Ahh, the weekend. A sacred couple of days for so many, offering blissful escape, countless chances to disco nap and an opportunity to unwind, refuel and forget the stuffy Monday to Friday world that’s dominated by Microsoft Office, awkward water-cooler small talk and sweaty tube rides. So many reasons to love the weekend. But, once the children arrive, does the weekend offer the same self-indulgent appeal as before? Are weekends quite so sacred as they used to be? Add children into the equation and weekends are likely to throw more at an unsuspecting adult than any ball-breaking office manager or overcrowded commute possibly could. What with the tantrums, the never-ending battlefield of toys to circumnavigate and the tsunami of sick/snot/wee/poo that saturates once-cherished clobber, Mondays can’t come round soon enough.
With long, summer evenings making the weekends feel that little bit longer, I thought I’d reminisce about the days before my diary was shaped around a three-foot-high dictator called Edie and her one-foot-high deputy named Arlo and compare those carefree moments to my weekends now.
FRIDAY NIGHTS THEN:
Straight after work I would have enjoyed a quick ‘pavement beer’ with friends or colleagues, before leisurely cycling home. Once back, I’d be greeted by two bounding dogs and my (then) girlfriend, Georgia. If the sun was out, we’d take a casual stroll with the dogs down to our local pub for a refreshing cider in the warm evening sun, before heading back for a relaxing supper, six or seven episodes of a boxset, a bottle of wine and bed around midnight. Maybe even a bit of action if I was lucky.
FRIDAY NIGHTS NOW:
The fact it’s Friday means nothing. It could be any day of the week for all a small child cares. I do my best Nigel Mansell impression as I race home from work to help relieve my (now) wife, Georgia, from the typhoon of chaos that two young children have created; those once-bounding dogs now greet me with a desperate paw to my midriff (‘save us, save us’ I’m sure they’re trying to say to me). Edie will be eating her supper, whining about something-or-other and always on the brink of spilling her drink, while Arlo insists on being bounced precariously in gravity-defying holds, entertained by a bounty of cuddly toys and tickled until he pukes. At the same time, Edie has now spilt said drink, which triggers a complete and utter meltdown from her. Arlo then cries as a result of Edie’s moans; his tears and puke, plus Edie’s spillage, quickly spread to an area the size of Wales, but with a hopeful check of the clock, I can see it’s only 45 minutes until the bedtime routine can begin – phew! A couple of hours later, with the children bathed and in bed, a quick supper is chucked down our throats before we slump on the sofa with a cup of herbal tea and the intention of starting a boxset. Instead, we decide against it and spend 20 minutes contemplating if 9.10pm is too early to go to bed. Five minutes later, we’re heading to bed - no boxset, no wine and absolutely no action.
Between 9 and 10am we would stir and slowly crawl out of bed, before taking a leisurely stroll to get some freshly baked bread from the deli and papers from the newsagent. Upon returning, our flat would quickly be engulfed by the aroma of fresh coffee and a hearty breakfast, whilst we casually set ourselves up for the day. After a stroll around a Royal park with the dogs, the afternoon would involve some carefree shopping for clothes or house bits, supplemented by the odd pint here and there if an old boozer took our fancy en route, all before heading home for a power nap on the sofa in front of a DVD. Well rested, we would ready ourselves for a night of food and drinks with friends, before returning home and rolling into bed in the early hours. Maybe even a bit of action if I was lucky.
At 6.30am, the unnerving, silent presence of Edie is felt at the end of our bed and is enough to wake me. More reliable than Big Ben, I know it’s time to get up. Her breakfast is prepared, Paw Patrol is tuned and machine-made coffee is necked (by me, not Edie). George will appear soon after with Arlo and ‘Operation Saturday’ is well under way. We’re lucky if we can shove a piece of burnt, stale toast and Marmite in our gobs before we decide to take the dogs out nice and early, just to get it out of the way (unlike those casual dog-friendly pub crawls of yesteryear). Bedlam quickly unfolds as the arsenal of paraphernalia that is required just to leave the house with children, is haphazardly amassed.
Somehow out of the front door, we’ll head to the swimming pool/a child’s birthday party/the shops to buy a present for a child’s birthday party/the swings/another child’s birthday party/all of the above and will somehow make it through the day alive, with perhaps a random Disney DVD (but with zero chance of a power nap) to round off the day, before the evening routine (see Friday nights with children) starts all over again. Definitely no chance of any action.
Ahh lovely. Stretch out, check the phone, see it’s only 10am and with a gulp of thoughtfully placed water from the night before, head back to sleep to ease the effects of a boozy Saturday night. Complete bliss. An hour or so later, we would wake up and head out to grab some brunch, before a lazy Sunday afternoon spent on a beaten chesterfield sofa in a pub with the papers, some fine ale and fine company. Sunday night would be rounded off with a nice meal (perhaps a roast? why not!), feeling relaxed and refuelled, ready to face the working week, before we start the five-day countdown to do it all again.
See ‘Saturdays now’.
The changes don’t paint a pretty picture, do they? Gone are weekends characterised by slow mornings with a cafetière and the Observer, afternoons of shopping and evenings spent in pubs until the responsibility of Monday returns.
But despite the weekend chaos and the fractious temper flashes of a 3-year old upon being refused a 50p ride outside the supermarket, or the breakdown that ensues if a smidgen of herb is found on a lunchtime plate, I find the moments of incredible joy either side of the disorder so utterly enchanting, enjoyable and important, that those carefree weekends don’t really appeal anymore. The previous happiness those two indulgent days brought don’t even begin to compare to two days with Edie and Arlo, whether they’re laughing hysterically or screaming their snotty faces off.
Seeing Edie early in the morning isn’t so bad you know, it means I get to spend even more time with her, and turning the house upside down to find that random toy she hasn’t touched for five months, is fine (if a bit annoying), if it makes her happy. Taking almost a week to pack a nappy bag is a bit tedious but knowing Arlo has everything he needs should we face unexpected (nappy-related) mishaps whilst out, is more important, as is giving up most of my free time to wring out the puke he encrusts me in. Sure, going to nine birthday parties with princess themes over the course of a weekend is a little repetitive, and making daisy chains in the garden knowing Football Focus is on the telly is a little tough to take, but the happiness that a weekend spent with their parents can bring to a child (and vice versa) is well worth it.
The weekends are two precious days with our children, time to be cherished and yes, still as sacred as before, but actually, now they’re even better. I wouldn’t want it any other way*.
*Ok, maybe a little action now and again