Last summer we were at the wedding of two good friends. I have always loved a wedding – celebrating a love story with your favourite people, good food and drink. What’s not to like? But add small children into the equation and weddings can become an epic endurance test. To small people, weddings are boring, so very boring. Food comes at funny times and looks different to normal food, there are lots of people they don’t know and they are forced to dress up like cute mini adults.
My husband is a drummer, so often gets asked to play at the wedding ceremony and/or reception. As much as I love hearing him play, a little bit of my heart sinks when I hear he’s been asked. He’s very much a ‘Yes man’ – if there’s a not a darn good reason to say no, he will always err on the side of helping out. Since I’ve had arthritis, this has been a really tricky area for us to navigate; how much do we just ‘get on with it’, and how much do we make decisions based on making things as easy as possible for me?
On this occasion, as I had been pretty well for the last few weeks, we decided he would drum and accept the invitation to be an usher. In the run-up, I was exhibiting an uncharacteristically carefree attitude to the day. It’ll be fine! Bring some snacks and a sticker book and the kids will sit quietly through the ceremony and play with their friends during the reception afterwards. Hahaha.
On the day of the wedding, Mr leaves the house earlier than us to get his drums ready and start ushering. It is the hottest day of the year so far, so the children and I are pottering in the garden when I realise we have 20 minutes to get our gladrags on and leave the house. Cue a frenzy of sweaty, frantic activity and the three of us are on the road. “I hate weddings,” declares Small. I mentally dismiss the evidence of multiple weddings this year and decide he’ll be fine once we get there. My unfounded optimism soon evaporates as we take our seats to wait for the bride. The hall is very hot. Small clings to me like a moany limpet, while Tiny makes a break for freedom at every available opportunity. It dawns on me that this will be tricky, especially in my slightly-too-short vintage lace dress (what was I thinking?!)
I brace myself as I realise the afternoon will be physically very demanding, a fact I was probably in denial about before the event. Tiny is actually not tiny at all. She’s a very heavy 18-month old, who I really shouldn’t carry for long periods of time. Both my elbows and wrists are susceptible to regular arthritis flares, and my right elbow joint is damaged (I can’t fully straighten my arm). I’m fairly sure lugging my lovely little girl round makes it worse, but I can’t really avoid it. When she’s legging it out of the hall, I have to chase her down and scoop her up! A four year-old clinging to my leg throughout definitely helps.
At this point, I can feel my blood sugar is on the low side, and am feeling thankful I stopped in at a shop on the way to buy some Lucozade. The only problem is finding a spare second to swig some, although I am well aware that things will get a lot trickier if I don’t. My hands are literally full of children.
(I apologise at this point if this description seems a bit dramatic – I just want to paint a clear picture of what this kind of situation can be like if you add health factors to the challenges of taming children at weddings!)
I’m standing up surveying the scene, wondering when the beautiful bride will appear, when some very lovely, supportive friends spot me. I must have looked a bit frazzled, as one of them gave up her aisle seat to come and help me with the children. She is a legend, and I am so blessed by the friends and family I have who spot when I might need help, and don’t even ask before coming to the rescue.
This lovely friend puts up with the vocal rejection of both children for several minutes, before Small decides he will sit and look at a book with her. I grab my chance to down some liquid sugar and resign myself to chasing Tiny round the space at the back of the hall for the rest of the service.
By the time my husband comes to take her from me, I am tired and achey, and enjoy the opportunity to just sit for a while, chatting to a friend. He has bits and bobs to do during the afternoon, but Tiny sleeps in her buggy for a while and Small gets stuck into some Lego, so for me, the rest of the day is easier. It is a really lovely celebration, and I feel a bit frustrated that I have missed bits of it.
I think I decided to write about this because a wedding can be an extreme experience if you have children, or suffer from a chronic illness, or both! I am definitely feeling my way on this one – I could have been much better prepared than I was. But next time we’ll have new tricks up our sleeves. And the children will probably be older. And maybe we’ll say no drumming for now!