Today was a training day. Daddy was away training at a very clever IT company which manages to electronically lock guests into the lobby when they attempt to leave the building. Aggressive head-hunting techniques? And Lily, Joe and I took a train. By ourselves. Without a pram.
This is my survival stream of dots. I reasoned all I had to do was join them up. I had not reasoned I would be doing so much bribery.
Get up late. Take time doing everything. Pro-pre-post-and-pie-crastinate. Allow children autonomy over eating breakfast to make spurious scientific tests on how long it would really take on a school day if they had their way. Allow self not to worry about the shocking findings (Lily had double usual breakfast, Joe ate his 2 hours late).
Late in the morning, having somehow done all the usual Wednesday mummy housework – but not necessarily in the right order – realise there may be some mileage in a trip out. Pack absolute minimum – bribe son to take his own spare nappies and wipes in his new backpack, also carry some cash and a shopping bag. Drive to station. Importantly, do not induce worry by checking any real train times.
Walk children to station from distant car park, bribing them with stories of Real Trains and Track to encourage continued stationward movement. Discourage walking on the kerb with cautionary stories of Real Strawberry Jam. Discourage sanding of hands/walls with purity laws and family ethics. Cross the road to at least provide parental variety in cautions.
Use skills acquired mostly during University years in finding, reading and assessing departures board, drawing heavily on skills acquired mostly during the mummy years in cutting losses realistically to choose a suitable place to head to (departing within the quarter hour). Buy ticket by bribing children to look out of the window at passing trains.
Bribe children away from window with Real Ticket and their own chance to travel. Keep bribing until successful.
Bribe older child to stay within reach by trying to find the correct platform by herself as a treasure hunt. Keep hold of younger child and watch for all locomotion within 2-year-old male peripheral vision to keep him, as it were, on track. Allow him to determine the excitement levels at discovering, at the correct platform, a train we are actually going to get on.
Bribe children to sit at a table away from other tables with children (who have a higher child:grandparent ratio in the main, but a lower child:comic ratio). Allow son to stand on chair iff there is no one with a uniform on in the carriage and he has taken boots off first. Distract daughter from same behaviour by plugging her into something needing reading on arrival in her seat. Distract son from daughter’s comic by ensuring he has the better one. She is locked immediately into reading stupor and doesn’t need any form of distracting for duration of journey. Allow self not to worry about this. There is a time for amusing children and a time for them to amuse themselves.
I could go on. Bribing from Ipswich to Woodbridge, then around the town – for a child-friendly cafe, for eating food (surprise tank engine hidden in bag helped here), for stopping throwing feathers upwind into the fountain (valuable lessons for me on optimism). Bribery to find new clothes at good prices, to take turns holding the pink plastic bag I didn’t need or want (because I refused a second one), to look in book shops, to get out of book shops, to return to the station at the time intended plus generous slack (necessary, owing to Woodbridge station’s ridiculous bridge set-up and proximity of ice-creams). Bribing to sit still, to notice the outdoors, to move along, to wait in the waiting room for all the other (many) passengers from Woodbridge to exit at Ipswich so that the opportunity to see just a few more trains might not be missed, and then the walk back to the car.
Which was everything I thought it would be.
Slightly more out-of-pocket than I had hoped, but overall a far more relaxed and successful trip than I could have imagined. Perhaps a slow morning helped. Perhaps doing one dot at a time and not needing to prove anything to myself or anyone else. Perhaps the weather turning out better than we’d imagined. But I was sufficiently relaxed after all that to allow them to help make dinner too. Which they ate. Mostly.
And now I just have to find a suitable way to bribe Lily to fall asleep at any point before 10pm. I should have worn her out more in the morning I fear. Or stopped bribing and just switched the light off, as I have been warning for some months. Will school exhaust her, or will I learn the hard way? I expect it is time I stopped taking the path of least resistance, however clever that may seem at times, and do the right thing. Otherwise it will be a lot more late nights and late mornings.