Friday, 10 July 2015

Poolside Revelations

Duckling and I had an ostensibly lovely day out at our local open air pool with some of my NCT friends and their toddlers today. The weather was genuinely perfect and Duckling had a ball splashing about and soaking everyone with his miniature watering can (not a euphemism - he actually did have a miniature watering can). The outing did reinforce a few post-baby realities though.

Firstly, meaningful conversation is virtually impossible with a toddler in tow, particularly one as curious as Duckling. I'm sure this is not a particularly great revelation to anyone else out there with kids, but it's something I never really considered much before Duckling arrived. I used to really love a good chinwag. No more. Most social interaction these days seems to be of the superficial exchange of pleasantries kind, simply because I no longer have the ability to give anyone my undivided attention. As a result, I'm often left unfulfilled at the lack of any meaningful connection with the people I care about, and with a fear that I've come across as terribly rude. My friend was halfway through explaining how her sister's father-in-law had unexpectedly died the previous day when Duckling decided to invade another group's picnic and steal their little boy's scooter (which was bigger than him, but he somehow managed to propel anyway). I had to leave her mid-sentence as I attempted to rectify the situation with profuse apologies and some cocktail sausage bribery to get the scooter out of Duckling's hands. Thankfully my friend and I had had the "toddlers turn you into rubbish conversationalists" discussion just ten minutes prior to this incident, so I don't think she was too offended. But I still felt bad, and never did get to find out what had happened to her sister's father-in-law.

Secondly, trips out never quite meet the rose-tinted frolicking you had in your mind. This isn't always the case - sometimes mundane events turn out to be actually quite pleasant. The really nice sounding ones often seem to fall a little short however. This isn't something that's unique to outings with kids. Even before I had Duckling, I was prone to setting my expectations too high and then being mildly disappointed by the outcome (particularly if it coincided with me being in a crappy mood or feeling unwell). The phenomenon is definitely made worse by having a child in tow however, in part because you're chronically knackered (and the effort of being somewhere unfamiliar just makes this worse), but also because you don't get any real chance to relax and be 'off duty''. Some enjoyment definitely comes from seeing your child's delight in the situation - and that is really lovely. If I'm being totally honest though, the last time I had a really good, properly fun time myself was when I went to a gig with Drake sans Duckling.

Thirdly, and this is more positive, I don't really care as much about how I look these days. This is kind of contrary to the usual "I hate my body now I've had a baby" narrative we're all supposed to follow, and admittedly, my self-image isn't quite up to a bikini (I alas have very extensive stretch marks all over my stomach), but donning my swimming costume today really didn't bother me. The fact I have a child with me tells everyone all they need to know about why I have a saggy belly and massive bum, and why I didn't shower and sort my hair out after getting out the pool. It's not that I worried much about my appearance before, but I did feel like I had to give some justification for my curvier bits or for any perceived lack of personal care. Today, the poolside was packed with similarly wobbly Mums and Grandmas - it was a great reminder of just how normal it is to look the way I do post-baby.

Finally, and most profoundly, I realised I am really bad at picnics. My friends had brought seemingly endless Tupperware containers of neatly chopped fruit, crudités and dips (in a specially designed box no less!), BBQed meats (in a cool bag, with ice blocks), tiny toddler sandwiches and yoghurts. I arrived with a all-day-breakfast sandwich and a bag of crisps in an plastic bag emblazoned with the name of the petrol station I'd stopped at to buy them. I had at least been organised enough to put a frozen cheese muffin in the rucksack for Duckling, but unfortunately it was still rock solid on arrival, so he largely ate everyone else's food, including the filling from my friend's bagel (thankfully she didn't notice), seventeen breadsticks and a grape stolen from one of the other toddler's mouths. I'm kind of surprised I'm so rubbish, as I quite like cooking and baking and over-catering in general. I think I am scuppered by a total inability to engage my brain enough to plan ahead these days, so when I discovered this morning that all the bread was mouldy and we were out of butter, the Esso "deli" was the only way to go within the given timeframe. Yet more evidence that I am not a yummy mummy I think.

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