I’ve been spending some time reading parenting websites. They are my usual source of entertainment. Aside from Pintrest, but I only use that when I’m feeling particularly sadistic and need to beat myself about how unorganised my house is, how boring my hair is , how I can’t remember any inspiring quotes nor fashion an on trend outfit from recycled whale tears and empty coke bottles.
The parenting websites though, well, they are just chock full of useful tips and advice so I thought with the Easter holidays ongoing and everyone in my house cycling through periods of illness and chocolate poisoning it would be a perfect time to put some of their amazing advice to practice.
ADVICE: Mornings can be hectic, get a good night’s sleep in advance. This will help you to be your best and to cope with anything.
HOW WE DID IT: Well this one was a nice easy one to start with. Mornings are indeed hectic. I have an 11yr old child to prise out of his bed while he insists life is cruel to him, a teenager to force in to a shower who honestly believes if he showers on a Monday then that should see him through the week and a 3yr old who currently only answers to the name Ender Dragon and insists on eating his breakfast stood on the chair flapping his wings and dipping his head in and out of the bowl in a dragon style.
So all I needed was a decent night’s sleep and all would be well. All went well, 3yr old went to bed at a reasonable hour, teenager sloped off and the 11yr old was tucked up nicely by 8.30pm with a book and some milk. Perfect. I made my move to head upstairs.
Not a problem, only one call. After a quick check and reassuring the 11yr old that no, there was nothing under his bed, I had indeed checked the closet and it was empty, the weeping angels from Dr Who are not real and will not be attempting to get in to his bedroom
and his book of choice before bedtime maybe shouldn’t be Dr Who baddies we were back on target to climb in to bed.
I knew this noise; this was the falling out of bed noise. I rushed in to the 3yr olds room and sure enough he was sat on the floor looking very dazed. Hoping for the best I gently scooped him up and lay him back down. His breathing steadied and I knew I had gotten away with it; he was going straight back to sleep. Boyed up with success I slowly backed out of the door.
“Where are you going? Why are you leaving me?”
Back in to the room. Some head stroking, a story, a lullaby and finally I’m out of there and heading back to my room. A quick clock check tells me it’s 10.15pm so I am still on course for an early night. I snuggle down and slowly feel myself start to drift off next to my husband who at this point is dead to the world and has been since 9pm. Before I even get the chance to get in to that particularly good dream I was about to have involving myself, Ryan Reynolds and a large tub of Ben and jerry’s there is a knock on my bedroom door.
“Mum, I haven’t done my homework.”
My brain is still somewhere in a pint of Cherry Garcia and can’t quite make the connection so the best I can do is make a sort of non-committal grunty noise and try and roll back over. The knocking starts again and I finally register that it is not the sound of Ryan opening the freezer door and my eyes snap open.
“Mum?? Are you awake???”
Well yes, I bloody well am now. Thanks.
A panicked 13yr old who has to do an essay on Romeo and Juliet who has in actual fact spent the night improving his brain by shouting to his team mates down a head set and blowing people up in Halo gets a very cross and full on lecture about responsibility, told he will have to go to school without it and face the consequences and next time he has an essay he is to follow the homework chart we spent ages drawing up and bloody well do it! I march back to bed.
I lie there feeling the guilt creep up on me. How do they do it?! So I go back in. 13yr old is bent over his desk, tongue sticking out trying to read Shakespeare and pulling at his hair. I am mush.
We get in to it and manage to produce a reasonable attempt at essay in the middle of the night as I try to explain Shakespeare to him and he tries to put it in to his own words.
Once we are done I’m wide awake so head downstairs for a drink and to maybe read a chapter of my book, once I climb back in to bed a quick clock check tells me it is now 1.30am. My husband is still snoring, my foot ‘accidently’ slips and kicks him, and he grunts and moves over. I can feel my mind shutting down and drift off in to my lovely dream.
Ryan has told me I can eat all the ice-cream and he doesn’t even want to share it. This is the most erotic thing I’ve ever heard, when a
sound penetrates my brain. Ryan leans over and whispers in my ear. Mummy? Mummy? I’ve done a wee wee in my bed. I’ll be honest even Ryan can’t quite stretch this one in to a fantasy no matter how hard I try, and by god did I try. But it was no use, I got snapped back in to reality to an incredibly soggy 3yr old and Dora the Explorer sheets that looked like Dora had maybe been having too good a time and gotten a little excited.
A change of sheets, clean pyjamas, a lullaby, a small cup of milk, a book, a long discussion on different types of dinosaurs and their respective poos and a promise of going to McDonalds for lunch at some point he finally goes back to sleep and I stumble in to my room and lay my head down. It’s now 4.35am.
My husband starts to snore; I punch him in the back of the head. I don’t know if it helps to stop him snoring but it makes me feel better.
5.30am and I am ripped from sleep again with a screaming alarm. He likes to set it loud to make sure it wakes him. Also me, the neighbours, the skunk who lives under the house, the people at the train station down the road and quite possibly his mother 3,500 miles away.
I bury my head under the pillow and try very hard to be asleep. The drawers open as he looks for clothes, then the bathroom door, the floorboards squeak as he treads across them, light is thrown across my face as he opens the bedroom door and I squeeze my eyes tighter. Finally I feel him kiss my head and he is gone. It’s 5.45am and my alarm is due in 45 minutes.
I lift my eyes from a beautiful sleep, the 3yr old has thrown himself across the bottom of my bed and is passed out, I can hear the elder 2 starting to stir, the sunlight is coming through the blinds and I’m feeling quite mellow. I reach for the clock. 7.45am.
MOTHER OF GOD!!!!
School starts in 5 minutes, we’ve missed the bus, the oldest has tutor to get to in 15 minutes it’s a 30 minute walk away for him and I am starting to suspect from the smell coming from the end of my bed that small glass of milk was not the best idea.
All 3 kids are ripped from their beds, food is thrown at them, lunches are a mix between whatever I can find in the fridge prepackaged and loose change dug out from the bottom of my purse.
2 out of 3 kids are dressed and thrown in the car I put my coat on over my pyjamas and drive like a bat out of hell praying there are no speed traps. Older kids are chucked at school buildings, I don’t stop to make sure they are the right ones; younger child is taken to a drive thru breakfast where I finally grab a cup of coffee. My phone beeps with a text from my husband, ‘morning, I’m so tired today. How are you?’ My eye starts to twitch.
ADVICE: Do not over schedule your kids; give them time to just be kids.
HOW WE DID IT: I’m on board with this one, a different activity every day can be a killer, not just for the kids but for you too. We’ve been there and done that and it was exhausting. So I thought we could take it to the next level and do nothing. Absolutely nothing, I would let the kids determine how our day would go; they could fix their own food. I would lie on the sofa and watch them relax and it would be great. Once they had all appeared from their various rooms that morning we sat and watched cartoons in our pj’s and eased in to our day of total nothingness.
About an hour passed and I started to hear tummies grumble so I thought I would be proactive. “If you’re hungry there are no rules today, go grab some food for breakfast, whatever you fancy.”
In retrospect I shouldn’t have used the words no rules.
They came back in and in amongst the haul I could spy pop tarts, chocolate biscuits, cans of fizzy drink and I’m fairly certain salmon fillet. After eyeing me warily and realising I was going to say nothing they tucked in and stomach sated they settled back in to watching TV. Eventually I drifted off to sleep and when I awoke I could hear the sounds of some serious mine crafting going on in the basement.
I peek down and there are 3 boys in their underpants sat around on the floor, around them I can see packets of cereal and a loaf of bread. One of them is lying across a giant cushion, one is hanging upside down on the sofa and the other is idly drawing on his stomach with a blue felt tip pen.
I start to think at this point I should step in and get them dressed, perhaps some healthy food. But I step back. Let kids be kids they said, the picture on the website was of a smiling parent bent over 2 happy kids making crafts together. This is what happens when you let kids be kids according to them. I was sure we would evolve to that point by the end of the day. A quick look at the basement told me that at least one of the boys was scratching himself and I didn’t want any part of that. I could bide my time and wait for nature to take its course and bring me those children from the website.
I knew it was lunchtime when I could hear the grunting, 3 children dragged themselves in to the kitchen, they managed to point to the fridge indicating hunger. After opening the door and let them shuffle in they came out with their prizes. A bottle of ketchup, 3 yoghurts, some pickles and a tub of sour cream.
I honestly had no idea where they were going with this so out of interest I followed them back down to their basement lair.
Turns out there was no master plan, they ate the yoghurts, spread some ketchup on the bread and ate that too, the rest they just picked at with fingers. A controller was put in to my hands, I looked at the screen and the mine craft man smiled back at me and I was gone.
Within an hour we were all grunting, communication had broken down. Drinks were found and drunk from the bottle, the 3yr old lay on the floor and randomly laughed to himself. A short while later he opened the back door and peed on the step. I tried to be outraged but the junk had taken hold of me and all I could manage was a roll of my eyes as he crawled back to his warm spot and curled up like a dog.
When my husband came home later he found us all down stairs covered in crumbs, unable to even grunt now we all moaned in greeting. The boys were still in their underpants, I had ketchup down my pyjamas, the 3yr old was growling in his sleep and chasing rabbits and everybody’s eyes were a glorious red colour.
He was, quite rightly, horrified and operation let kids be kids (subtitled, mummy really doesn’t want to do a damn thing today) was called off. Baths were ordered, fresh food found and normality slowly returned. I honestly think we could have taken it further.
Like I said, parenting websites are a mine of useful information. In fact I’m not sure how we could have survived the Easter holidays without them.
Now if you will excuse me, we have some group family therapy to attend to help us through the trauma that was ‘Don’t hide your arguments from your kids.’