This post comes in two parts. The first part was written around midday. The second was written around 8pm.
So, today I was meant to be going to the International Street Performers’ Festival. I have been looking forward to it ever since my host mother told me about it back in April. Turns out, however, that my host parents are going to a wedding today, so I need to look after the girls. This wasn’t going to be a problem, of course, because I was just going to take the girls with me. It was going to be a really lovely afternoon for all of us. My eldest girl, in particular, has been begging me to take her to Cork for ages, and we’ve never been able to go. Or, she hasn’t wanted to go to things that I’ve invited her to. I was really looking forward to it, not only because I thought I would enjoy it, but because I thought the girls would enjoy it as well.
This morning, I was starting to worry that it might be a bit stressful, after all, the youngest tends to run off at every opportunity, twisting her hand out of mind for most of the day, running on to the road, thinking its funny and the eldest is, of course, quite moody and can snap at the most innocuous things. Everything seems to be going fine and then, suddenly, for no apparent reason, she’ll be screaming her head off, kicking me, hitting me etc. But, I was still very enthusiastic about going, and set about getting food organised. I was going to cook pasta, tuna and sweetcorn, which is a favourite. The first sign that something was going to go wrong, was that the eldest girl did not want to eat this. She told me she was going to say ‘no’ to everything I suggested. This was not good. This was not a good start at all. Finally, she agreed to fruit salad, so I set about making a fruit salad.
However, my eldest girl… well, my eldest girl changes her mind all the time. At the drop of a hat. And, so now, I am stuck inside the house, watching Dora the Explorer, with her in her pj’s, refusing to get dressed or leave the house, whilst a beautiful sunny day goes to waste outside.
Her uncle has returned and she doesn’t want to leave the house when he is here.
I can’t tell you how unhappy and frustrated I am. I don’t know if this is even something I should be blogging about, quite frankly, because, I’m likely to just let my mouth run off (or my fingers), and write things that are unfair and I will regret later. So, I’m going to be careful and make sure I only write things about me and how this makes me feel.
I suppose you can see from the title how I feel. There is nothing more depressing than being stuck in a house. Part of me feels like just grabbing the youngest girl, jumping in the car and driving to Cork and leaving the eldest with her uncle, but its not his responsibility, so I also feel like I am completely unable to do that. Another part of me feels like leaving the both of them, jumping in the car, driving to Cork and hopping a plane back to Edinburgh. Part of me feels like jumping in the car, driving some, as yet, undetermined place and never coming back. Part of me feels like flying home.
And therein endeth Part 1. At that point, my eldest girl came in and said she wanted to go to the Street Performers Festival with me. So, without further ado,
I am wrecked. Emotionally. Physically. Something else-ally. Oh, yeah, mentally.
I am never having children.
Or, if I do have children, I will have only one. And that child will be a very quiet one. Possibly mute. And also possibly who doesn’t like to walk. Who just likes to sit, in the corner, quietly, reading a book. And, I will never, ever, ever be a single mother. No way, no way, no way. I will most definately be roping some other poor bastard into the whole child-rearing ‘adventure’ with me.
Even though I was delighted my eldest girl had changed her mind, I tried not to gloat too much, because I’m pretty sure I emotionally blackmailed her into coming with me. And I feel slightly wrong about emotionally blackmailing an 8 year old. That’s wrong, isn’t it? I mean, that’s really wrong. I keep thinking how much of what I’ve said and done to her over the past couple of months she’s going to be repeating back to a therapist in 20 years time. Best not to brood on it too long, though. Otherwise, I’ll be looking for a therapist again myself.
So, we got her dressed and into the car. I had thought about the basic requirements for children on an outing in Ireland. I had food, I had juice, I had hats and I also had jumpers. I had extra shoes. However, after today, I will never go out with children again without taking the majority of the house with me. As well as the kitchen sink.
Here’s what happened.
We drove into Cork, which was fine, the youngest fell asleep in the back, and there is really nothing cuter than a toddler who has fallen asleep in the back of a car. I actually think most people are pretty cute and funny when they’re asleep, its something about how vulnerable they are. Plus, they’re often making funny noises and their heads are thrown back so you can see up their nostrils. There was no parking around the park that we were heading to (Why? Why? WHY???), so we parked in the city and walked back. This is when I realised mistake number one. I hadn’t brought a buggy for the youngest to be wheeled about in. This meant I had to keep a vice-like grip on her hand and drag her along the road, all the while she was attempting to eat a rapidly melting chocolate ice-cream, which got all over every single part of her body. About half way up the road, she called out, ‘Nappy!’ I said, ‘What?’ She said, ‘Nappy!’ I said, ‘Yes, you have a nappy. Come on.’ And kept pulling. She said, ‘Nappy gone!’ I said, ‘Nappy gone?’ She said, quite distressed, ‘Yes!’ Which I thought was hysterical, and kept repeating as I pulled her down the road. About 5 minutes later I looked down at her to realise that her pants, and nappy, were now hanging around her ankles, and this is clearly what she had meant with that seemingly cute and absurd comment. I pulled up the pants and the nappy, but, of course, it kept falling down, meaning every couple of minutes, we had to stop and adjust her, as I cursed her father, who her sister said had put on the nappy that morning. Eventually, her sister offered to give her a piggy-back, which worked for a little while, until the younger started choking the older and had to prised off her sister’s back.
We were greeted by people dressed as Waldo from ‘Where’s Wally’ (I will explain later), who gave me some giant stickers with numbers on them, to stick on the back of the girls’ backs, so that if they got lost, I could report their number to a Waldo, and they would (hopefully) find them for me. This was great, except for the fact that it took 10 minutes to pull the sticker off its backing, by which stage, the girls were being driven wild by all the balloons, bubbles, sweets, acrobats, fire-twirling, slides and rides that they could see, but couldn’t get at. I wouldn’t be surprised if more children were lost in that small period of attempting to get the sticker on their back than the rest of the day.
Once the stickers were attached, we made a bee-line for the giant windmill slide, which was a giant wooden slide wrapped around a wooden mill. You paid 2 Euro to climb up and go down on a straw mat. Of course, it being about the height of 4 storey-building, I had to go up with the youngest, and the stairs inside were ridiculously steep, which meant that higher we got the slower she went, until, finally, just near the top, she froze entirely and started to wail, as a build-up of little children gathered behind me (children also don’t understand the concept of queues, or waiting, or stopping: they think if someone has stopped, they just need a constant and determined pressure into the small of the back to rectify the problem, sort of like a car stuck in mud). Finally, I got her up the top, and as we settled in, (me at the back, with her, a backpack and my hand bag between my legs) I got the whiff of a terrible, terrible poo. Mistake number two. I hadn’t brought any nappies. Or baby wipes. Now, in hindsight, it is beyond my comprehension as to why I had thought I could get away with a 7 hour excursion with a child who wear nappies without packing ANY spare nappies. After we got off the slide, I told the elder girl we had to, straight away, attempt to find some nappies. A poo-ey nappy was bad enough, but when you then take into consideration the fact that the nappy was also refusing to stay on her waist, so it was a poo-ey nappy that was sliding down her bottom and depositing its contents all over… well, you get the idea. The situation was desperate. We went to the medical tent. They didn’t have any spare nappies (Why?) We went to the lost children stand. They didn’t have any spare nappies (WHY??) SO, we had to walk for 10 minutes to the convenience store, where they, luckily, had one single packed of nappies. They were *just* big enough. Desperate to change the nappy, I found what looked like a quiet, shady and deserted area on the other side of the road. Of course, the minute that I had decided that was the place to change the little one’s nappy, about 30 people decided that was exactly the place they needed to congregate RIGHT THEN. And stand. And talk. About nothing. For 15 minutes. In the end, I just whipped off the nappy and changed it in front of all the people and decided it was their fault for choosing to stand there.
So, after this, we were able to head back to the festival. However, instead of wanting to watch the acts, the eldest girl decided she wanted to sit on the ground and eat food. Mistake number three was that I did not bring enough food, nor did I feed the girls regularly enough.
After they were fed, the eldest girl wanted to play on the playground. This was the most terrifying thing I have ever witnessed. It was like football hooligan stampede, except with 3 year olds instead of lower-class British men. The poor little one was whacked in the shoulder by an evil, fat, 3 year old boy with thick glasses who came flying past after 2 seconds on the playground. Then, she spent a horrible 3 minutes crouching on the floor of the play set, as children walked around, over the top of her, pushed, shoved and pulled her to get to the slide. All I could do was, ineffectively hold her hand from the ground, as there was no space for me to get up and help her. After 10 minutes, she eventually stood up and went down the slide, but it was so exhausting for the both of us, that we both left the playground straight away.
In the end, we only got to see one performer, who was pretty good, but not fabulous. And, again, I pretty much had to throw a tantrum to force the eldest girl to allow me and the younger to sit and watch him. The worst thing about looking after kids is how many times you end up behaving ridiculously childlishly yourself, and not just when playing games or things, but just when attempting to get what you want.
The only reason the eldest girl had actually stayed was the promise of a 99 (a soft serve ice-cream cone with a flake in it), so we went in search of one of those. As we were being served, I noticed the time was 5:50pm, and the car park where we had parked was closing at 6:30pm (with a 120 euro fine if you wanted to get the car out after that), so I grabbed the girls and walked them quick smart down the road. Mistake number four, I parked the car way too far away. The little one had a charming habit of suddenly stopping, making everyone behind her run into the back of us, and in the end, I just had to pick her up and power walk back to the car. This was as well as carrying my rucksack, her rucksack and a purse. Mistake number five, not packing properly. Mistake number six, was carrying a 4 year old eating a magnum, as the magnum got smacked variously on my shoulder, my hair, my ear and right in the middle of my face.
Luckily, we managed to get to the car without any troubles, though the little one heard an ambulance and started to wail that she was also sick and had to go to the hospital, which made me both worried that she was about to throw up on the street and that people would think I was a terrible parent/carer for not immediately taking her to the hospital.
We headed home, where there was no food in the house, and the girls’ uncle. Thank goodness he was there, as he was able to take over for a bit whilst I recovered. I honestly don’t know how single parents do it. I have the utmost respect for them, and spent the day thanking my father over and over and over again and hoping that we hadn’t caused him too much stress and worry and trouble over the years.
Well, on the subject of childhood, I currently have ‘Forest Gump’ on in the background (I know this soundtrack off by heart. Dad and my bro and I listened to it all the way across the USA. Ok, that’s an exaggeration. All the way from New Mexico to California, but it felt like a much longer distance and bigger deal when you are 12 years old), so I’m going to end the post and watch that and have a cider or two and have a bit of a relax.