The weekend started at 3:25 am on Saturday. Ugh. Pete was off overseas for work for a few days and he was up and out by 3.40. I am rubbish at getting back to sleep after nocturnal disturbances so I drifted in and out of consciousness until about 6.15 when the girls woke up singing, as is their way.
Having got us all up and dressed , we then had to go and retrieve the car. Pete had left it at a major station, because where we are in the sticks there at no trains at 4.00 am. So we walked to the station, arriving with five minutes to spare (which frankly I wasn’t expecting) and got on the train. I then whipped out colouring books (like this) and crayons for the journey. These are our ‘long journey’ colouring things, which they don’t see very often, so they were greeted like old friends and I sat (yes, OK, a bit smugly) watching my cherubs colouring quietly while other children nearby ran around screaming. And it’s not often I can say that.
Half an hour later, we arrived at our destination and followed Pete’s directions to where he’d left the car. The route took us past a Starbucks right by the ticket barriers but I resisted, knowing I had two small hands to hold through a busy car park. There’s dedication for you.
Having found the car, I rewarded myself with a trip to Hobbycraft. I love a good Hobbycraft. So full of potential. So many projects to be bought and then put in a safe place for the day I finally have the time to do them! I bought pens and stickers and a soft pencil for Bible journalling and the girls played with the puppets. Happiness tanks filled, we got back in the car, I handed them some yogurt raisins and squash and their iPods and we were on the way home again.
Once we were home and lunched and homeworked, the girls went to play in Joanna’s room. They had their iPods on again and were playing quite well until the noise levels increased and then suddenly I heard an ‘OW! I telling!’ and a sobbing Charlotte came down the stairs. It transpired that Joanna had bitten her on the bum (through Charlotte’s jeans and really quite hard, by the look of the teeth marks). I was torn between the need to comfort Charlotte, the desire to tell Joanna off, and the instinct to find a bite on the bum really quite funny. Cuddles and stern words dispensed appropriately, I returned to the laundry and they continued to bounce off the walls for most of the afternoon. I tried a calming dose of CBeebies, but they continued to bicker all through Peter Rabbit and would not listen to a word I said.
By this point in the afternoon, I was shattered. I’m afraid Therapeutic Mummy had packed up for the day and Tired, Cross Mummy was taking over. All I was trying to do was calm them down. I had asked them nicely to sit separately instead of fighting for the same seat nearest the TV. I asked again. Nothing. I threatened them with the loss of their bedtime story. That worked for about a minute, and I left the room to cook their dinner, then they started arguing again. So I shouted. You can tell me all you like about whispering to them to get their attention but I am not convinced that works when they’re not in the zone. So shouting it was.
Dinnertime came, and Charlotte took forever to finish her dinner. It wasn’t that she didn’t like it, it’s just that she is almost always a slow eater. She tried the ‘I need the toilet’ trick (she didn’t, because we always insist on them visiting the toilet before meals). She started getting stroppy with me. And Shouty Mummy really didn’t like that. Shouty shout shout, she went. She had made a nice dinner and Charlotte was going to eat it. And eventually Charlotte did. And then it was bedtime and Repentant Mummy said sorry about being Shouty Mummy and all was well again. Especially once they were both asleep and I had my own meal. I was in bed by 8.30 and asleep by 9.00. Phew.
Usually Sunday mornings around here are about a bit of a lie in, then taking myself off for a swim before church while Pete takes care of the girls. With him away, I had to forego the swim and hatch an alternative plan for a bit of breathing space.
The girls came in to see me for a cuddle at 7.30 as usual, then took themselves downstairs to watch CBeebies. All was calm and quiet, so I managed to get a shower in without calamity, which always feels like a triumph. Then breakfast, which went everywhere, and then the master-stroke: putting them in the bath for 45 minutes. It was great. I stick my head around the door every few minutes to make sure all is well, but they both make so much noise in the bath I am quite able to go about whatever I want to do in the house in the full knowledge that neither is drowning because I can hear them shouting. In fact on this occasion they were using their toys to enact a musical of their own composition about pirates and vikings having a fight. One overheard highlight was Charlotte singing to Joanna ‘I’m going to kill you with wee!’ which is just what every parent wants to hear at bathtime.
Bathtime complete, I got them dressed and we were off to church. There was only one badger finger puppet in the car which made Joanna cross, but other than a bit of grumpiness about that we arrived without incident. We met up with another adoptive family and all sat together, the girls sharing their colouring books (whipped out of the handbag again after Saturday’s success) with their friends and then going off to their own groups part-way through the service.
After church is usually another opportunity for a Starbucks visit, church being practically on the doorstep of our nearest branch. But the girls had a birthday party to go to, so again I forewent my macchiato in the name of responsible parenthood and zoomed home instead. We had an hour to eat and change and get out of the door again so I made cheese sandwiches, cajoled them into Charlotte, and put children into party dresses. They were a bit fractious – probably because Pete was away – but with a bit of deep breathing we managed to all be ready on time. I am still a bit surprised that we managed that one. Aaaand exhale.
And off we went to the party, a ten-minute walk from our house.To keep the girls in the zone I put the destination on Google maps and we stopped repeatedly to watch the blue dot (us) getting nearer to the red dot (the party). They thought that was fun. This also ticked a box for ‘talking about directions’ for Joanna’s homework. Oh yes.
We arrived, and it was already getting loud. It was in a little church hall, and it was a whole-class-plus-siblings kind of deal. There were 28 children in total, and when I say it was loud, I mean it was wall-to-wall screeching, in an a small enclosed space, for two and a half hours. I spent quite a lot of time, while the girls were occupied, messaging Pete and saying ‘Let’s never, ever, do this ourselves’.
The girls joined in the games – musical chairs, musical statues, pass the parcel (which Joanna and Charlotte call ‘parcel parcel’, much to our amusement), and musical hats. But then the children stared to ‘claim’ the balloons, which were going to be given out at the end. Joanna had her heart set on a particular dark pink balloon but gave it away to her friend who also wanted it. And then she was devastated by the loss of the pink balloon and their were tears. Lots of tears. She was so upset that a cuddle wasn’t fixing it, so I took her outside for a little walk about and a pep talk and some deep breaths. After ten minutes of that she was just about ready to go back inside but it was still hard for her and she chose to sit on my lap rather than join in the next couple of games.
Eventually, regulation restored and composure regained, she went to join in. Which was just as well, because my attention was needed elsewhere. The friend who was now in possession of the pink balloon was suddenly copiously sick in the middle of the floor, having had lots of party food followed by lots of jumping about. A couple of mums found a mop and the kitchen roll, while this poor little girl stood silently by, looking white as a sheet with vomit all down her Queen Elsa dress. No one else seemed to be leaping to help her, so while someone else got on the phone to summon the girl’s mum, I did my best to reassure her, take her to the loo to clean her up a bit, got her a drink and took her outside for some air. She never did take the pink balloon after all that. The string was all covered in sick so we thought best not.
As we left the party, Joanna and Charlotte were given balloons, which I tied to their wrists… but clearly not tightly enough, because Joanna’s floated off into the sky two minutes later. Yup, more tears. Thankfully I had already promised a trip to the balloon shop after school during Balloongate #1, so a reminder of that coupled with Charlotte’s promise to share her balloon meant that calm was restored again relatively easily.
Home, and cake from the party bags followed by a bit more CBeebies and it was time for bed. A nice straightforward bedtime! That was an unexpected treat (OK, I was later woken at 1.00 am by Charlotte asking for a drink, but let’s gloss over that).
I did the ironing while I listened to podcasts, pootled about on Twitter, linked my latest self-care post up to WASO and then after a bit of an online chat with Pete in his hotel, called it a night. I survived the weekend!
The things that worked:
- colouring for the train and church
- dispensing snacks on the journey
- bathtime for breathing space
- me staying at the party (optional around here, but about a third of parents stay)
The things that I don’t want to repeat:
- lack of sleep (I just can’t do therapeutic without sleep)
- balloongate (not sure how to avoid this)