‘Where are we going tomorrow Mummy?’ – This is the phrase I often hear from my 3-year-old F just before lights out. My first thoughts are one of pride – that she’s managed to think of this little sentence is really amazing. Her cognitive development has come on leaps and bounds in the last few months and her understanding of herself and the world around her is developing every day. Its such a joy to watch the development of language in a little one – from the beginnings of little utterances – which is where the twins are at the moment , the babbling and little noises – through to their first words and then the sentences.
I can now have a proper conversation with F – she’s funny, observant and quite simply a joy to talk to. I’m amazed at some of the sentences she manages to say. This is just nature though – nothing outstanding that we’ve done as parents I’m sure. She’s just a girl who loves to chat!
But after my initial burst of pride from her little question, I then turn to actually trying to answer it. Yikes – what are we actually doing tomorrow?
The pressure to make sure her diary is action packed has always been there – like any mum I expect. Everyone wants his or her child to be stimulated, inspired and enthused. That’s where the baby clubs hook you in. Oh yes. Baby clubs are big business. In F’s short life she’s been to her fair share of clubs and classes. Baby Yoga, Aqua Babies, Baby Sensory,Toddler Gym, Talking Tots, Drama For Tots, Rhyme Time to name but a few. I’ve tried them all. Some are fab, others just a waste of cash but all serving to get us out of the house, keep us busy and entertained and maybe make some friends.
However since the twins have arrived her extra curricular activities have certainly not been as varied as they used to be. The twins haven’t had anything like the kind of variety F had. They’re lucky if they actually get out the pram at the park at the moment.
Not only is it almost impossible to get all three children to these classes logistically – it would also cost a small fortune. Singing at the library can be a safe bet – but even that can be loaded with its own problems for me. It starts around 2.30pm – right in the middle of baby nap-time – so in the rare circumstance I’ve managed to woo both babies to sleep on the short walk there – this session can work like a dream. But that’s not normally the case. One or both can be awake when we arrive and leaving them in the pram while I sit and sing ‘Old Macdonald has a Farm’ isn’t fun for anyone. So if I have to get them out (a logistical dilemma in itself) we all sit on the rug with all the other mums and babies. It’s usually a very busy session, bordering on the chaotic. In fact, I often sit there looking around at all the mums – a collective bunch of sleep deprived ladies singing the nursery rhymes we’ve sang a thousand times before and think – is this as good as it gets?
Now that F the ability to ask me what’s on the agenda tomorrow only highlights the fact that, most of the time we don’t tend to have any major plans. I find going out with twins and a toddler fairly stressful. (see previous blog!) I never go anywhere new alone with them because I just don’t know how things are going to work. Even heading somewhere very familiar and a safe bet – the park, the Trafford Centre – can turn from being quite manageable to a mini disaster in an instant! All it takes is a sore bum from a squashed-in poo (the babies not me) or F to trip over her own shadow and graze her knees and I’m left wondering how quickly can I get home.
I’m also the victim of my own success. You’re told from every book you read and every mum of experience that the best thing you can do is get babies into a routine. I’m not doing extreme routines like Gina Ford suggests – just a relaxed one – but I find it helps me know how the day will pan out. The babies are in a good routine and I don’t want to change that – or they just get upset!
The naps – they enjoy a pre and post lunch nap, usually in the cot. Meals – they love their food and don’t’ like to be kept waiting. Eating out with them is tricky– two high chairs, two lots of little tummies to fill, two lots of sandwiches to pick up off the floor. So I prefer to stay at home during mealtimes. Then throw in two lots of bums to change and all the other usual chores to do and it doesn’t really leave much time in the day to escape the house. Their routines almost imprison us. I know it won’t always be like this…the sentence will be over soon!
I do make plans to visit friend’s houses or attempt a local playgroup now and again but with twins and a toddler I think the secret is to keep it simple. I don’t make too many plans. When F is at playgroup or nursery she’s kept busy and I’m slightly more portable, but when she’s at home I often spend most of the day promising her we’ll go out. If I don’t get out of the house in the small windows of opportunity – in-between mealtime or naptime – it’s just not happening. And before I know it the babies are having their bath and we’ve gone nowhere and achieved nothing. Well – we’ve survived another day at least!
‘Where are we going tomorrow mummy?’. Everytime I hear these words I worry that I’m not fulfilling F’s diary like I used to. If I don’t have an exciting answer I sometimes turn the question back on her – ‘Where would you like to go sweetie’? Luckily for me, because she’s only three, her dreams and aspirations about where she’d like to go aren’t that grand at the moment. She usually says ‘Can we go to the park and can we have pancakes for breakfast’. I sigh and smile. I think I can just about manage the former – she’ll have to wait until Saturday for the latter.