You know what? I’m sick of it. I’m sick of the sound of my whining mummy voice. Ada, there’s no snacks before dinner! Eve, please don’t make a mess! I wonder sometimes what my girls’ reaction would be if — for just one day — I let them do whatever they wanted. Would they go completely wild or would they learn a little restraint? I guess I’m never going to find out. Because, being a mum, there are certain rules to follow and a lifetime of lessons to impart. Been there, done that; mummy knows best, right? Or does she?
Being Sunday yesterday, we all went for a family walk, dogs in tow. It was just after dinner so the plan was a quick lap of the duck pond before bedtime drinks, get the girls in bed, nice and early, and then enjoy some adult relaxing time before the busy week ahead. The best laid plans of course don’t very often succeed with young children. Add into the mix one very excited ridgeback and a sausage dog with a small dog complex, and you have the makings of one very long walk.
As soon as we got to the water, Ada wanted to take her shoes off. Now, our local bushland is actually quite beautiful and, as far as stagnant pools of water go, quite clear and clean and safe. But honestly, I couldn’t be bothered having to carry her shoes, get her in the shower when we got home, and potentially get muddy myself. So, out rang the mummy voice. No, Ada. Don’t take your shoes off. We don’t want to get muddy before bedtime. Alas my child never listens to me. So off came the shoes and in she waded.
She stood in the water, wriggling her toes in the mud, while the dogs sniffed around and we sat on the bench watching her. She was quite happy there, squelching and splashing, and I suddenly had the urge to join her. Being a mummy though I didn’t, and before too long I was carrying her shoes as we set off towards the playground. She trailed mud up the path behind us.
When we got to the playground, it was Eve’s turn to take her shoes off. She ran to the climbing frame, and up she went, like a little climbing monkey with no fear of heights. I really couldn’t help myself. Eve, please don’t climb too high, love. You’re giving me a heart attack. Eve doesn’t listen to me either, so up she went until she was hanging from the highest ropes and swinging like an acrobat on laughing gas. A little part of me remembered what it was like to climb so high but it was a long long time ago. When it was time to get going, it took a lot of persuasion to get her standing on firm ground, and as I looked up at the darkening sky, I shouted. Come on, girls! It’s getting late!
We went back the way we came, although this time over the grass. It had recently been mown and bundles of dry clippings lay in tracks across the lawn. It was too tempting for the girls, who wanted desperately to roll in it. This time it was Daddy who sounded out the warning. Girls, you’re going to get itchy if you lie in the grass. Come on, let’s just get home. Daddy must have the knack, because they actually obeyed him and on we trekked homeward bound. At the time I remember relief that we wouldn’t have to brush them off and then smother them in cream to relieve the itchy bumps. The girls didn’t feel the same way of course, but the promise of warm milk and marshmallows was becoming increasingly tempting.
Just as we thought we had this parent-thing under control, the dogs decided it was their turn. It must have been the time of day, because at that moment what seemed like every dog owner in the neighbourhood appeared with every possible type of canine. They swarmed in from all angles and our little sausage dog went nuts. She barks at anything, including the wind in her ears, so you can imagine her reaction to the pack of enemies before her. Being very in tune with his little wife, it wasn’t long before our humongous ridgeback wanted to join in the fun. He began pulling on his lead and jumping on the spot. Winnie, would you be quiet! Zappa, sit! Sit! SIT! All that the dogs wanted to do was run around and sniff and play, but no, there was no time for that – we had to get home to bed right now!
When we eventually got home, much later than anticipated, I was exhausted. After milk time, cuddles and stories, we tucked the girls safely in their beds, but our parenting duties didn’t end there. Tonight, like many other nights, one girl after the other appeared in the front room with various requests and reports concerning water, toilets, too dark, too light, someone was pushing someone else, feeling tired… the list goes on. Girls, it’s very late now. Would you please just go to sleep? Yes, you are going to be very tired in the morning. And while I’m on the subject, please stay in your beds tonight. Mummy and Daddy need a good night’s sleep. Honestly, it never ends.
It wasn’t until the house was quiet and I lay comatose on the couch watching ‘Vampire Diaries’ that I realised something important. No matter how much I used my mummy voice today, it didn’t make the slightest bit of difference to how our day turned out. Girls would still be girls, and dogs would still be dogs, and all that I’d achieved was wasting my precious breath. I still had muddy shoes to clean, two dogs to feed, and washing to hang out. I was still sitting here, watching Netflix, looking forward to going to bed. I realised at that moment that absolutely nothing would have changed if I’d given in — for just one day — and let them all do exactly what they wanted. We would have had a hell of a lot more fun too!
I went to bed that night pondering how best to approach our children’s discipline, and the next morning I woke up with two girlies in the bed. Eve was snuggled up asleep behind me, thumb in mouth, making little sucky noises, and little Ada was curled up against my tummy, her dark head of curly ringlets all that I could see. I was a mummy sandwich and enjoying every second. They hadn’t stayed in their beds, surprise surprise, but I was actually glad they hadn’t. These perfect, tiny souls, so full of life and wonder; dreaming about the day ahead; what exciting things they could do. And all squashed up next to me. Perfect.
I decided there and then that today we’d go again to the duck pond, and we’d all wade knee-deep in mud. We would all roll down the grassy hills and climb the ropes on the frame as high as we wanted to go. The dogs would have a good run around. We’d get home well after dark. And as for an early bedtime? Stuff it. We’d stay up late, watch a movie, fall asleep on the couch, then all pile into one bed, all snuggled up together. Today I wouldn’t use my mummy voice. They would eat as many snacks as they liked. And make as much mess as they liked.
And you know what? I know I won’t regret it. Because we will all have experienced a different kind of day together, one that is wild and free, without reprimand or restriction, and without worry about the rules.
Stuff the rules! Let’s see where the day takes us!