When I chat to my friends about their weekends, they tell me stories full of excitement and adventure. It seems that trips to the hot pools, walks through the bush, and two-day getaways to cabins with no electricity are the norm for other kiwi families. Yet any time I’m asked how our weekend was spent, I’m forced to admit that we didn’t do anything aside from mowing the lawns and breaking up squabbles. Not only is it boring, but it’s embarrassing to have to reply that way. Even if I say, Oh, it was a lovely relaxing weekend at home, I just know whoever I’m talking to will automatically assume (correctly) that I have no life. I used to be fun, dammit!
Yesterday, after a lazy Sunday morning sleep-in, I decided we needed to get out of our usual weekend funk. The husband and I agreed a family stroll around the local mountain would be a nice way to spend the afternoon. I would wear the baby in the ergo, and the three older children could walk, run and climb their way around the track. It was going to be so nice to get out of the house!
We had our plans locked in by 11:30am, but between the six of us it took two hours to get ready to leave (which may or may not have had something to do with the fact that I wanted to do my nails). And then when we arrived there was nowhere to park. And then when we did find a park I realised it was two o’clock already, which was the time I’d decided to launch my YouTube giveaway, and I wasn’t willing to not make my video live and share the links on social media at the set time. So. I spent the first 15 minutes of our family outing on my (not very) smart phone. I definitely felt like a Bad Mum for that.
By the time we made it to the base of the walking track, we’d been out of the house for an hour. A whole hour! Considering we’d taken so long just to get out the door, these 60 additional minutes made the entire excursion feel ridiculous. But, we were there. We were out. And we’d decided to take a walk, so we were going to take the walk. Never mind that the three-year-old was already melting down, crying and begging for hug after hug after hug (which I gave him, of course, because I’m not a monster, but crouching down to hug a small, snotty person when there’s already a small(er), snotty person strapped to my front is not exactly my idea of a good time). Yes, the walk was going ahead no matter what.
I shouldn’t have been surprised that the track was busy, but I was. There were people everywhere. Most of those people walked a lot faster than our family of six, so most of those people wanted to pass us. On a narrow track. With steep drops on one side. Despite my constant reminders that in New Zealand we drive on the left so we needed to walk on the left, my children spread themselves out across the path, seemingly in an effort to block anyone and everyone who wanted to move faster than a snail. Do you know how many times I had to tell the kids to move out of the way? It was one million. One million times. Probably literally. Do you ever feel like you just want to punch yourself in the throat because you’re so sick of the sound of your own voice?
We were halfway around the mountain when the wheels really fell off. The three-year-old was done. He was not willing to move an inch, and he was not going to stop crying unless his mother (ugh, that’s me) was hugging him. The second the hug ended? Tantrums. The girls had started whining by this stage too. They were too hot, too tired, too sore on one side. (That’s called the stitch, it’s normal. Try squeezing your hand on the opposite side. Oh it’s not working? Perhaps you could give it a go for more than just ten seconds…) In other words, the excursion was going perfectly. What a marvellous idea this walk had been!
It took us two hours to make it to the end of the track. We were all tired. We were all grumpy. At least 50 percent of the family were close to tears. The seven-year-old actually wailed, “But I didn’t have any fun!” when we announced we would not be going to play on the beach because it was late and we needed to get home. I felt her pain (actually, I felt the exact same way), but I found it impossible to respond empathetically.
“Well, don’t worry,” I announced in a very grown-up fashion (Yeah, that’s sarcasm). “We’ll never do this again! We’ll just stay home forever!”
We picked up burgers for dinner and headed home, the baby squealing and the eldest crying. The tantrummy one somehow managed to fall asleep in his car seat (which sounds like a good thing, but the 10 minutes of silence was not worth the two hours of intermittent crying in the night due to the small change to his regular sleep schedule). I complained to the husband as I drove. How do other families do it? Everyone else seems to manage perfectly well when they’re out and about with their children. Are we doing something wrong? Will we really have to stay inside the house forever? He’s a smart man, my husband, but he didn’t have any answers. I hate not having answers.
Dinner was eaten in relative silence. Children were bathed and dressed in clean sleepwear. Teeth were brushed. Stories were read. Four little people were tucked into bed. The weekend was over, and we were not going to miss it. And, even though it’s now Monday, the most hated day in the history of the world, I do not miss the weekend. Instead, I’m looking forward to a fresh start in a fresh week. And I know it’s going to be a good one because Miss Five will be Miss Six tomorrow! Oh, that reminds me, I’d better go and ring Cobb and Co. I need to book a table for dinner for a family of six…
How do you get on when your take your little ones out for the day? Where do you go? How do you avoid the meltdowns? And why oh why am I expecting dinner at a restaurant to go smoothly?!
– Fern xxx