A play date with my daughter

I met my youngest daughter this week; that’s ridiculous, I know. But it really felt that way.

This week was the first ‘proper’ week of being at home while my school returns for the autumn term (who knew things would carry on in my absence and that they would have the audacity to give someone else my job…) how did it feel? Novel, exciting, guilt-ridden, manic, A bit sad, more exhausting than I’d thought, more fun than I’d hoped; overall a huge amalgamation of weird emotion with a good measure of tantrums and a laundry pile that could’ve filled a skip.

But then we got to Thursday, the one day of the week where I have just one child. The day that her brother is in school, her sister is at the childminder’s for her pre school hours and I get to have her all by herself.. Just me and her. Her and me.

This is interesting.

What I was worried may happen:

She would be disappointed. I am actually a bit of a kill joy. I take little delight in pouring cups full of water down my front, I don’t (often) spit food in people’s outstretched hands, I have no interest in pretending to be a pet dog and I rarely call anyone a ‘poo poo head’.

She would throw all the tantrums. People often say their toddlers tantrum, I’ve heard people describe their children as ‘nightmares’. They refuse to say please, they want a packet of sweets in the shop, they don’t want to go to bed/brush teeth/eat dinner. No…really? If my daughter doesn’t want to go in her car seat, she will sit on the pavement and scream about it until she frothes at the mouth. If one of us does something she takes exception to, she will scream for what seems like hours at a pitch that can silence a busy restaurant, a bus, the entire aquarium…

She would want to go to the childminder. Ok this one actually happened. It went a bit like this:

‘Tomorrow is a special mummy day!’

‘No thank you.’

‘Do you want to do something nice with mummy?’

‘No thank you.’

‘We might go to the park? Or for a swim? Or to the beach?’ At this point Daughter One dissolved into tears and announced she was staying at home. Daughter two began crying because feeling like she was missing out on something fun, she didn’t have the option to go to the childminder. Son walked in and observed:

‘It’s quite funny really. They used to cry because you were going to work and now they’re crying because you’re at home!’ Yes, hilarious love.

Thursdays are going to be complicated.

What actually happened:

Luckily, Daughter Two fell asleep on the way to the childminder and by the time she woke up she was happy to accept it was just boring old me.

We did chores without incident. We met daddy for a bit of lunch, without drama (other than a minor cough-with-mouth-full-of-water-over-Daddy’s-lunch incident). Then I did the one thing we never do together, we went swimming.

My youngest, smallest of 3, sister to an older brother and sister spends a lot of time at our leisure centre.

In the cafe.

She has watched her siblings do swimming lessons since she was 5 days old; the swimming lesson run, is a manic, tropical heatwave of noise, mess, crying, the obligatory shower soaking and lost trouser hunting. I hate it, she hates it and we survive it together with a chocolate chip cookie. In the past, she’s been swimming with the childminder when I was teaching and on holiday. That’s it. As I admitted in my very first post Don’t make me count to three, we’re not regular swimmers, so this is something my youngest has missed out on so far. It was also one of those things I promised myself I would be able to make time for when I made the big decision to leave my job.

We walked all the way there, admiring the chickens that her brother and sister always run past. We had time to stop and say hello to every dandelion, leaf, dog, lamp post and road sign, because there was no time limit. No older child stepping out into the road, no scooter to chase after, no need for her to be in the buggy. And all the way:

‘Not sister’s turn, not brother’s turn, not Daddy’s turn. It’s my turn.’

When we got there, she took an immediate left into the cafe. Ready to resume her position of spectator. Imagine her surprise when she actually got into the changing rooms for ‘her turn’. The deserted pool was calling to be jumped in, screeched at and splashed in. So that’s what we did for a whole hour. Before we’d left home I let her choose a bath toy to bring with us, something to play with in the pool; for the little girl flying solo without her siblings for the first day, I thought her choice was quite apt.

We had a lovely time together, a treat for me to enjoy these last days of babyhood, with my last baby. We were so happy to collect the other two and to be fair, we talked about them all day.

Thursday is a special day; for toddlers who don’t like car seats, or shopping or occasionally, their mother.



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