Is there anything better than the first lazy Monday of the school holidays? It’s 10.35am and I’m sat in my pjs with a cup of coffee, thinking about all of the things I probably should be doing while actually doing none of them. Bliss.
Yesterday was not quite so peaceful. I’d planned a lovely family day out to White Post Farm. Bug is absolutely crazy about animals and to make it even better, characters from her favourite TV show “Paw Patrol” were going to be making appearances throughout the day.
The day was going to be even more special as the girls’ daddy was coming with us, making it our first proper family adventure in a very long time. The girls haven’t been able to spend a lot of time with their dad recently, which has been very hard on all the three of them, and so it was lovely to see them reunited and playing together like they used to.
On the face of it we all had a lovely day. We saw some animals, including some adorable piglets and baby lambs, meerkats (my favourite) and some ridiculously small harvest mice. I faced my fear for the sake of the girls and braved the reptile house (I’ve had a powerful phobia of snakes for as long as I can remember, even writing the word makes me shudder a little). We played in an soft play area and on the outdoor playground. The girls had their faces painted. We had a lovely picnic in the sunshine. And the girls got to have a cuddle and a photo with Marshall, from Paw Patrol which was a source of great excitement.
However, as is often the case, the truth behind the Facebook photos was quite different. The park was full to capacity, and so there were queues everywhere. Every attraction was heaving and you had to barge through crowds of people to see even the hint of an animal.
We had to stand in a line for what felt like an hour to get a 30 second cuddle with a man in a dalmation-firefighter suit. And then we didn’t get to see Chase, because we’d probably have had to wait for another hour for that!
The girls went into sensory overload. While White Post Farm has a huge variety of activities to offer, it can almost seem like too much! Should we feed the animals? Play on the playground? Have a tractor ride? Paint a pot? The choices are endless and I think the girls got a little overwhelmed. There were lots of tears and tantrums when they couldn’t do exactly what they wanted, for as long as they wanted. And no – the tears weren’t from me.
By the end of the visit we were all exhausted ( and emotionally drained) and two very tired, grumpy children were carried out of the park, literally kicking and screaming. I couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed on the way home that the day had ended on such a sour note.
I think the truth is I build my expectations up WAY to high. I want our days out to be perfect snapshots of blissful family life, with smiling kiddies and content adults feeling we’ve shared something wonderful.
Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s a particularly realistic vision. The truth is, there were a lot of screaming kiddies in the farm yesterday. I think all the excitement gets a bit much and they struggle to contain it. So everything comes pouring out in one emotional outburst. And the parents are stressed from trying to maintain control, tired from cajoling and bribing the kids to come out of the soft play or eat a sandwich and slightly depressed at the amount of money they’ve spent to basically act as a cattle herder for the day.
The silver lining to the whole event was that I had forgotten how much easier it is to cope with your tiny terrors when there are two parents working together. The girls’ dad is over 6 feet tall, so is very useful when you need a child scooped up and manoeuvred where you want them.
I was slightly worried before the trip that he wouldn’t be in the best of moods and might have gotten stressed at the chaos of a packed-out farmyard. But I was amazed at how calm and laid back he seemed. (Probably much more than I was!)
The last year has been really hard on him (on all of us, really) and I had been really concerned about the toll it might take. I was worried about how he would cope with the changes in his life and whether he might end up feeling resentful, impatient and generally depressed.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. He’s really coping remarkably well. He’s trying really hard to put the past behind him and move on with a much more positive frame of mind. His main focus at the moment is spending as much time as possible with the girls, making up for lost time and rebuilding those really important relationships. The girls seem to have taken everything in their stride, which is a blessing in itself.
Yesterday could have been a really negative experience, but has instead left me feeling quietly hopeful. Maybe we’ll all get through this without too many scars. Although I’m sure the suffering of the past year will never be really forgotten, maybe we can all forgive and try to move forward and make the best of things.
I don’t think this latest chapter of our lives is finished, but the end is getting closer. And there are plenty more chapters to come. And who knows what they hold?
Probably not a crowded farmyard, that’s for sure!