Saturday, 26 January 2013

Nothing ventured...

So, we did it. The twins have completed their first week at nursery, and we've all survived. The twins have been exploring new toys and meeting new friends. Little M has been enjoying having her Mummy and Granny to herself, and I've been enjoying all that luxurious me-time... Well, I've tried to. I really have. Turns out though I'm not very good at me-time. I'm sure I used to be quite good at that relaxing thing. I must just be out of practice...
Our week began with an hour-long nursery visit. I wasn't worried about that. I'd be there the whole time. What could upset me in that?
Turns out, everything.
Oh, the twins were fine. As we were being shown round, I could feel first T, then G pulling their hands out of mine as the variety of fun on offer proved too tempting. They played happily for the whole hour, even joining in on snack time and washing their own dishes, while I filled out all their paperwork. Perfect. Well yes. But then again, no. Whenever I looked up to see what they were doing, the girls just seem so small. The nursery has both 3-and 4-year-olds, but even amongst their peers, the twins were the littlest. They weren't premature (born at 38 weeks) or particularly tiny (6lb1 and 5lb4 respectively) but I think G and T have inherited their mum's small stature and still fit into clothes for 2-year-olds.
As T started ordering about another little girl who wasn't quite understanding the complexities of the game she'd invented, and G focussed studiously on feeding a baby doll,  however, it flooded over me that small they may be, but babies they aren't. It was the oddest feeling. The paperwork didn't help either, happily announcing regular activities such as music class and gym. All fantastic, of course. But all so, well, school-like. I just wasn't prepared for this to feel so different to playgroup. It's what I wanted of course, and I love the independence they are being given to make choices and get into good routines, but imagining them doing all these things just rocked me a bit. Then there's the colour groups. The twins have been placed in different ones, so although most of the time they can see and play with each other in the main room, they will be separated for certain activities. As the nursery teacher explained, I smiled and nodded my agreement.
 'Just what they need,' I confirmed. 'Getting used to the other not always being there.'
I tell you, I would have made a great actress. Inside, I was torn in two. I know most kids just have to deal with all this alone, but I've always had the comfort of knowing G and T are there together, with a permanent friendly face to rely on. They shared my womb, and have barely been apart since. Now, suddenly, I had to face the fact that that couldn't last forever. Of course I had to face it. Had they asked me, I'd have said the same thing - put them in different groups. But suddenly, I started to panic that I hadn't prepared them well enough, that the separation from their sister now would make this experience too hard. By the time my head hit the pillow that night, I was overwhelmed with, well, sadness. I still can't quite put a finger on why, but I felt utterly drained. And I hadn't even left them yet! That challenge came the following day...
With M off with Granny, we excitedly got ourselves together and headed to the nursery. Once I'd helped the girls into their indoor shoes and delighted over their personalised coat hooks, we collected their name cards to be dropped off at the snack area, and I cheerfully kissed them goodbye (an actress, I tell you, an actress). They threw vague waves over their shoulders and were gone, disappearing into a climbing frame without another glance in my direction. And that was that. I was alone.
I headed home and then, well, nothing. What was I supposed to do?
'Relax!' laughed my husband when I called him. 'Enjoy the break.'
A break? Well, OK... But first I'll tidy up... 
Once the place was presentable, I checked the clock.
An hour and a half to go...
I sat down. I fidgeted and squirmed.
How exactly does one rest?
I turned on the TV. Finding nothing at all of interest, I opted for a Got To Dance I had on Sky+. I actually managed to get so into a couple of the dances that I suddenly realised I had stopped thinking about the girls. I felt awful.
What if they need me? What if they're upset?
No, this resting thing was too hard. In the end, I steam cleaned all the floors in the house.
It was pathetic. I hate housework. Bloody detest it. And I moan constantly about how much I have to do. But it turns out motherhood has totally stripped me of the ability to be do nothing. I am incapable of inaction. I've never exactly been good at doing nothing, but after three years of constant motion, my itchy feet have become chronic.
I ran a bath the other night after the girls were in bed. The house was tidied, dishes done, I had nothing I needed to do, so thought I'd chill out. I sank into the lovely warm water and got stuck into my excellent book... I lasted about five minutes before my mind started going over all the things I could be doing, all the things tomorrow would bring, what I'd make for tea, how we'd entertain ourselves... In the end, I dyed my hair just so I'd be doing something.
Does this happen to all mums? Do we just become so used to constant demands and never-ending to-do list that we forget that actually, sometimes it's OK to do absolutely nothing at all. Just sit. Maybe read a magazine. Have a whole cup of tea. Then wash the cup of course. Maybe just get some hoovering done... I'm a lost cause.

Monday, 14 January 2013

I Dreamed a Dream in times gone by...

I've been thinking a lot this week about the paths not taken. About the dreams you have in childhood that just seem to be washed away by the years. About the dreams I had. Dreams that a few years ago, I might have still harboured some faint hope that some chance encounter would lead to fruition. But dreams which now, I have to confess, are gone. And that I don't really miss. Because that's the advantage of parenthood. I don't need dreams. I have three little girls whose dreams are still out there. Whose dreams I can help make true.
Wow, I really have come over all philosophical haven't I? No, not philosophical. Weird. Rereading that first paragraph, I feel like maybe I might be channelling Oprah. Oh dear. Apologies, but it wasn't me, it was Les Misèrables.
In a very rare occurrence this week, I went to the cinema. I used to go all the time, but three small children have meant that for the past three years, the closest I've got to culture is singing: 'Use your hands for turning, turning, turning, turning, clapping, clapping, up, down,' along with the Little Einsteins to Brandenburg Concerto No 5. (Honestly, that piece is ruined for me now. And Eine Kleine Nacht Musik. I love balloons, I love, I love balloons...) Anyway, for some important things, I make an effort. Important things like musicals.
I love musicals. Hollywood, Broadway, Gene Kelly, Doris Day... Love them. While I lived in London, I was lucky enough to see a few incredible shows. Guys and Dolls had me actually bouncing up and down in my seat, partly out of excitement, partly in an effort to stop myself running onto that stage. In another life, I would have been up there. OK, so it's a life where I am infinity more talented, but oh, it would have been fabulous. My real love is dance, but sometimes, just the idea of being up there on stage is enough to carry me away, acting or singing, Ophelia or Adelaide, or Eponine...
As my mum and I joined in the spontaneous applause as the closing credits rolled, we could barely look at each other. Mum scrambled for tissues as we both fell apart. Les Mis was fabulous. We spent half the time crying, the other half fiercely planning revolution. Well, not a whole half. Because there was a little part of me also remembering the dream. I would have loved to have been up there, Dreaming a Dream, or being On My Own... But whereas the 25-year-old me might have imagined stumbling into an audition and being discovered, the 35-year-old mum-of-three lives slightly closer to the real world. It ain't happening. But it's not just me. This realisation comes to us all.
While watching the cricket the other day (well, he was, I was probably removing my own eyes with a pencil to avoid having to watch), my husband turned to me and sighed: 'I think it's time to announce my retirement from international cricket,' he confessed. 'Probably not going to get that call-up from Roy Hodgson now either.' I think his recent 37th birthday (and the fact he is an accountant and not a decorated England sporting star) has brought to the same epiphany that I've had. We've had our shot. It's the kids' turn to dream now. And truth is, I wouldn't swap my average stay-at-home mum life for even the most glittering of West End careers. I have a gorgeous husband, three beautiful children, a lovely home and a life I love.
All three girls are already showing an interest in dance, and if that turns out to be their dream too, then I'll do everything I can to help them. But if it doesn't that's fine too, because it isn't about my dreams any more, it's about theirs. Unless of course, we can find a way for their careers to make me famous enough by association to get invited onto Strictly... Well, a girl can dream...