I am getting ready to take my children out for the day. This involves:
1. Getting myself showered and dressed whilst shouting “Leave your sister alone!”, “Give it back to him!” and “What are you doing?” at the top of my voice every two minutes or so. (Sometimes not in response to any particular crisis but just to make sure that I’ve covered all bases.)
2. Trying to encourage a whinging W (four year old son) to dress himself as his limbs seems to have developed some kind of semi-catatonic floppiness, rendering him unable to do something as simple as pull a jumper over his head.
3. Fighting with S (two year old daughter) over what she is going to wear. Something coordinated and warm (my choice) or something featuring an asinine Disney character, one Wellington boot and a sandal (her choice.)
4. Pack a bag to take with us.
Now, this is the part where it gets difficult. I remember when packing a bag meant car keys, a lipstick and a credit card. Nowadays it’s more like the preparations Edmund Hillary might have undertaken before attempting to conquer Everest.
Firstly, there are the basics. Mobile telephone, car keys and money. There is the usual opening of my purse which is found to contain nothing except 24 loyalty cards, a bunch of crumpled receipts and about 27p in small coins. This results in frantic search of the kitchen drawer, key bowl and husband’s trouser pockets (I’ve warned him) for anything bigger than a 20p piece.
Secondly, provisions: beakers of juice, boxes of raisins and packets of mini cheddars. Plus, depending on the length of car journey, packets of Haribo and lollipops. Initially, my natural slacker tendencies meant I didn’t bother to pack snacks. However, watching my children begging more well-prepared mothers for a mini-breadstick has guilted me into it.
Thirdly, equipment for car journey and in case weather means you have to spend more than ten minutes in a café: books, toys which don’t contain small, loseable pieces and any handheld electronic device which stores videos of children’s programmes.
Lastly, spare pairs of trousers, socks, tops and, if potty training, knickers/pants. Nappies, wipes, nappy bags, cream and, depending on season and time of day, sunscreen and insect repellent.
Then there is the choice of bag to carry these items. Hitherto, I have resisted the purchase of a mahoosive ‘mum’ bag, preferring instead to cram everything I can into my largest available handbag. Admittedly, this has resulted in some rather nasty spillage and sticky lolly incidents, but I remain resolute in my determination to look like a woman and not a packhorse.
After all that, we attempt to leave the house and, after the inevitable last minute need to use the toilet (Son), change a nappy (daughter), cram three biscuits in your mouth at once because you suddenly remember you have not had breakfast (me), we finally do.
And, as we go, I mutter the mantra I have been uttering for the last four years: “Tomorrow, let’s just stay at home.”