Here is the absolute truth of it. Mothering little people is the most profoundly wearying, profoundly wonderful thing I’ve ever done. It is feeling like I could burst when my boy yells ‘HEY MAMA’ from another room, and feeling like I’ve been vomited on from a large height with the power of scream. Both, always both. Piles of good things and less-good things that succeed each other quicker than I can blink. And blogs tend to accentuate the positive – oh look, another sunshine day of restaurant meals and beaming children – which is lovely and important. But it’s just as important to say that sometimes, there’s scream.
In solidarity with your up-and-down days, here’s one of mine.
It’s Friday, and we’ve planned to meet one of our favourite ever people in London on her day off. It’s complicated slightly by the fact that I’ve woken up with a magnificent pregnancy cold – it’s just like any other cold, except you can’t take anything that will make you feel better – and there are sub-zero temperatures and freezing winds outside. But I’ve planned our journey carefully. I know what I’m doing. It’ll be fine.
Then, a solitary minute after I leap out of the bath to iron my shirt, I look over and Henry has evacuated what looks like half a sewer into the water. I am astonished by the magnitude of it. Where was it hiding?! No time to be astonished, though: I haul him out with one hand, hose him off with the shower, wrap him up in a towel, bleach his bath toys, let the water drain out and then wipe up the rest with toilet paper. There’s a lot. I am feeling delicate. To conclude the proceedings, I throw up my breakfast into the sink.
Finally we’re outside, wrapped in coats and blankets and, with any luck, not too smelly. We’ve got to walk at least as far as a cash machine and then buy something, because the buses only take exact change. By the time we reach it, my face is numb, but I make a snap decision to walk all the way to the train station anyway. This decision is borne entirely of guilt about the number of chips I’ve eaten recently. It’s ok, though. I know what I’m doing. It’ll be fine.
By the time we reach the train station – two miles away, and much further than I thought – Henry is so cold, even underneath all his blankets, that he can’t stop crying. I feel like the stupidest person on earth for keeping him out all this time. We buy a ticket, work our way down to the right platform (the lift is broken) and squeeze on to a busy train. The pushchair gets stuck and won’t collapse, and I can’t fiddle with it while struggling with a screeching boy. In the end I leave it and go sit down. But poor Henry is now tantruming – full-on, top-of-lungs, arching-back tantruming, and it takes at least fifteen minutes and an episode of Alphablocks to talk him down. By this point just about everyone is staring over their newspapers and grinding their teeth. When I take out my phone, I realise I’ve forgotten to charge it, and it’s about to turn off. Which will be a great deal of help in London all day, won’t it?
I haven’t even started on the Tube yet. This is not ok. And so then I am sat with my frozen toddler and achy sinuses and stupid huge belly on a crammed London train, crying my little eyes out. And people deliberately don’t stare, but don’t-stare worse, if you know what I mean. In between hiccups I think: if they compiled an Oscar reel of my life this would definitely make the cut for my finest hour. Well-played, Jeffcoat. Well-played.
Well. It really was ok. I used the last of my battery to text Timothy, sat at his desk a few miles away, and bless that wonderful boy, he dropped everything and came to meet us off the train. He bought me chocolate, then carried the pushchair across two Tube lines to where we were supposed to be. And then we found Emily, and had the loveliest day. Henry was so good. We ate chip sandwiches as big as our heads, and wandered around Borough Market to gape at cheese wheels and artisan bread. I bought a Hockney print at the Tate Modern for our bathroom. It was all just marvellous.
And here are some photographs. Our piles of good things that made for a joyous day. In the end. Despite the first bit that wasn’t. A lot of our days seem to work out like that.
PS: I never think I’m much interested in modern art, and then I always hugely enjoy the Tate Modern. Even if it’s not your thing, the gift shop has the largest and most beautiful collection of children’s picture books I know of, so it’s worth going for that and the view across the Millennium Bridge alone.