Over the Easter weekend we spent five nights away in the best hotel. The hotel of Mum and Dad.
When I said we were staying for five nights, I saw the look of consternation on their faces, and I must admit to feeling a teensy bit guilty. But they didn’t object out loud and I didn’t change our plans.
I love the idea of holidays, I really do. The planning, the hunting down of a bargain, finding the perfect cottage in the perfect location, good places nearby to visit, and so on. But with Pudding in tow, things are never quite as idyllic as I imagine. When you arrive, there’s that scan you have to do to check for hazards. You move any ornaments out of reach . You then move more that he’s just proved he can still reach. You realise that his travel cot won’t fit in the place you’d planned, requiring a chest of drawers to be heaved from one room to another. There’s still all the cooking and washing up to be done. Or if you’re in a hotel, there’s the negotiation of public spaces, catching him before he makes a dash through the lift’s closing doors, and the joy of turning out all the lights and spending the evening in darkness to keep his bedtime routine going.
At my parents’ house, there is none of that to worry about. Yes, of course he immediately found the most breakable things, but we soon moved them. Yes, he started posting all the leaflets in the hall out through the letter-box, but at least it kept him busy for a bit. Yes, he did want to explore every cupboard and go through every door. Yes, he wouldn’t even sit still through a TV programme (unheard of!). But he adored the different toys to play with, the huge garden for football and the attention from two extra adults. And no, even Grandad couldn’t resist the continual shouts of ‘Dave! Dave! Ball!’ when he was trying to get some gardening done…
As for me – no washing, no dishes, no cooking. We did offer a couple of times but were told in no uncertain terms to relax. So relax we did. We had some nice outings. There was sunshine and spring flowers. I played loads of games with Twiglet. I read the paper. I even did some of the cryptic crossword, and I haven’t done that for years.
Sometimes I worry that people will think I’m over-exaggerating things, making our lives sound harder than they really are. All children can be challenging, right? I know. With our ‘normal’ child, we’ve had our fair share of temper tantrums and other struggles. Right now, we’re dealing with a pretty intense phase of defiance that is enough to prick me into a state of bitter sarcasm many days of the week. So I find it hard to articulate what life is really like with Pudding.
But I think over these few days, I finally worked out what it is. There are many moments of joy. I love the way he flings himself at either of us, shouting, ‘Dah-ddy!’ and grinning widely. I love the way he is still learning things – slowly, but it’s progress nonetheless. But I can never really relax when he’s around. I am always aware of what danger he could cause himself or others. Even when he’s at playgroup, I’m often dealing with the admin side of his needs. It’s unrelenting and possibly never-ending. Which is why the occasional chance to have the pressure taken off a little is so important.
I guess, even though I’m now in my 40s, I haven’t really grown out of my need to be mothered myself once in a while. Thank you, parents. I never appreciated you enough when I was younger. But I do now, oh, how I do!