Last month it was my birthday. Whilst I was still awake early, Sam got up and went downstairs with H so I could have a lie-in; For breakfast we had some delicious pancakes and H decided to play ball and not throw any of it anywhere; We went out for a nice morning stroll in the sunshine; Then over H’s nap time I had a quiet read and opened a few presents (so they didn’t get pinched by little hands); When H woke-up we had a late long lunch in town where H enjoyed the people watching and ate all her food; A lazy afternoon followed where Sam and I watched a film as H played quietly; Bedtime went smoothly and then we had a delicious dinner before an early bedtime. The ideal birthday! The birthday that is absolutely nothing like what actually happened.
Even the most pragmatic and realistic of us fall-foul of “Instagram” delusions now and again. I have naively done this for my last two birthdays; My first two birthdays as a mum. Both times have ended in a frustrating day where I feel annoyed and a bit disappointed. The reason: I got my hopes up and forgot the cardinal rule of parenting:
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED.
My actual birthday started out at Sam’s parents. My Father-in-Law’s birthday is the day before mine so we went over there for joint birthday celebrations. So immediately my day didn’t start so well as I never sleep well unless I’m in my own bed. But I had brekkie and was feeling quite chipper…until we got stuck in traffic on the M25. Fortunately H fell asleep in the car and only woke-up when we got back to town. So we went straight to Zizzi’s for a late lunch.
The restaurant sat us on the dingy side of the restaurant next to a table with some rather distressed and shrieky children. I should have asked for another table but she was being chatty and fun so I didn’t think. 15 minutes later the cheeriness was gone and the mood rapidly declined. To top it off, we had the slowest and most forgetful (read “useless”) waiter possible.
After throwing her food everywhere and barely eating (which meant I didn’t enjoy my pizza much either) H had a complete tantrum when I tried putting her in her buggy; She wouldn’t hold my hand to walk either. So I carried her wriggling and squirming 12.5kg mass all the way to John Lewis because Sam needed to return something. After a brief moment of happiness playing with a toy Waitrose trolley, a face-plant meant screaming, fighting parents and a rapid return home.
Her mood declined at home until I put her in her cot at 3:30pm to sleep, chill out, whatever. I was past caring about the impact on bedtime. I went in to the garden and did some weeding and pruning to clear my head. We got H up after about an hour and her mood was lighter so we survived until bedtime. At which point we had beans on toast for dinner and I then spent the entire evening ironing and didn’t even to get to watch all of my Musketeers episode beause we started it too late. I went to bed in a pretty grumpy mood.
The year before was full of similar stresses (just with a baby not a toddler) and neither of Sam’s birthdays as a Dad have proved any better than mine. But it has taught me a really valuable lesson: Don’t do anything special. Ever. Just go for normal and be happy if it goes okay. If you give off even the faintest hint of excitement, hope or change, your kid(s) will pick up on it and immediately invoke their “off day” behaviour. Easier to stick to the norm and just chuck a big bit of cake and a takeaway in there.
Because do you know what, 4 days out of 5 are awesome despite being just any old day. So on a day where I want to have a happy and relaxing time, normal might just be the best option!
Have any of you had similar birthday experiences? Or have you managed to get closer to the idyllic “instagram” birthday? Any tips for survival or success are always welcome!