Today’s sultry summer weather has reminded me of a similar day a few weeks ago.
It was a day of demands.
And, being the good British mum I am, I wanted to let my children experience the glories of summer in case the season decided not to greet us again until next year. Read: I got the paddling pool out.
It’s no mean feat, this. In my head, suffering with the amnesia which comes from not having done something for a whole year, it takes around 10 minutes to inflate and fill a paddling pool. The reality? Allow half a day.
So, by the time the big kids came back from school, all four were fired up and ready to go. The clothes came off, the swimsuits came on.
And the demands flowed like honey:
“Mum – can you put the slide in the paddling pool?”
“Can you get down my other swimsuit?”
“Can I have a drink?”
“I done wee-wee in my pants.”
“Can I have a snack?”
“Mum – can you help me with the slide?”
“Can you fill up my water gun?”
“I don’t like breadsticks.”
“Mum!! Monkey’s tipped water all over me and I’m soaked!”
“Meerkat’s fallen over and he’s crying.”
“Mum! There’s a nettle growing through the trampoline!”
(Silly me, thinking I might be able to hang out the washing while my children played contentedly.)
In the middle of the demands, though, came a small and almost-missed voice. See if you can spot it.
“Mum – can you fill up my water bottle?”
“I want more snack!”
“We’ve found some snails and we’ve called them Tilly and Billy and we’ve put them in my bed to live forever.”
“Mum – I want to get changed – where’s the towel?”
“I brought you some flowers Mummy.”
“Where my snack? Me hungry.”
“I need a poo!”
“Mummy help me – can’t get my swimsuit off.”
“Mum will you tell Monkey to stop hitting me?”
“I’ve put them by your bed, Mummy.”
By the time they all went to bed, I was exhausted. And yes, somehow, we’d managed to get some food into them, cleaned their teeth and got them safely to bed, but it had zapped all my energy, and I was lying comatose on the sofa for the rest of the evening.
Eventually, I dragged myself upstairs. Walking round the bed to get to my side, I was struck by a sight which made my eyes well up and a broad smile creep across my face.
More precious than any fancy bouquet I’ve ever received were these three half-dead flowers, lying in their quiet generosity on my bedside table. A sign of unconditional love from my girl – that amidst my snapping and gradual loss of patience, she not only still loved me, but wanted to give me something to show it, even going to the trouble of carrying them upstairs for me, as if she knew that this small action was going to be something I wouldn’t get round to today.
And I don’t really know what else to say, except Love. Love love love love love. It’s borne in the moments of impatience and frustration, of tiredness and snapping, as much as it is in the giving and the celebrating, the laughter and the smiles.
If you’ve had a day of demands: never underestimate what you are investing in your kids each day through the miracle of your humanness. You don’t need to be perfect: you just need to be you.