Late afternoon and into the evening is a pretty high energy time of day in our house. Afternoon tea is quite the undertaking, dinner needs to be prepared and eaten, children need to be bathed, homework needs to be completed, kids need to be taken to training, and we parents also play sport through the week. It’s a bit of a juggling act, and staying calm is not always an easy feat.
Everything can be running with military precision and the slightest set back throws order into chaos, delaying bed time (and consequently parent rehab) considerably. It could be anything: Theodore biting his own fingers taking an overly enthusiastic bite of his afternoon sandwich; Joey falling off the trampoline (yes, I’m one of those negligent parents who doesn’t believe in having a net); or Malachi and Jackson having a misunderstanding about the rules of backyard footy. It could even be that I cut toast into triangles not squares, poured water into a pink cup rather than an orange one, or maybe one or more of them is over tired or unwell.
Some days though, the children do something so incredibly endearing or hilarious, and amid the tension that accompanies the self-inflicted time pressure, you realise you need to redirect your focus to the important things. They remind you to laugh and have fun with them, and acknowledge that if you slow down, they will too. Recently I had an hilarious moment that forced me to do just this.
I was parenting solo this particular afternoon and I was all over it. A curry was bubbling on the stove, one child doing maths homework, one reading his home readers, and the little two in the bath. One of those rare occasions where you feel like the odds are not in your favour, but everything is going to plan. I had set myself a goal of having everything done and the three little kids in bed by 7:30, and I was on track. I was all too aware that things could quickly unravel at any given moment, and therefore was a bit on edge.
The little boys were calling for bath toys. I had recently thrown them all away because I can’t stand the effort that goes into keeping those squeezy suckers mould free. To placate them I delivered a bunch of tiny farm animal figurines before quickly ducking across the hall into the laundry to throw on a load of washing.
It was when I responded to the excited duet of ‘Mum, Mum!’ and returned to the bathroom, that the tension was broken and I laughed out loud and stopped taking myself so seriously. My littlest two (aged 2 and 4) were standing in the bath with beaming smiles. They were clicking their tongues and had their hands strangely positioned at the crutch. I was perplexed and they could tell. They responded to my confused expression by exclaiming ‘We’re horse riding!’ Still confused, I leaned in with squinted eyes to gain a closer look. There they were; the miniature horse figurines, drowning in the warm folds of you know what. Four miniature horse legs protruding from what their nanny likes to call their ‘business’. Tension annihilated.