one of my cats decided to wander in and dump a semi-disembowelled, profusely bleeding, still fucking alive mouse on the rug. Are you for real with this crap?! I half-lifted, half-scooped it into a plastic jug and took it into the kitchen, then just stood and kind of stared at it and wondered what to do. Because I’m a vegetarian and I couldn’t bring myself to kill it. So, feeling totally overwhelmed by the whole bloody day, I called my mom and cried down the phone to her while I paced in and out of the room hoping the poor bugger would just hurry up and die. Which it eventually did. At which point I decided I’d better just go to bed already before anything else happened.
It wasn’t a total disaster of a day and I know the boys actually had a lot of fun, but I was tired to begin with and sometimes I guess you just have to have a shit day to balance out the universe or something. And, actually, I did laugh about it all later. Because seriously, if I hadn’t I probably would have cried. Oh, wait…