Andrea Mara

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“How was your day?” What do you reply? I guess it depends who asks.

If it’s Facebook, your day might look great. If it’s your other-half, you might be very tired. If it’s a friend, it might depend on the context. If she had a bad day, you might commiserate with your own low points. If her’s was great, you might mention the cake you baked with the kids, and the homemade Valentine cards that were waiting for them when they came down to breakfast. You might gloss over some upsets and meltdowns and mishaps.

Well, I’ll be honest: yesterday was a bit of a fail. Nothing terrible, nothing serious. Just one of those days when nothing works, nothing turns out as it should. It was certainly no showcase of Valentine’s Day parenting perfection.

And I was so looking forward to it! Friday, so no work. Valentine’s Day, so an excuse to do something different and eat chocolate. And best of all, husband working from home and doing the school drop-off.

This was quite possibly the best V-day gift ever; no need to get dressed and get out for the school-run. Emmie, Sam and I would have a chilled out, leisurely breakfast, then bake our much-anticipated Valentine’s cake, and we’d only get dressed when it was time to do the school collection.

Sam had other ideas though. Such as crying for the day. The entire day. Possibly linked to exhaustion due to an hour-long tantrum at 3am the night before. And I was tired. Too tired to deal with a non-stop crying toddler. Possibly linked to exhaustion due to an hour-long tantrum at 3am the night before. And it rained. All day. Somehow that just makes everything harder.

The baking was fractious as baking is when there’s a crying toddler on the hip. I struggled gamely on, letting him do lots mixing and messing so that he was part of it, but he cried every time I put him down. I needed to make Emmie feel like she was doing most of the baking, while really doing it myself and holding Sam. And did I mention I was tired? The morning wasn’t turning out as I expected.

The school-collection was pretty much as it was for everyone in the country yesterday – wet.

And then we had to bundle everyone back into the car to go to gymnastics class, so again, wet. And grey, And cold. And Sam cried, a lot. So I took him to the shops instead of waiting at gym class, and he insisted we go for “Foffee”. And it was lovely – finally a Valentine’s Day feelgood moment!

Sam Foffee

But it was short-lived. Soon we were home, icing the cake. Arguments broke out about how many Smarties each person was allocated for decorating, then Sam dug his fingers in and ate a lump of cake – the girls nearly collapsed in horror and insisted that he be removed from the room “immediately”.

Emmie then began moving Smarties around to cover the toddler-inflicted damage; carefully licking each Smartie so that it was clean of icing before she put it back in.

“Emmie don’t put the Smarties in your mouth”

“I’m not mum, I’m just cleaning them with my tongue”

At that point, Clara realised what was going on, shrieked something about germs, and stormed off, declaring she would never eat this cake. Then Emmie cried because Clara said she wouldn’t eat the cake. So three kids crying, one half-iced, finger-printed cake, still raining, and not bedtime yet.

Then my husband saved the day. He got everyone dressed for bed, and started cooking steaks, leaving me free to snuggle on the couch with the girls, reading them three chapters of their book (“three chapters because it’s one of the most special days of the year mum!”). Sam was asleep, the girls were finally calm and happy and full of Valentine’s Day hugs and kisses, and the steaks smelled great. And we all lived happily ever after(ish)

So what did I learn from this? Nothing really. It’s not the first time I’ve planned a child-centred day that went belly-up. It doesn’t mean we won’t bake again; I’ll just wait for a day when we’re all in better form.

And you can’t predict how anything will go with kids really. Today, we had to go to a shopping centre to get runners for Clara – not the most exciting outing for kids. But they loved it – trying on shoes in the shop, admiring dresses, exclaiming over dining-room tables (yes, I’m not sure why either) and then devouring their muffins when we went for coffee after, with big hugs and declarations of “best day ever” (it really doesn’t take much)

So next time there’s a middle-of-the-night tantrum, we’ll take a short-cut to happiness via our local (aptly-named) Insomnia. For the kids. Honestly.





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