In which our reluctant hero longs for some peace and quiet.
On Sunday we went to a Remembrance Day service at Telford Town Park. It was a poignant and well attended event, held in a park with fantastic facilities for children (more of this sort of thing in Wolverhampton please, council) which helped make a family day out of it.
I was busy playing the hymns with my local brass band during the service, which meant that my wife was stuck babysitting the kids. To be fair to them, they were both pretty good. The eldest sat beautifully throughout, taking everything in as flags were raised, candles lit, wreaths laid down and the last post played. The youngest only tried to escape a couple of times, which is impressive for him, joining the cornet section of the band at one point late on. Houdini tricks asides, there was a more tricky challenge to be negotiated. The two minute silence.
Asking a two year old to keep quiet for any length of time is like leaving a President-elect in a room with a big red button with “nuke” written on it, and asking them not to touch anything while you pop out. They’ll probably sit nicely for a bit, but you know that, at some point soon, there’s going to be a very loud bang.
“What’s that noise mummy?”
“Chocolate now please?”
The two minutes must have felt like two hours for mum who deployed well-honed distraction tactics until the reveille finally echoed out to mark the end. Fortunately, nobody seemed to mind the couple of brief interruptions. One mum came over to say “well done” having left her children at home to avoid putting herself in the same situation. Which is a bit of a shame, as surely it’s better to raise the children’s awareness of why there is an annual act of Remembrance and not worry about a bit of noise?
But, as parents, worry we do. Well some of us do, and we’ve all no doubt tutted at the ones that don’t. Quietly, under our breath, as not to cause a fuss.
The worry of being able to keep the children happy and in-check effects a large range of our decisions. From which restaurant to eat at, travel choices, where to go on holiday, and what time we do things to name but a few. It’s not just about disturbing other people either. Yes, a flying fish finger or turkey twizzler in the face and a load of shouting may ruin the romantic meal of the couple at the table opposite, but it’s no fun for us, the parents, either. And besides, it serves them right for not going to somewhere nicer, the cheapskates.
Thankfully, it is getting slightly easier as our children get older. But it’s not that long ago that they were six months old and barely two, and that was a whole different ball game. Half an hour spent eating microwaved slop at the local child friendly restaurant chain may be one thing, but the thought of attempting a long train journey or, worse still, a flight sends shivers down my spine even now.
We’ve all been there. Check in at the airport. Grab some food and maybe a sneaky half. Wander around duty free to kill some time. Join the queue and spot the family with young children. Eek! Panic, then spend the time up to boarding hoping that you’ve won at “seat roulette” with the top prize being that you’re sat nowhere near them.
So, do these parents deserve a medal or do they simply need locking up for their own safety?
If you’re not sure whether or not taking a flight, train or long car trip with young children in tow will be OK, I have devised a simple test that you can try out at home to help avoid a potentially disastrous ordeal.
First of all, head to the smallest room in your house. Line up as many chairs as there are adults, and as many high chairs as there are children, facing a wall about two feet away. Strap the children in, sit down and see how long you can stay there without getting bored or stressed with only a cabin friendly sized bag of paraphernalia and a handful of nondescript snacks to distract them with. If anybody cracks in the first three hours then forget it. To test for a long train or car journey, simply reposition the seats accordingly and shout “Are we nearly there yet!” for the entire time.
So, as parents, what do we do? Stay indoors until the kids reach a certain age? Of course not. Plan, yes. Try to make it as painless for you and everyone else, yes. But at the end of the day children are children and things don’t always go to plan.
And that’s worth remembering.