We’ve just returned from holiday. In the days leading up to the journey home there were the inevitable groans about our imminent return to cold, grey reality. The 4-year-old didn’t want to go back to nursery. The 18-month-old didn’t want to leave our hosts’ endless supply of Swiss Chocobits cereal. I knew that an English supermarket could probably sort the latter, but what to do about the former? Obvious answer: give her something to look forward to when we got home.
And so it was that for several days before our return I buoyed my daughter up with the prospect of her Monday ballet class. As expected, this resulted in the tongue-rolling, dress-lifting, wriggling excitement that normally only a Disney princess can elicit. Pat on the back to Mummy. I was on to a winner.
Back at home on Monday morning disaster struck. A faulty gas supply left us without heat and hot water and the prospect of a day stuck in the house waiting for help to arrive. As the plumber (yes, the same plumber as in that post) got steadily more grumpy and the hours ticked by the likelihood of getting to ballet started to dissipate like the waft of gas from a dodgy gas pipe. Like any good parent, I deliberately didn’t mention the impending trauma to my daughter lest by some miracle all should come good.
An hour before the class and things weren’t looking promising. Tears, tantrums and utter devastation loomed. I called Mr Crumbs & Pegs in the hope he’d be able to pop home from work for an hour thus releasing us from the purgatory of infernal waiting. Success! We were back on track.
Half an hour before the class and I got one very excited little girl into her ballet outfit. All was progressing as normal – the usual explanation of why she must wear her skirt pulled as high as Simon Cowell’s trousers rather than skimming the bottom of her buttocks like a gangsta, the foot stamping as locks of hair escaped from her hair band, and of course the frenzied tumbling into the car when we discovered we were running late. No surprises then when we pulled away from the house with one/some/all of us fraught and in tears. That aside – we were on the way to ballet!
Under stress I seem to have the knack of turning my daughter into a blubbering and uncooperative wreck. (Four years in and I am yet to learn that shouting does not make children go faster. Some red underlining is clearly required in the Bad Mother’s Notebook of Things I Must Do Better. ) Dragging two children into an empty leisure centre reception area I stopped in my tracks. Where were the pushy mammas in their boots and skinny jeans? Where were the siblings who were usually sprawled across the corridor playing Top Trumps and tripping up the attendees of the Blind Badminton class? Hell no! It was half term. No ballet class.
The receptionist looked at me with pity (or was it disgust?) as I made the walk of shame back out the leisure centre doors, crying ballerina and confused toddler in tow. Guilty doesn’t do full justice to how I felt as I explained to my daughter that her mother – who was obviously always right – had got something terribly wrong. In the car I proffered a trip to a café by way of an apology but was told that her “tummy hurt too much from crying to eat cake”. Make it worse why don’t you.
A day later I am still apologising. A day later, when reminded of the incident, my daughter still looks at me like her heart has been broken by an idiot. A complete idiot. Welcome to parenthood.