Last Thursday we had a perfect afternoon. I mean everything about it made my heart happy. You know when you look around you and you just think ‘Yes. This.’ It’s funny how I never get that feeling after I’ve folded all the washing and put it away, or after I’ve achieved some other level of mundane domestic perfection that I feel like I should be hopelessly aiming for.
Neither is it usually on those big exciting days, the big birthday celebrations that have required a military operation to organise, or the expensive day out that we’re late for because it always takes us at least double to the amount of time to get everyone in the car as we allow for it. Those things are fun, of course they are otherwise we wouldn’t do them, but they don’t give me that ‘I am home. This is exactly where I need to be right now.’ feeling.
Sometimes it happens when I’m cooking a yummy dinner on a Sunday afternoon, I look into the front room and see candles lit on the mantelpiece, Carl and Ernie cuddled up on the sofa watching Toy story, Mabel and Greta drawing at the coffee table or playing lego together. Sometimes it happens on a rainy Monday morning while sitting curled up on my favourite chair reading Enid Blyton to the girls while Ernie pushes his trains around our feet. Sometimes it’s when I’m laying on the sofa, my feet resting on Carl’s lap, a glass of wine in my hand and Netflix on the TV.
But more often than not, it’s when we’re outdoors on an adventure. The more spontaneous the better and if I’m lost and underprepared then we’re definitely onto a winner.
Last Thursday was just like that. We had a few hours to kill while Carl was at work and he had given me rough directions to some woods nearby. I didn’t really have much of an idea where we were going, and when we reached a steep sided stream I must admit I thought twice about whether it was a good idea to try to manoover three children and a pushchair down one side and up the other (‘Mummy we really could do with a bridge here’ was Mabel’s contribution). But when I saw the gorgeous tree lined open fields on the other side waiting to be explored, there was no doubt about it, we were going over.
So we went over. We ran and laughed and chased each other and the sun shone. The girl’s collected stone ‘babies’ and took their shoes and socks off for some unknown reason and all three of them played leapfrog with hilarious consequences (I think Ernie may have actually been playing bundle).
We got to the other side of the field and there was mud. A lot of mud. A passing dog walker advised that we wouldn’t make it through the woods with the buggy and were better off going back the way we came…. I don’t like being told what to do.
So onwards we went, even though I wasn’t entirely sure it was the way we needed to go. Onwards through deep, sticky, squelchy mud. Ernie fell in it quite early on, leaving him stripped to a nappy and t shirt and strapped in the pushchair and leaving me to carry him plus buggy over the long stretches of boggy mud that followed! Luckily we were having a pretty warm October day.
It might sound like a complete nightmare but it was so much fun! I was so proud of the girls for being so intrepid and their little legs that just kept going and going, even after they were covered in mud and we’d been walking for a couple of hours. There were plenty of stops to peel oranges and watch the birds flying between the trees and hedgerows, and Mabel and Greta were giddy with excitement at the idea of Daddy being the Bear at the end of our Bear Hunt.
At 4 o clock we trudged up to the (alarmingly clean, glass) door of Daddy’s office, looking like we’d just crawled out of a bog, all pink shiny faces, messy hair and big smiles, with an Ernie asleep in the pushchair clutching an uneaten apple.
The woods behind where Carl works are also next to a shopping centre and soft play and I think it’s funny that 3 hours alone with my children in either of those options would be absolute hell, but 3 hours alone with my children getting lost in the woods and ankle deep in mud was absolute heaven.
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