I have just uploaded an album of photos to Facebook of our trip to London. In the photos we are all smiling and in general we had a good day but one of my aims in starting this blog was to write about the experience of being a mum outside of Instagram shots and status updates and so, in all honesty, taking two children aged 3 years and five months to London and back for the day on the train did have moments that would not have made a good Instagram pic. Here, in no particular order, are my top five;
1., Nappy Change (korma dunk type nappy) on a Train
You get into the Star Trek style toilet pod and then have a prompt from a robotic voice to lock the door (thank you disembodied voice). Then, you may spend several moments experimenting with various buttons and flaps, hidden panels etc on the walls before discovering the flip down ‘changing table’ (a plastic tea tray attached to the wall with a dodgy hinge). You place baby on the tray, hold in place with one hand while trying to grab bits from bag and clean up poo with the other. All the while, the train jerks you around like you are in some kind of urine soaked earthquake simulator or are a very drunk Aunty lurching around looking for handbag on wedding disco floor. Thankfully poor little Arthur did not cry but just frowned up at me with a ‘what the f*** is going on?’ expression on his tiny little face.
2., Audrey being totally unimpressed with London
I kind of expected that Audrey would marvel at the big buildings, red buses, monuments etc when in fact all she wanted to do was run all over the place hitting things with a stick, including my knuckles. Somehow, even in the middle of London my daughter can find a massive stick, refuse to put it down and use it to hit every single railing and pavement block. There was a moment where we lost our bearings and could not remember which way it was back to Charing Cross. I suddenly realised that we had lost Audrey, looked frantically around as I now do all the time since watching ‘the missing’ and saw her several paces behind us on her hands and knees on the floor, tapping the pavement with her stick and shouting ‘PASSWORD!! . . . .PASSWORD!! . . . PAAAAASSSSS . . . WORRRRD!!!”
She then stood up, dusted herself off and said,
‘It’s alright Mummy, I’ve put the password in now, the road to the station should open up any minute.”
We opted for Burger King at Waterloo. Yes, yes, very unhealthy but it was a case of finding somewhere fast with a table and chairs that didn’t cost the earth. Sam disappeared on a 30minute nappy changing adventure with the baby. Audrey then got really upset and wanted to leave before Sam came back, obviously I said no, cue massive screaming fit in very crowded Burger King, other customers were mainly really miserable looking people on their own with headphones in staring at Audrey who was stamping around screaming, “I want to go RIGHT NOW! Mummy put your coat on! Mummy PUT YOUR COAT ON!! HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOOOU??” While I very calmly ignored her and savoured the moment of being able to eat a chicken royale without holding or breastfeeding a baby.
There was a moment just as we were leaving where I literally felt like I was going to explode with stress. Arthur was overtired and at full scream, much to the annoyance of every other customer at Burger King, Sam was struggling to put on the baby carrier and Audrey was on the floor under the table, sobbing because she couldn’t find her ‘Angry Birds’ happy meal type toy amidst all the bags and coats. I was crouched down on the floor holding a little blue cardigan out to her repeating on a loop, “Audrey just put your cardigan on. . . . Audrey? . . . Audrey? . . . Come on, we’ll find the toy in a minute. Audrey? . . . Get off the floor. AUDREY!!!’
4., Extreme Breastfeeding
By this I do not mean feeding a twelve year old child or a baby deer but I do feel I should be given some kind of special award or medal for feeding my baby on a packed commuter train on the way home from London.
Public feeding can be embarrassing at the best of times but when you are elbow to elbow with a carriage full of silent, paper shuffling commuters it is really quite an achievement to find the space, let alone the confidence to breastfeed a baby. With the bright lights, how close you feel to other peoples’ faces and the way that everyone avoids conversation and eye contact, being on a commuter train feels, at the best of times, as if you are at a really awkward dinner party and one couple has just finished a horrific row at the table. It’s not the best place for a screaming baby and a semi naked boob.
Somehow, wherever I choose to sit on a train, I always manage to end up sitting next to the slightly drunk man who wants to have a chat/give me advice about what to do with my baby, etc. For some reason I expected that being with husband and kids might make me less vulnerable to getting stuck with a chatty drunk man on a train as opposed to all the times I got stuck with a chatty drunk man on a train as a younger single female. However, it seems that even in my thirties with children hanging off me I am no more immune to getting stuck in an impenetrable conversation loop with slightly-drunk-man-on-train and my husband, rather than rescuing me, carried on staring at and caressing the screen of his phone, occasionally looking up to pretend to be princess Elsa for Audrey’s entertainment.
5., Pushy Squirrels
We all love squirrels. They are so cute and fluffy with their fluffy little tails, bounding around in the grass and scuttling up into trees if you get too close. Well, the squirrels in St James’ Park do not scuttle, they strut, not up trees, but towards you, then up your leg and onto your arm.
At first, as we walked through the park, Audrey quite enjoyed watching the squirrels and pointing them out to us. I did notice that these particular squirrels had a slightly tousled look to them and that they seemed totally unafraid as we walked by, but thought nothing of it. Then, I noticed they were getting closer, closing in. As we made our way along the path the squirrels began climbing down trees to check us out, crawling out from under bushes and sniffing around at the edges of the path. They are large and strong looking with damp, muddy tails. Across the park I spot a man with a squirrel perched on his arm eating a snack. We stop to watch but instantly realise that stopping is a mistake. One squirrel scuttles out in front of Sam and freezes, blocking his path.
“Wow, they’re tame,” he says beckoning it closer as if it were a little kitty. It instantly bounds closer.
“DON’T!!” I hiss. “Don’t touch it, don’t let it near you, it’ll crawl up your leg. Don’t let it near the baby.” The squirrel gets closer to Sam’s foot and he then switches from beckoning the squirrel to trying to shoo it away. The squirrel, confused, stands its ground for a moment but eventually bounds off. But we have stopped for far too long and the other squirrels are moving in.
“We have to keep moving,’ I hiss, “We can’t slow down or they’ll try and climb up our legs. Don’t stop. Don’t look at them. Stick to the path.” We hurry along and manage to make it out of the park without a squirrel attack but I did not like it. I was scared.
Well, those were a few of our not so fun moments. It was an exhausting day. It was stressful. The thing is though, I am starting to realise that having two kids and trying to do anything with them is just quite stressful at times and that is ok, it does not mean that we have had a rubbish time. There were a lot of good moments too.
Watching Audrey looking at all the massive sharks and rays swimming inches away from her face.
Seeing a penguin waddle right up to Audrey and looking her straight in the eye before waddling away again to play with its pebbles.
After annoying Audrey by taking lots of pictures of her in front of various monuments and famous buildings she stopped later in the day in a subway and pointed at all the monuments in the murals with her stick saying, “Hey, look, wow, we saw that and that and that today.”
Arthur was a little treasure and coped very well with being dragged around London and off and on trains all day and when he wasn’t grizzling he enjoyed a lot of smiley eye contact with strangers on public transport.
For me though, one of the best moments was walking past the bar where we had our first real date, now with our two funny, beautiful, snotty, stress inducing, screaming, fantastic little children.