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This half term I am practising the art of the merge – or splurge, as I prefer to call it because merge sounds kind of seamless and smooth. On Monday I had a meeting to go to. I considered various options. Leaving everyone with daughter one to babysit might have been the simplest one, but for some reason I decided a better option was to take everyone along with me. It would be fun, people would get out and about and my meeting was only an hour long. I would tick the good parent and the good worker boxes in one fell swoop. Oh yes, it was a great plan and I did a big sell on it. I suggested that I go to my meeting and daughter one take everyone to Lush for a bath bomb demo then to McDonald’s where I would meet them and whisk them all off for some family fun time.
However, I got cold feet the night before. Daughter three wanted to go to H&M with a voucher she got for Christmas. Only son is well known for his impatience with all kinds of clothes shops. He tends to go slightly stir crazy, loudly protest his disgust at whichever shop it is and proceed to play hide and seek under all the clothes racks. Daughter one might get momentarily distracted by a bargain jumper and only son would be lost forever. Daughter two [known as “the monster” by only son] might wind him up to the point of emotional breakdown, leading him to run off into the crowds and be lost forever. You can see the general drift of my thinking.
I asked daughter one if she might prefer to stay at home and babysit for only son. She said she was keen to stick to plan A. Even daughter two, who has become a bit of a recluse of late, was happy to come despite having to get up at 8am on day one of half term. I considered a plan B: getting only son to sit in the office and do some colouring while I had the meeting. Daughter one objected. I realised I was undermining her babysitting skills. We would stick to plan A.
En route it emerged that daughter two had not even registered where we were going and had dressed for the spring/summer. She would never have come if she had realised, she said. Better pay more attention next time…I took everyone to the office so they knew where I was and they set off for Lush. The meeting went on slightly longer than planned and was followed by a discussion, but I hadn’t had any emergency calls so everything must be fine, I thought. I checked my phone. Two missed calls. Oh dear. Someone had turned the volume down on my ringer. “We’re in evil McDonald’s” said a text message from one of the vegans on the family whatsapp group. It was followed by “Oh my god…where are you?” and a message which had been deleted. There was a message from my brother in Argentina who attempts to put together a picture of family happenings based on whatsapp messages which generally feature daughter one’s pick-up arrangements.
I headed up the road, running, to be met by the team on their way to find me. Two of them were desperate for the toilet. Only son’s arms were bright pink from the Lush bath bomb demo. Daughter one looked slightly frazzled. On inquiry, it appeared Lush had been a success, but the last half hour at McDonald’s had been slightly trying. Only son had been perching on the top of his seat checking out the door to see where his mum was. We spent the next couple of hours having a great time window shopping before returning home to the nostalgic tones of the Cheryl Cole album [daughter two choreographed the entire album aged five]. The younger section snuggled up under a duvet to watch a film selected by only son [not always a popular choice…] while I caught up with work.
*Mum on the run is Mandy Garner, editor of Workingmums.co.uk.