On Thursday morning I loaded all three children into the car, added changes of clothes, and swimming cossies, and drinks and a handful of snacks for the journey and set off. We drove for about two hours including a stint on the world’s most uninteresting car park (the M25) and then we were there.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that an expedition of this magnitude should be for some really amazing day out, a trip to an as yet undiscovered theme park that combines a water park, painting, Duplo, a yarn shop, cake and a spa for Mummy, but alas no such place exists although I may just have had a really great idea for a business venture.
In fact we spent the day sitting on the floor, playing shop, building a robot, playing jigsaws and Duplo and car garage. We ate lunch, played in the garden, and had frozen yoghurt for tea. And it was wonderful.
And the reason why we went so far for what was pretty much an ordinary day at home was this little man, and his Mum.
Because for all the fun we have chatting over FaceTime, waving at the tiny nephew and setting the world to rights with my sis, there’s nothing quite like being together in person.
It was wonderful. And in some ways unexpectedly wonderful. Between us we have four children aged four, two, two and eight months and so for the last few years we’ve always been part chatting, part parenting, that sort of conversation where you jump between making Duplo flowers and putting teddy’s jumper back on to whatever it was you were talking about and back again.
But our little ones are getting bigger and while Pip rolled around on the floor and got rid of all of his wiggles from being tucked up in the car, the three biggest set up a very elaborate game of supermarket checkout. And we sat down 0n the floor next to each other and just watched them play while we talked.
They weren’t entirely self sufficient of course, we we still dipped in and out to stop Pip trying to eat the play food and to help build a robot and get the scanner to scan, but it marked a watershed; the start of the moment where we don’t need to be so very present in their play, they’ve got it.
After lunch we filled up the paddling pool and brought out my nephew’s play house to act as a bit of shade (it’s a ticket office for the tube and the tunnel is a tube train) and it felt exactly like summers should feel. Pip sat and splashed and splashed and splashed in the pool, and occasionally reached back over the edge to grab a handful of grass for a sneaky chomp. Kitty splashed, she and her cousin tried to water the garden, and mostly watered the fence and the next door neighbour’s garden, and Elma curled up like a cat in the sun to snuggle with her blanky.
But the best was yet to come. My Dad was staying the night and when he arrived there was a very lengthy queue of little grandchildren wanting cuddles, and to climb on his knee and tell him all about the day.
Sitting around the table together felt so much like our big family holiday in Putsborough last summer, and not just because it was spag bol and strawberries again. It was the same sense of being exactly where we should be, sunkissed and full of good food and even better company.
And my favourite moment of the day? Well apart from putting all four kids in the tub at once where there was so little space that there was no danger of Pip ever falling over, it was reliving a memory from my childhood, Dad, now Grandpa, reading the bedtime story.
And of course, before we popped my trio back in the car to head north into the twilight, we had to take our now customary photo of Grandpa plus all his grandchildren on the red sofa. We have pictures of Grandpa and all three at various ages from a newborn nephew onwards but this is the first with all four,
And I think this latest in the series is definitely my most favourite yet!