A few weeks ago it was Alex’s birthday, and a funny thing happened.
We went out on his birthday. Together.
While some people may be squinting at the screen and saying ‘what’s remarkable about THAT?’ For us, with a frequent night waker who will only go to sleep or re-settle for their mum or dad, it was a TRIUMPH.
(While the two of us frequently go out, we’ve only been out out, together, a handful of times in recent years. And these times have involved a military operation of calling in the grandparents – both sets of who live about three hours away – or going out when we’re staying with them. So it’s been reserved for super-special occasions only).
But after a tentative trial run where my newly local and totally lovely brother and sister-in-law babysat, we booked them in again and went out on a casual Saturday night, together. Before bedtime. We went to a pub. We went to a bar. We went out for dinner. We had another drink after that. We stayed out ALL NIGHT (*cough* got the bus back at 11.30 *cough*).
And guess what? Neither child was remotely bothered. Both went to sleep, at bedtime. They woke up the next morning happy. ‘When are they coming back to look after us?’ one of them even asked.
I could tangibly taste the freedom. It was fantastic. It tasted like…well, a mild hangover.
Nausea and headaches aside, isn’t having older children brilliant?!
There’s a lot of focus on motherhood in the early baby days, but no-one really talks about how great it is when your children get older, do they? Here’s why it really is:
Getting both your hands back: Although I’m usually carrying either or both children around outside the house still, inside they’ve both discovered its much more fun to play with each other than be attached to me. Which means I can do things with both my free hands. Like jazz hands. Or fetch them a constant stream of snacks. Or read the pile of magazines that have been collecting dust since 2012. Or…what else…knitting? Medieval embroidery? Erm, any suggestions?
You can travel lighter: Having recently ditched the pram, the tube is a breeze and the top deck of the bus is our friend. I don’t have a giant baby bag filled with half the house and a hundred wipes anymore. Occasionally, I even forgot to take a change of clothes out (which is predictably when they spill something all over themselves). Leaving the house does not get any quicker, mind you.
The chats: While babies are ovary-kickingly cute, they can’t really contribute much of the day-to-day chat. Whereas older children are brilliant at it. Our house is a constant stream of conversations about friends, My Little Ponies and completely random questions (that leave us scratching our heads and occasionally craving silence, but there you have it).
Having a second opinion on outfits: While my husband has long since stopped giving any kind of opinion about clothes apart from ‘hurry up’, both my children have usefully strong opinions about what I should wear and will give them out freely. And I KNOW they’re telling the truth rather than what I want to hear.
They love good things, and the things you love: Gone are the plastic noisy toys and the mind-numbing TV with mind-bogglingly inexplicable characters and happenings (goodbye, Night Garden). You can introduce them to the terrible TV of your childhood and they love it. When they start to read, it’s brilliant. And then there are the lunches, yes…
You can sit in cafes, again: Maternity leave for me was a two-thirds split between sitting in coffee shops with my NCT friends discussing our deconstructed post-birth vaginas, and running round coffee shops with my NCT friends after our newly mobile babies who discovered they had legs and weren’t afraid to use them. But the older they get, the more they sit, for ages, and you can actually relax. And make it a large lunchtime wine (the best).
It gets good: While I do remember the baby days with a fond nostalgia, I also feel slightly sick sometimes with the flashbacks to the bad times, all viewed through the mind-melding fog of sleep deprivation. And while it never gets easier and different things get more difficult, it’s a lot more fun now. They are genuinely great to hang around with. They will also watch TV for AGES while you check Instagram obsessively (joke…kind of).
What are your favourite things about your children getting older? (And predictably, on our night out I had a faceful of wine and started rambling enthusiastically about having another baby. ‘Are you crazy?!’ Was my husband’s response. Shortly before he got the bill).
Photos are us hanging out in the library on a Saturday shortly before lunch…more posts…boring things I love now I’m a parent and An open letter to the park, on behalf of parents everywhere