It’s been a logistical weekend. My partner is visiting relatives. I had agreed a sleepover with only son’s best friend. It seemed foolish to cancel, given the levels of excitement involved and that only son needs someone his own age to counter the teen domination in our household. Friday night went okay. Only son’s friend is a creature of habit. He likes pizza, playing games and me reading Heggedy Peg before bed. Only son hates Heggedy Peg and was a bit miffed as he wanted to play shark top trumps, but he let it lie.
By 5am on Saturday he was waking me up. I got him to go back to sleep, but by 6.45 both he and his friend were ready for action. “Can we go downstairs?” he asked. “Just try to be very quiet,” I replied. Only son’s friend is a very enthusiastic person and not known for his quietness. I went down a couple of times to tell them to stop shouting. Daughter one sleeps in the next door room and had no doubt gone to sleep some time after midnight. She has a ‘self-improvement’ drive going at the moment which involves yoga, applying for jobs, going for walks and reading “improving” books and watching the great works of cinema until the early hours.
After doing the washing/housework, I dragged the boys to the library to get some books for their school project. They packed as if they were going for a day trip, bringing games and, surprisingly, books. “We will read in the library,” said only son’s best friend sagely. “You have to be very, very quiet in the library,” only son warned his friend. Only son often adopts a kind of headteacher approach to his friend. They sat in the toddler area reading while I selected books on Egypt.
I had promised to take only son and his friend to the cinema in the afternoon and almost everyone had an eye test after that. None of the teens wanted to go to the cinema or wander around the shopping centre where the cinema is for two hours. I explained the logistics to them and their list of options. Daughter one wanted to drop her cv into a greengrocer’s in the next-door village. They could get the bus to the town where the cinema is from there and meet us for the eye test.
This was at least a plan of sorts, but, of course, when we returned from the library no-one was ready, only son and his friend were hungry and the clock, as ever, was ticking [ironically we were going to see The house with a clock in the walls – my whole life feels as if there were a clock in the walls]. We made some sandwiches, packed some popcorn and corralled the teens into the car. Daughter two looked a bit pale. “Can I come with you?” she said as I dropped the other two girls off. It turned out she planned on staying in the car for two hours sleeping. I felt like joining her, but suggested she could sleep in the cinema. She was feeling uncooperative. Daughter two is an anti-materialist. Bribes do not work on her. You have to appeal to some higher moral order.
Eventually she dragged herself out of the car. The cinema is less than 100m from the car park. Fortunately, everyone enjoyed the film and we bumped into daughters one and three on the way out. There were 45 minutes till the eye test. We went round Tesco. Daughters one and two went to the vegan section. Daughter three was in cakes. Only son and his friend proceeded to the toy section and found some toys that when you squeeze them ‘poop’ comes out. Endless fun.
We went to the eye test. Hundreds of glasses and two very excited eight year olds is not a good mix. They tried on loads of pairs while they were waiting. Only son’s friend came into the test room. “Any problems with your eyes?” asked the optician. “No,” said only son confidently and proceeded to read off the letters even before the test had started. “Any headaches?” “Well, not at the moment, but I think I might have one soon because my friend is being quite annoying,” said only son. I apologised to only son’s friend.
Only son needed new glasses. I directed him to the free pairs. He didn’t like any of them. The main reason was because they weren’t blue. I asked if there were blue versions. Hurrah. There were. He got two for free. The only problem is that he and his friend had to sit in swizzly chairs to get them fitted. They were twisting and squirming away. Only son finds it almost impossible to stay still anyway, but a swizzly chair is adding fuel to the fire.
I left the girls to their tests and took the boys away from the glass to HMV. I was flagging by this point. Daughter one arrived, saying I need to sign some paperwork. I took the boys to a cafe opposite the opticians and signed the paper. Then I was told I had to sit in on daughter two’s test. Daughter one was having her eyes tested which left daughter three to invigilate the boys. Could she control them? When she was younger she wanted to be a teacher and was known for some time as Miss X. I reckoned she could do it. Luckily, daughter two is the only one in the family with 20/20 vision despite being the only one to have glasses as a toddler. She was finished in five minutes. People were ravenous. We got some chips and went back to get only son’s glasses. More swizzly chair. Daughter one went off to meet a friend and we dropped only son’s friend back home.
It was only 6pm, but I felt I had been on a week-long assault course. The original intention of weekends was to gather energy for the week ahead. Whoever came up with that plan did not have four children.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.