by Emma Chow
I obsess over the planning of family activities. The weekend arrives, the man is home and I want to do things that reinforce the sense that we four are a family, and that we like spending time with each other.
The four year old will be dragged from his Lego and the man away from wood chopping, lawn mowing and whatever completely unnecessary nonsense he thinks he needs to do.
Baby is a happy-go-lucky sort of chap, and will be excited to go out and be somewhere other than the play mat.
I’ll look up a good place to have lunch or pack a picnic, book tickets for a show, an exhibition, the zoo, or whatever always busy Melbourne has to offer for its thousands of activity-hungry young families.
In my mind, things will be picture perfect. Everyone will behave nicely at lunch and have great appetites. The activity will be entertaining for all and hopefully vaguely educational to boot. We will return home in good spirits, chatting and laughing. We feel generally happier with one another and ready for the week where we spend much of it apart.
The reality is often that children don’t eat, don’t sit still or vomit for no reason.
Parents don’t eat because we’re so busy trying to handle the children.
Our selected activity is packed to the brim with other families and there are endless queues for everything and the heated air of competitive alpha parents wanting to get photos of everything their child does.
After an hour or so, I hit the hot and sweaty anxiety level and all I want to do is leave, get out, and go home.
We might be sniping and screaming at this point. At least one of the children will be wailing.
Once everyone is firmly strapped in the car, we drive home in silence. The four year old will play Lego, the man will go outside and spend hours in the shed, baby will (hopefully) sleep and I will begin dinner preparations.
Mother’s Day usually throws up a lot of ideas about fancy brunches, high teas and other nice things that mums apparently enjoy. Instead, we had been invited to a wedding in glorious country Kyneton, and had packed up all the necessary kid supplies and were on our way.
When we arrived, the four year old strangely vomited up his bakery lunch back onto his plate, I realised I had my dress on backwards, and baby wailed and squealed through the Church ceremony. We remembered that other 20-somethings tend to forget that they should leave seats for people with babies and the elderly, so the post-ceremony afternoon tea was hectic and involved a lot of spilled coffee and chocolate hand prints on dad’s pants.
With 3 hours to kill before the reception, my partner found the botanical gardens not far from the Church and we rugged up, strapped baby into the pram and began to walk. At first it was much like the usual; the four year old ran against advisement down a grassy hill and then fell on his bottom, sliding down all the way and nearly ended up back to the pavement, had he not by some miracle landed on his feet instead. This he did in front of the wedding party who happened to be on their way to take photos. It’s not nice to nearly give the bride a heart attack on her special day.
The man decided to take the pram down a long flight of wide stone steps and I seriously protested, but he assured me that he would be careful. At the bottom of the steps, we found an explosion of flame coloured trees and a meandering path along a river that reflected the clear blue of the sky. From then we saw few other walkers, and we chatted about the colour of the trees or the beauty of the scenery. Baby fell asleep without crying, and the four year old leaped and ran ahead, making up thrilling stories about the things we would see and the creatures that lived in the gardens. Now and again my partner and I would hold hands as he pushed the pram, and sometimes I held my big boy’s hand as he led me along boardwalks and slippery hills in my silly high shoes. We walked for several kilometres and a couple of hours before anyone felt even slightly tired. If the path had not deviated from the river and back towards houses, we might have walked for an hour more.
At the wedding reception it got hectic again. Baby was grumpy through dinner and woke screaming for speeches. The four year old only had a few bites of dinner and wanted to explore under the table. But there was dancing, laughing, and dessert.