parenting

Wild party scenes

I’m taking a study break to write this, largely because I’m so flummoxed by my revision that I have to do something else for a while, but also because today was one of those days when you look at your life and wonder how the hell it’s come to this. And also: today was the eleventy millionth day since I became a parent that I’ve marvelled afresh at the amazing job done by single parents of little kids. Seriously, endless admiration from me. And single mothers of twins are warrior princesses.

Anyway: today. My lovely parents were here for the weekend (we went to the rugby last night, without the kids), and were kind enough to take Hattie and Joe out yesterday morning for a good long adventure, to enable me to get on with some study (and also to give me ample time to do the laundry, fold clean washing, tidy up, stare at the wall and question my current life choices – you know, all of the things that one does when one should be revising for exams). The kids had a great time:

The only downside of their fun time out was that they didn’t have a nap (they still have one five or six days a week). They’d also missed a nap on Friday, so by yesterday afternoon, when they got home, Joe was particularly knackered. He’s like me: he becomes irrational and weepy when he’s tired. And Hattie’s like Tristan: they both get hangry. So after the adventure with Gogga and Mikey-Mike we tried for some quiet time in front of Finding Nemo, but Joe had mental breakdowns every five minutes, and when it was time for Mummy to leave for the rugby at 4pm he was really losing the plot. Pauline ended up putting him to bed at 5.15pm, at his request, and Hattie followed at 6.30pm.

The kids woke up at 6am, which is a bit earlier than we’ve had recently, but still represented a good long sleep for both of them. Everybody was happy, and life was good. Mum and Dad kindly took them for another couple of hours so I could do some more work. They got home just before 1pm, though, which was a wee problem because: a) Hattie and Joe needed a nap, given how early they’d woken up – and because I wanted to avoid afternoon meltdowns; and b) we were due at a birthday party half an hour away, at 2pm. In retrospect I should have got them dressed in their party gear and taken a very slow drive to the party, so they could have caught a nap on the way, but I’m an idiot and that didn’t occur to me until several hours later. Instead, I put them to bed for a quick nap, and woke them up 30 minutes later.

That went brilliantly well (I really need a sarcasm font). It took a full 20 minutes to wake them up and convince them to get dressed, and then they were both hot messes. The promise of cake was the only thing that got them moving. We drove up to the party, got there a full hour past the start time, and found what looked like an amazing, cool fun party in a leisure centre, with a massive bouncy castle, lots of fun gym equipment set up for little guests to clamber over, masses of delicious party food, and a face painter. On good form I think Hattie and Joe would have loved it… but, sadly, they weren’t on good form.

We got there just in time for the candle-blowing and cake-cutting, but because there were lots of people present, Hattie clung to me like a limpet, and Joe didn’t want to move away from me either. I tried to get them to eat something (because they hadn’t eaten lunch, and there was that whole ‘Hangry Hattie’ thing to consider), but they were too wired. There were a lot of bigger kids at the party, and our two aren’t used to being around school kids – they get freaked out quite easily. Added to this was Hattie’s long-term lack of love for crowds. It’s something that I started noticing at playgroups a couple of year ago: she’d be fine when things weren’t too busy, but she’d get progressively more crazed as more people arrived, culminating in her refusing to let me go. I haven’t seen her like that for a while, but she definitely hit that stage today.

We lurched around the party for an hour. The kids climbed on some stuff. Then they had a jump on the bouncy castle. Then I convinced them to eat a piece of cake. Then they flatly refused to play pass the parcel, primarily because it would have involved sitting with other kids (God damned other kids, coming to parties!)Then they queued to get their faces painted (although Joe lost interest almost immediately and decided to try to ride a nearby bike instead – and actually did pretty well, for his first time using pedals):

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Super-practical bike-riding outfit, eh?

While Hattie was having her face painted I managed to convince Joe to eat something else, but he refused to try anything but oranges:

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He was like a child who had lived through World War II, when an orange was seen as the most exciting treat ever. Meanwhile, Hattie had her face painted like a tiger (like every other time that she’s ever had her face painted), but for some reason the face painter opted for a blue and pink tiger. Whatevs, Hattie was happy with it, and given her volatile frame of mind (yowling one second, shrieking with laughter the next) I wasn’t going to question it:

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The kids then wanted to go on the bouncy castle again, but they just couldn’t handle the crowds. “THERE’S TOO MANY KIDS!!” Hattie shrieked at me. How DARE they? People at a party? It’s a bloody outrage. Won’t somebody do something about all the kids, enjoying themselves?

So we found something else fun to do:

For at least five minutes we had a good time. Check out this happiness:

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But this is where little Hattiekins is an unpredictable character: after I took that photo I asked her to not push past Joe on the steps, and she then had a full-scale screaming tantrum for five minutes. Screaming like a banshee, for five minutes, within 30 seconds of smiling for the camera. One of those tantrums where people actually come and commiserate. Eventually she calmed down a bit, and they had a very quick jump on the bouncy castle, and then it was time to go. I managed to tempt the two of them out with promises of a party bag each, and a quick run around at a nearby playground. And then I had to tempt them into the car by promising them the lollipop out of their party bags (lollipops are pretty much the most exciting thing the two of them can imagine, as I’ve indoctrinated them into believing that you only get them on very special occasions, owing to their tooth-rotting qualities).

I managed to get them home, and feed them and bathe them. I did have a sense of humour failure when Joe was pretending to get into the bath while still half-clothed: he put his sock-clad foot in the water and I reacted like he’d smashed a window or something. I did manage to realise within a few seconds that I was having an epic over-reaction, and apologised for being so daft, and he was absolutely fine. That so often happens: I’ll manage to deal with something properly stressful, like wrangling crazed Hattie at the part without losing the plot, only to flip out later over something unrelated. It sucks, and I try very hard not to do it (and don’t actually do it that often, thankfully), particularly as Joe tends to be the one who’ll do the small thing that will be the straw breaking this particular camel’s back, after his sister is the one who has pushed me to the brink earlier – and while she’s wigging out he’s always so good and chilled, and just goes with the flow: he isn’t one of those kids who sees another kid’s tantrum as an opportunity to try to out-scream them. Man, now I’m writing about this I feel so bad all over again that I want to go and wake him up and apologise once more.

This parenting gig is hard work.

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