‘The perfect day’ doesn’t have to be exhausting

This weekend has been a tough one. I had the kids on my own this Saturday, so got it into my head that I needed to make the day an exciting one for them – they never like it when Daddy isn’t around at the weekend.

We saw a friend in the morning, then went for pizza, followed by grabbing a few bits from the shops then going to the cinema. Looking back, I may have been somewhat overambitious!

I’ve been feeling pretty well the last few weeks, so thought it would be fine. I was kind of choosing to ignore the ever-so-slightly sore joints that were beginning to make sleep tricky and the tired feeling that was creeping up on me. Yet again, I slipped into the trap of wanting to be ‘normal’ and just get on with everything I wanted to.

Anyway, cut forward to a very busy shopping centre and a three-year-old who can be a bit of a loose cannon. It was pretty stressful! When we finally sat down in the cinema I felt the impact of the day hit me. I couldn’t keep my eyes open and just felt desperate to lie down. Tiny was wriggling all over my lap, but at least we were all fairly stationary and in a confined space.

I reckon Tiny could read my thoughts as I calculated the easiest way to get back to the car and be out of there, because she made it is difficult as she possibly could. I found myself chasing her as she ran like an Olympian through the packed foyer trying to lose me. Seriously, the girl is fast and I genuinely worried I wouldn’t be able to catch her before she got to the crazy-high escalators!

When we got home after a series of wrestling matches and a horrible car journey, I was spent. Luckily, my husband was only 20 minutes behind us and I was able to go and rest when he arrived.

Rather than just feeling sad that a lovely treat day turned into an endurance exercise, I’m trying to distill what I can learn from the experience!

  1. My kids don’t need back-to-back treats to have fun with me. In fact, it’s probably not the best for them! On Sunday we spent the whole afternoon chilling at home, watching a film and playing silly games. And they loved it, and I could lie on the sofa all afternoon. Win win! It’s so much more important that I am chilled and present with them, rather than worrying about how we will ‘get through’ the itinerary I have devised. Sometimes, a mini-adventure is better than an epic one.
  2. Will I ever learn not to place unreasonable expectations on a day out? I’m terrible at planning and hoping for the most magical day of family bonding and fun. This inevitably leads to disappointment, chronic illnesses or none. I also know I need to reboot my idea of what ‘normal’ is. I have friends who would find our day on Saturday a walk in the park and some who would think it was hell on earth – neither is ‘normal’! I’ve always had this thing about squeezing every last bit of enjoyment or enrichment from an experience, which can lead to quite a lot of disappointment when things don’t turn out ‘perfect’. I think I’m gradually chilling out a bit!
  3. Avoid busy places with both kids, on your own. Full stop. Just not worth the stress.
  4. Be thankful for the good bits. It wasn’t all bad. We had a nice lunch together. They found the movie hilarious. I got new slippers!
  5. Sometimes I will get it wrong. I will inevitably make the same mistakes again and overreach what we can achieve. But that’s part of working out what I can manage at that particular time – with the kids and with my health. And I guess sometimes I’ll plan something stretching and it will turn out well! Sometimes, I will need to take risks.

So those are my takeaways and I’m choosing to be thankful we got to spend the day together – there were some lovely moments. Any advice on gentle activities to do with small children will be gratefully received.

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