Family Time

Disclaimer: If you fall into the ‘Let’s rejoice, the holidays are here!’ category I apologise in advance for raining on your parade. However, please don’t feel the need to call me out on my poor pessimistic parenting, I may just feel the need to punch you in the face. ;-)

I don’t know about you, but I am one of those people who slightly dread the school holidays- no sooner do they start and you’ll find me counting down to when they finish. I love spending time with my kids, I really do, but when there are four of them and one of me, the ratio doesn’t swing too well in my favour. Our respite for B won’t stretch to cover an extra pair of hands for every day and S is usually working, leaving me the daunting task of keeping four children alive by myself for a whole two weeks.
One day in and I am full of forced optimism for the coming fortnight, reminding myself of all the lovely things we can do now there’s no school. Delusions of grandeur dance through my head as I imagine skipping through the fresh spring fields hand in hand with the kids. Fast forward three days and most of my sanity has usually departed, along with every ounce of energy and patience. My ideals are evaporated and I claw my way through each day, satisfied to get to the end with all my kids alive and kicking.

Having exhausted pretty much every free thing to do this past Easter I found myself begrudgingly agreeing to take the troops for a fun (and ridiculously overpriced) day out at a certain local theme park. Well, when I say theme park, think dodgy travelling fairground come farm park and that’s probably closer to the truth.    
Things were going particularly well until I unwittingly decided to take B on the pirate ship- his need for sensory input is huge so crazy rides are totally his thing. We sat at the back where you are most extremely swung- the bigger the better as far as B’s concerned. As the ride started up I knew instantly this wouldn’t end well. The boat reached its full over-vertical crescendo and I clung to the safety bar for dear life praying harder than I’ve ever prayed. Oh Sweet Lord. Screams around me pierced my ears as I reluctantly opened an eye to check the expression on B’s face; he was blissfully unaware of the mortal danger and absolutely loving it! I however, had to concentrate very hard to keep my breakfast from being upchucked all over our fellow passengers and every time we went up, I was genuinely petrified B might just flip-flop right out. Note to self: hypotonia and cheap amusement rides do not make for a happy ending. This ride had no seat belts, just a lap bar which didn’t actually reach your lap if you happened to be five. Getting through to B that it was a wise plan to at least hold the bar was a no-go, so I had to hope beyond hoping that my makeshift seatbelt-arm solution would suffice. B’s floppiness means he doesn’t have great control over his beautiful little body and so this ride was akin to doing battle with gravity to keep hold of a person-shaped sack of flour. A cocktail of terror and adrenaline ensured our survival and as we emerged from the Ghostly Galleon from hell I hurriedly herded him away and looked around for my other offspring. Who all as it seemed had gone AWOL.

One picnic lunch on a bird turd bench, three somewhat panicked searches for lost children, four explanations that washing hands was indeed a necessary part of lunch especially after being weed on by a guinea pig, and sixteen can-we-buy-sweets refusals later we were ready to go home. I chuckled to myself at the media myth of  family time. The alfresco dining in suspect looking Alps-esque locations, the smiley happy board games, the siblings playing without a trace of rivalry (much less an actual fist fight). Looking at my tired bedraggled children I decided the reality was far less Truman Show and far more Jeremy Kyle. Near death experiences, screeching in fishwife fashion and vomit all come with the parenting territory, and for those of you non-parents out there, beware, the landscape is definitely Asda Smartprice over Cath Kidston (no matter what the baby magazines may tell you!)
I bundled my babies into the car and as exhaustion kicked in and they fell asleep I fell in love with them all over again. Family time, like families, comes in all different shapes and sizes and however messy, shouty and crazy it is, I enjoy mine for exactly that reason; it’s mine. Forget perfect, I’m striving to embrace the chaos. I’d encourage you to do the same. But wisdom and good intentions aside, ROLL ON MONDAY!


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