So half-term came and went and here we are hurtling to the end of the first week back. I’m having a slightly odd week, as I seem to be missing the children. This is an unfamiliar feeling. February half-term has always been the one I dreaded most. Back as a mum of one, all the free stuff would close for the week and we’d be locked inside due to the cold and torrential rain staring at each other. My very intense first-born would say ‘Come on then mummy, entertain me’ with just a stare. I’d wheel out play-doh, painting, colouring, play peppa pig and think we must be nearly at bedtime now to find it was only 9am and I’d been alone with her for an hour. And she was still staring expectantly. She loves craft. I hate craft. I love baking, but it took a while to be OK with cake mixture ending up everywhere and containing egg shell and snot. I’m still not OK with this to be honest.
And here I am at present day, with three school-aged children, an era I thought would never come. The orders were in as to what everyone wanted to do. I’m open to all suggestions, they just need to be free – or very cheap. The cinema does cheap tickets for a film showing each morning in the holidays. They loved the film, and excitedly we set off, even bagging the front seat on the top deck. The holidays had got off to a brilliant start, I was nailing this. But when we got there, everyone else had had the same idea and there were no seats left. I was now not nailing it. One child was crying , the other stamping their feet and telling me how angry they were at my poor planning, whilst the third remained stoic but couldn’t quite meet my eye due to disappointment. I booked tickets for the next day, and we went home, got in the car and went to the car wash instead. They loved it. I’d pulled it back: 1-0 to mummy.
The cinema trip went well the next day, except I got too complacent with my pre-booked tickets and entered the cinema to find everyone else was already there and the lights were down. By everyone, I mean everyone. It was completely full and people were sitting in the wrong seats so we had to move people to get four seats together. A terrible moment I never want to re-live, ‘I’m so sorry, it’s just we booked the seats and there aren’t anymore. If there was four seats together anywhere else, I’d sit in them” and then as everyone shuffled around, “Sorry…really sorry…so sorry…sorry”. Utterly humiliating. They enjoyed the film – thank goodness.
It had so far been very sunny and we’d so far been to the car wash and then sat in the dark watching a film, so Wednesday was the day to take advantage of the good weather. Except, the forecast changed, but I hadn’t checked it and we discovered the bitter winds and cold rain midway through a walk high up on the north downs. They were wrapped up, and we had a good friend and her three children with us and we ploughed on in good spirits. Most of the walk was sheltered by trees, although the bracing picnic spot we’d chosen for it’s view wasn’t so much. You know you’ve had a good day when everyone is soaked and you’ve had to re-trace your steps to find a child’s shoe as it’s got stuck back in the thick mud. We nearly lost a pair of wellies (attached to a child) but the rain started again, and we were able to form a human chain to pull the sinking child free. They got covered in mud with their friends and we rounded the day off with hot chocolate covered in cream and marshmallows, so I’m chalking that up as a success. Only one child remained clean, but she was just over 4 months old and in a carrier. My friend said she’d had a good day, but I’m waiting to see if I’m ever allowed to be in charge of choosing a day out again, to see if she meant it.
So, obviously we chanced more outdoor activity on Thursday and headed off to meet a very lovely, old friend and her son at the Queen Elizabeth Park, (formerly known as the Olympic Park). This was exciting as my train obsessed son loves the tube, although he suddenly remembered he has terrible travel sickness, which served to get us a seat and quite a bit of space around us on what could have been a busy journey. No one, not even a Londoner wanting a seat, is interested in being near a small four year old yelling, “Mummy, sick” and then hurling into a sandwich bag. Top tip next time you fancy a seat on the tube.
We arrived on time. I’d done no planning apart from food, lazily assuming my friend who had suggested the place knew where she was going. She didn’t, but we’ve now toured Westfield Shopping Centre Stratford and it’s surrounding area and a mere 45 minutes later, we were on a park; although it turned out to be the wrong park and it took another 45 minutes of staring determinedly into the middle distance, trying to make sense of which bridge the map was referring us to cross, a slight detour along the Lee Valley path (lovely by the way), accosting an equally clueless passerby and a last minute scramble up a grassy hill on a whim. The whim paid off. We had found THE park. Turns out it’s next to a giant sculpture of the Olympic rings that can be seen from time way off. If only we’d known. It’s an amazing and magical park. I recommend it, just go with a map and head for the rings. We stayed for three hours. THREE hours.
Several cups of hot tea later, we dug the children out from the sandpit and headed home. The children obviously felt hard done by, feeling that they’d had no time at all to play. The park is technically next to the tube, but it took us an hour to reach the station, due to the first rule of childhood: always point blank refuse to go to the toilet when passing one, instead you must wait until you have left facilities far behind, so that mummy has to ‘drag’ (for ‘drag’, think ‘strongly and speedily steer’) you round a shopping centre looking for public loos. We eventually arrived at the tube platform just at the start of rush hour, which was fantastic, because we didn’t want to miss that. Obviously, the four year old was ready with his hurl into a bag trick, but there was just nowhere for people to run this time. Bad luck folks!
Friday we decided to chill at home. By chill, I mean there was nine of us in the house in the morning, three adults and six children. I decided to go all out for the occasion and do an a la cart lunch consisting of rounds of cheese and toast. Then a quieter afternoon with myself and five children. Three very well-behaved older girls who are friends with my eldest and were collectively able to somehow keep the youngest in check. I’d farmed out the middle one to play at her friends house. It all worked pretty well.
And that was our week. My house is now covered in sand and mud, but I see that as the sign of a half-term. There’s also a few less bottles of wine on the rack, but I see that as the sign of a good half-term as well.