When Audrey was a toddler and it was winter and I didn’t have my own car there were some days, I have to admit, when I felt pretty lonely.
Don’t get me wrong, I had friends and I was an enthusiastic attendee at various toddler groups and activities but taking the bus with a toddler and stroller and changing bag and maybe a bag of shopping that you pick up whilst in town is an exhausting and a rather stressful feat on your own.
The buses round here are awful. Sometimes they don’t turn up at all and you have to wait half an hour for the next one. The drivers don’t help you with your buggy and once a driver pressed for the doors to close as we were still getting off and they closed on Audrey’s little arm. It was really awful. She screamed. I shouted at the driver and then burst into tears. It was not one of my finest moments.
Getting the bus had to be worth it and so, some days during winter, if we had nothing in particular on and no one coming over to us I used to avoid the over use of CBeebies by making a little picnic for us to have on the bench by the duck pond at Mount Ephraim gardens.
Audrey could just about walk all the way there but I would take the off road buggy for the way home. We’d take some bread for the ducks, a blanket for the cold metal bench, our lunch and hot drinks.
We snook in without paying. There was an honesty box but I guess I’m just not that honest. No one else was ever there and I resented the idea of paying £8 to visit my nearest duck pond. We were looking after the ducks after all.
After we had fed the ducks all the bread and had a bit of a play we would sit on the bench and eat our sandwiches. I would have a flask of coffee and I would let Audrey have a sippy cup full of hot chocolate. I used to make it boiling hot, seal it up in the sippy cup and then wrap a tea towel round it before sticking it in the bag. It would be just the right temperature by the time we got there.
Sitting there on the bench, one of us occasionally getting up to shoo the ducks away from our sandwiches, and drinking our hot drinks in the cold, will be something I will always remember about my time with Audrey when she was really little.
Yes I felt a little lonely, I think that every parent who is at home with a child does from time to time, but there was also something quite precious about that loneliness. Time with my daughter. Just me and her.
On the way home she would always fall asleep, snuggled up in her cosy toes, her muddy wellies in a bag over the back of the buggy and I would enjoy some headspace on the way back down the hill to the village.
Recently, one afternoon, Sam took Arthur out for a drive and Audrey stayed at home with me “helping” me go through some of her old clothes from the cupboard. I was getting pretty fed up of sorting through clothes and suggested we stop for a break.
I made myself a coffee and a hot chocolate for Audrey and we snuggled up on the sofa for ten minutes.
Time alone with my daughter. It is even more precious now that we have a screamy little boy in our gang too. I never expected to miss that time so much. After a bit of a struggle to get pregnant and stay pregnant I was so focused on having another child and a sibling for Audrey that this sadness took me completely by surprise.
The morning of the day I went into labour with Arthur, Audrey and I went for a walk in the woods together. A last bit of alone time before the chaos that comes with a newborn baby. Not that we knew it.
It was a funny morning, kind of hot and misty at the same time. The woods were quiet. There was only the sound of our wellies in the mud and Audrey’s happy chatter as we ambled along.
Just looking at that photo I can remember the feeling of those first tightenings of early labour. In the beginning not really much more than a niggle.
Easily ignored, but there all the same.
A whisper perhaps,
“I am coming.”