A woman in my group left for maternity leave this past Friday. At our social hour as we discussed weekend plans, those of us with children reminisced on the births of their own kids with our pregnant coworker, then we coalesced on a conversational theme: What on earth did we do on the weekends before we had kids? We all agreed that we barely remembered "weekends before kids". But afterwards, I started winding my mind back in time.
We used to go out late in the evenings, to bars, concerts, restaurants, then more bars. We used to sleep late and then read the newspaper in bed, eat "brunch" at three in the afternoon at the latest trendy spot, lie around all day devouring novels or watching a marathon of movies. We used to read recipe books, shop and carefully cook meals to share with friends. We used to make huge jugs of Sangria and drink through them, talking and laughing about nothing for hours, to the irritation of our neighbours. We used to unwind, free to talk nonsense, or read rubbish without feeling the time trickling away, that every hour should be used for something purposeful.
We certainly never imagined of a weekend like the one we just had. A good one, but full to the gills. Here is what we did just on Saturday. We reveled in the luxury of sleeping in until 7.45, Geekygirl having drifted back to sleep between us after a chorus of "Mummy, Daddy, get up, it's the weekend" at 6.00am. We ate Geekydaddy's Saturday pancakes (blackberry and banana this week), squeezed in a few episodes of Dora the Explorer, a couple of loads of laundry, and about a quarter of the newspaper, then headed out to Nordstrom for our biannual foot measuring, shoe buying spree. I was determined this year not to be caught short by the first rain of winter with kids who only own sandals, but September's early storm surprised me. Next time, rain, we'll be ready.
Geekygirl loves to shop, especially for clothes. She doesn't often get the chance, since I tend to buy online (where she gets to point at the pictures on the screen) or on my lunchbreak (though she squeals in delight when she spots the distinctive red and white "Target" bags in the trunk of the car.) Her apparel shopping trait first reared its head at a previous weekends outing, to the aquarium, where instead of choosing a stuffed animal or game as her souvenir, she grabbed a pink T shirt. Then at the zoo on a subsequent weekend she chose a rhinestone giraffe necklace. I am always torn as to whether to enter the gift shop or whisk the kids swiftly past it. Usually we go in, part because I recall how much I loved gift shops myself as a kid, and indeed treasured the felted plastic animals I bought at the wild animal park and the costumed dolls I collected on our trips to Europe. In addition, Geekygirl is terrified of the automatic flush toilets at the zoo, and I have taken to rewarding her bravery in using them with something from the shop.
The museum trips are worthwhile though. As she skipped along Mission St towards the department store Geekygirl pointed to a banner advertising the aquarium said 'Mummy, look, there's a leafy sea dragon!" The distinctive creature was indeed being used as advertising. We were filled with parental pride in our tiny naturalist, and figured the price of admission and souvenirs was worth something if she retained some knowledge of the world.
Shoe shopping with two small children can be challenging, so we have a divide and conquer approach. Geekydaddy took geekyboy and the stroller up in the elevator, quickly getting his measuring and fitting. As usual only the widest shoe in the shop was appropriate for him, this established by thrusting the shoes onto his resistant kicking feet while he lay on his back howling, undistracted by the rather nice fishtank provided for soothing entertainment of the tiny clientele. Geekygirl and I braved the thrilling escalators, the kind that encircle a central atrium giving a birds eye view of the mall. I persuaded her to get her feet measured, and then to select some shoes from the appropriate size rack. With an eye for the swankiest items, she picked out a black patent Michael Kors ballet flat with a big rhinestone buckle. Cute with a party dress, sure, I thought, but not everyday wear. I sensed a otential battleground, but she conceded to try on some white maryjanes with sturdy pink translucent soles and luckily fellinstantly in love with them. Before anyone melted down or changed their minds, and with Geekygirl still wearing her new shoes, we tried to whip the kids out of the store. The department store has kids clothing too, and geekygirl slipped of in the direction of the clothes. She found a pink and orange tie dye jersey dress with a ruffled ra ra skirt and a peace symbol in multicolored sparkles on the front. It was on the sale rack, and was so adorable that we added it to the bill and whisked them out before anything else caught her eye. As we strided over the shiny checkerboard floors, past the glittering perfume counters and jewelery displays she glanced around and asked in awe, "Mummy, is this like a castle?!"
One marathon task achieved without too many tears or public displays of defiance, and it was barely 11.00am; rolling out of bed time in our pre kid existence. Our next obligation was a birthday party down on the Peninsula, and we were actually running early. The mall was not yet busy, so we let the kids run and slide on the marble floors and took them for french fries down at the food court. I was nursing a slight hangover myself, which was ridiculous since I had barely three glasses of wine the night before, but that is what kids do to your alcohol tolerance, and the fries were most welcome.
The birthday party was of the best kind, at a sunny contained park with water and sand features, small enough that the kids could not get out of sight and the adults, fellow parents from our daycare, could chat with each other between tending to childrens needs. Geekygirl's fear of public bathrooms is always close to the surface, but she bravely told me that she needed to go. When we entered the stall she said to me "Mummy, does it have a dramatic flush?!"
I realized that she meant "Automatic flush", but I like her version, from now on that is how I am going to refer those scary, splashy, unpredictable, attention seeking, over the top toilets!
We left the party before anyone reached the end of their tether, and the kids crashed out in the car. According to our carefully laid plan this gave us a chance to stop on the way back and get groceries, using the power of our iphones to map the closest Trader Joes. Geekydaddy sat in the car with the sleepers while I whizzed around the store, balancing more ambitious items (will I actually find the time to make home made chicken stew to restock the freezer for kids lunches?) with tantrum forestalling easy essentials (Spaghetti O's and frozen meatballs).
Home again, shopping to unpack, laundry to fold, dinner to make and to eat, kids to bathe and read to, then a couple of precious hours of DVD time before we take ourselves back to bed in the hope that sleep allows us to pull some kind of strength from the universe to do the same thing, or something similar, again on Sunday.
The difference between pre and post kids is that the weekends are so long and intense, for working parents like us they are crazed mix of precious family moments and the drudgery of keeping our lives ticking over. I guess we must rejuvenate from the demanding routine of the work week with the exuberant unpredictabilty of the weekends, and then recover from those the weekends by surrendering back to the pressures of work. Don't breathe too hard, or the house of cards may tumble down.
Thinking about those pre kid days makes me realize that we could use one of those pre kid style weekends every now and again, to help us recover from the actual weekend.