Sunday, April 10, 2011

Life with a toddler

We drove for about a million miles this weekend, to attend the wedding of Jamie's best friend in London (Jamie, being a Londoner, tells me it's not London, it's Kent/Surrey. Me, having grown up in a village with approximately 300 residents, says it's London.). Having set off in ample time on Friday morning, we arrived about a week later, after having spent several days and nights stuck at one set of traffic lights in Streatham (I counted, they changed every 15 seconds. I kid you not). I'm never driving through London again. I cried.

We attended two weddings last year, when J-cub was barely walking, definitely not talking, and although was fairly adept at tantrumming, he did not have a mind of his own or the means to make it known. This weekend was therefore a crash-course in entertaining a fractious toddler away from home, according to other people's timetables, and with our only escape being to a tiny bedroom, where the windows didn't open more than an inch, and the temperature was steadily maintained at 25 degrees.

The hotel though, whilst being skimpy on room-size and heavy on insulation, was utterly beautiful. We spent lots of time letting off steam in the grounds, running up and down the lawns, climbing the steps and chasing the wild parakeets.

Having slept/dozed in the car for so long, there was lots of energy to get rid of, and we even had a late-night dip in the swimming pool for added sleep-inducing mojo. It worked, and he drifted off just before 10pm. Then, to our utter joy, we discovered that the baby monitor kept its link throughout the hotel, so we could go and sit in the bar, or wander in the gardens, or... well that was really all the options available to us, but it was so freeing. I did feel a bit neglectful, worrying about the amount of time it would take me to negotiate the staircases and twisty passages to get back to our room if he started crying, but he didn't, and we never get to go out, so it was justified, just this once.

Despite the late bedtime, the heat or the unfamiliar surroundings woke him just before 6am, and as the cot was right next to our bed he immediately wanted to get out and sit with us. He was very clingy - I wasn't allowed to lie back down, or get up, or do much of anything, for the hour it took him to properly wake up. When we tried to get dressed, we ended up tripping over each other and our bags and the bed and the cot and we were drenched in sweat - none of which was helped by J-cub really only being happy when he had his arms tightly wound round my neck. We'd snuck the laptop and Finding Nemo into the car, so in desperation I plonked him on the bed in front of it so I could dry and straighten my hair, and when I turned round he was out for the count.

We managed to get all dressed and ready while he slept, and he woke up just in time to be bundled into his suit and out into the car. The church was in Beckenham, where Jamie grew up, and we had a nice trip down memory lane driving around looking for it, then looking for somewhere to park, then walking from the carpark back to the church.

We sorted the snuggly-clingy problem by slinging J-cub up in my new shorty wrap, which was very comfy and beautifully matched my dress - he looked very dapper in his suit (the same one he wore for last year's two weddings, sized 9-12 months and apparently growing with him...) and his trilby which he grabbed in Peacocks with a scream of 'mine!' and wouldn't let go of chose himself. The dummy rather ruined the look, but I wasn't chancing trying to take that off him.

He was lovely in the church, we sat near the back in case I needed to take him out but with 27 other children there, he was one of the quieter ones and I managed to keep his mouth full of Welsh cakes or (and sometimes and) dummy so that his shouts of "Mummy! My Mummy!" weren't too distracting. We went for a wander during the sermon, and chatted slings with the sister-of-the-groom (who uses wraps too) in the foyer bit.

J-cub's hatred of singing was mostly kept under wraps due to the sheer number of people singing - he quickly worked out that he couldn't shout "No!" at all of them, so decided to spend the time pulling on my earrings instead. After quickly removing them, I spent the rest of the songs singing "Dory, Nemo Nemo, Dory" into his ear, which lulled him into a bit of a trance. We decided to get out while the going was good, and left while the signing of the register bit was going on, so that we'd have time to get back to the hotel in time for the wedding breakfast at 2pm.

Our food was served at nearly 4pm. We only had half-a-dozen or so tantrums during that time, mostly due to annoyance that we wouldn't let him roam unsupervised down the (many flights of) stone steps, or down the (very steep and slippery) grassy banks, or round the golf course. He'd filled up on Welsh cakes during the ceremony so he wasn't hungry, but we hadn't anticipated having to entertain him for all that time and we were both totally shattered (and consumed by envy of the friends who were able to stand on the terrace sipping drinks, cradling a happily cooing baby on one hip or watching an older child happily racing around with friends) by the time we were called to sit down. J-cub's place at the table was set with a present of a little racing car and a pterodactyl ("Dinosaur! Bird! Raaaawr! Tweet tweet!").

Disclaimer: I started writing this post 12 days ago. It was getting very long so I stopped at this point. Now I don't really know what I was going to say. Sorry. I'll try my best to remember and finish this in an expedited fashion.

So yes, we ate, and it was delicious. When the speeches were about to start, I took JC upstairs for a nap. One of us fell asleep, and it wasn't him. I woke up when he poked me and said "Mummy?" and I discovered he had a rather disgusting nappy for me to deal with. We went back downstairs to find the speeches still going on, and I didn't want to disturb them, so I snaffled a cocktail and followed him round the garden until Jamie joined me. It was very chilly, fast approaching 7pm, and JC was tired. He developed a bit of separation anxiety from me, whereby he screamed every time Jamie tried to hold him, and screamed every time I tried to put him down, and point blank refused to go in the sling. We had lots of tantrums, lots of aching backs, and lots of muttered "Shall we put him to bed?"/"But he'll miss out on the disco..."/"And there's supposed to be a whole play area for the little ones..."/"But he's so damn tired"/"And we haven't been in any photos yet..."/"I honestly don't think he's going to last any longer..." while he sat on my hip with his hat over his eyes and his bunny cuddled tight.

In the end, we put him to bed. He fell straight asleep, we straightened ourselves out, and crept out with the baby monitor glued to my hand with the volume set to its loudest level.

And we got our party on. We had a limited number of drinks, but made the most of them, danced to the wicked cool Britpop disco put together by the groom (taking his inspiration from our wedding, where we made 5 hours worth of Minidiscs rather than hiring a DJ. That shows how old we are. Minidiscs.), and were generally wild and unparental. It was awesome. There were lots of horrendous shots of me dancing with the baby monitor...(which I can't get to upload so have a nice one of me and my beloved instead):

And we stayed up til past midnight. Jacob had a little cry twice, but I nipped upstairs in less time than it took for him to get into full-cry-mode, settled him down and was back downstairs before anyone missed me. It was ideal, knowing he was there just above our heads, but completely soundproofed and safe and happy. Yes, he missed out on the flashing lights which he would have loved, and the toy corner which he would have fought tooth and nail with the other toddlers for, and the evening buffet (but he'd had his lunch at 4, so it wasn't really the end of the world), but he gained a good night's sleep, and awoke refreshed and happy 13 hours later.

After a second go at the awesome breakfast buffet (the first having been the previous day, we're not *that* greedy), we packed up and set off home.

Our drive back was so much better, with 10 miles from the hotel to the M25, a quick skip around that to the M4, then a straight run all the way back. As we were making such good progress, we stopped for a play and a picnic at Tredegar House near Newport, which was glorious.

45 minutes from there and we were back home. I don't think I've ever been more exhausted after a weekend away, and I have a total newfound respect for anyone that has more than one child. Seriously, I don't know how you do it. It was lovely though (in the bits where he was running around happily or Jamie had him or he was asleep - am I allowed to say that?), and the weather being perfect was just the icing on the cake. Don't get me wrong, I obviously love spending time with him, and going to weddings is lovely, and I'm so glad we went and I made some lovely new friends and remembered why all of Jamie's friends are awesome and the bride was beautiful and I'm so glad we went ... but I am totally glad about work/time commitments preventing us from attending another later in the year.

Next year, maybe, when reasoning works with him, and he's not quite so gung ho about running down flights of stone steps or losing himself in crowds.

1 comment:

Beth said...

Ooooh look at that - blogger posts with the date of when I saved the draft. Interesting point to remember for future reference...