It has been a slightly stressful few days.
Ziggler woke us at 1.30 am on Friday night, saying ‘Pickle’s too noisy! I can’t sleep!’ The noise was stridor, the horrible strained breathing in which the in-breath sounds like someone punching a goose, as Trulove puts it. Both girls have had this before, so I thought that putting Pickle in a steamy bathroom would do the trick. It didn’t, so I drove her to A&E, where I got a telling-off for not coming straight away. By then of course she was fine and enjoying the attention, new toys and being allowed not only to wear her pyjamas in public but to team them with her beloved (and technically stolen, but that’s another story) Hello Kitty wellies. She was given some steroids and then we had to hang out in the waiting room with an annoying singing bus toy and approximately twenty eight thousand other small children who had come to A&E with precisely the same symptoms. It’s either the time of year or a covered up super-villain poison gas leak.
We got home at 5am but didn’t make it straight to bed as Pickle, having had the best night of her life, didn’t want it to end there. She was up for making it an all-nighter and she wasn’t going to do it alone.
Saturday is a bit of a blur, except for an ill-advised lunch out at a Tapas restaurant. I remarked afterwards that it would be a really nice place to go on a Saturday morning for brunch with the weekend newspaper, and to spend the morning reading, chatting and nibbling tasty dishes. Obviously this plan relies on not being accompanied a 4-year-old and a sleep-deprived, still slightly wheezy 2-year-old so our lunch was not very much like that. I’m sure you can imagine and can’t quite see why we didn’t before we left the house.
In the middle of Saturday night Ziggler really, really, really wanted to come into our bed. It’s our fault because we let her for a long time. Nobody really slept. I felt like I never got a break from small children. It made everyone grumpy. So we’re trying to put her back in her own bed. And back in her own bed. And again, back in her own bed. And back in her own bloody bed. I’m afraid at about 0400 hours Trulove snapped, slammed a door, and shouted. And woke Pickle, who felt like a replay of last night’s party and demanded Cinderella on telly at 4am. And you know what? I was so knackered I just did it.
Sunday was truly a day of rest. And then I realised with a thrill of dread that Monday was the first day of half-term.
There is a children’s festival on the South Bank this week, and I thought a disco which uses kids riding bikes to power the music (they queue up to have a go – it’s not exploitation of immigrant children or anything) sounded fun. And I thought my lovely friend Sarnie and her son Joff, and my lovely and 9-months pregnant friend Clam and her son Atticus would like to join us. So here’s what happened. I told Clam the wrong train time. Then we got on the wrong train. We changed, so it was ok. Then at the other end I took the lift with Pickle in the pushchair and Clam took Atticus and Ziggler on the escalator, only Ziggler forgot to get on and ended up stranded and crying at the top until a nice lady took pity on the heavily pregnant lady trying to pacify – while gliding further away from – the hysterical pre-schooler at the top of the stairs. So that was more or less ok. Then we got to the Royal Festival Hall and the lift wasn’t working. I abandoned the pushchair in a lobby (by this time I would’ve done a celebratory dance if somebody had decided to relieve me of it but obviously being worth about £2.50 nobody wanted to steal it). We took the stairs. As the Clore Ballroom came into view it became clear that every small, medium and large-ish child who was anywhere near the South Bank at 11.30 on Monday was at this disco. And the SHOM was well and truly in action (yes I KNOW pre-schoolers have no business being abroad in half-term. I KNOW pushchairs are irritating. But we have to be somewhere or we will all squabble ourselves to death. OK?). We could not see Clam, or Sarnie, or indeed anything much past the gaggles of families picnicking on the dance floor. Pickle was desperate – utterly desperate – to dance. It was too noisy for Ziggler and she wanted to go outside. Sarnie rang and gave me directions to where she was. I was hot, and flustered and remembered that I forgot to put deodorant on that morning and that the deodorant I usually carry for such occasions was in my other bag. I could not make sense of Sarnie’s perfectly clear directions. Pickle was pulling my sleeve and shouting ‘Dance! Dance!’. Ziggler was pulling my other sleeve and shouting ‘Mummy it’s too LOUD!’ When we eventually found our companions all the children but Pickle thought it too loud and didn’t want to dance.
We found a table. The others went to forage for food. Pickle kept running back to the dance floor, and hysterically flailing when I caught her. Women higher up the SHOM than me kept nicking our chairs while Ziggler was briefly alone at the table. Ziggler felt responsible and cried. When the others returned, they had been obliged to queue for fifty years and spend their children’s university funds for cheese toasties and a carton of squash.
Then we found a cardboard elephant and a quiet spot and everything was ok for a few minutes.
The day passed thus. We had a very pleasant few minutes by the river with an ice cream. And then it became clear why you don’t give a 4 year old an ice-cream by a river in February. Her lips turned a normal colour eventually, once her teeth stopped chattering.
Tuesday was more of the same, with a visit to a local museum which is riddled with small children even during term-time. My friend Milana and I had thought it a good idea to lunch in the cafe there. It wasn’t, of course. But we did have a nice game of fairies and wizards outside in the early spring sun. And the crocuses are up.
Overall, I feel like we’ve taken some steps backwards. It’s a bit like newborn and toddler days again, when everything was so difficult and it seemed almost impossible to even leave the house. I’m trying to let both kids do what they want and make sure they’re both happy, and I’m often failing. And I’ve been a bit miserable as a result.
I was shocked to see a picture of what I assumed was me and Ziggler, drawn by Ziggler on our blackboard outside. I was torn between thinking it was quite good, wanting to send it to a mental health charity to use as their headline photo for how children live with depression and feeling guilty for letting her be affected by my horrible mood. Here it is. My dad was round. I showed him, aghast. He tutted and rolled his eyes. ‘No, Vickola. Ziggler and I were playing a funny face game outside while I was having a fag. The sad one is me, you idiot.’
Phew. I think I’m ok. I’m probably ok. Once this long, long week (reflected in this long, long, but quite cathartic post) is over, I will be ok. Yes.