My mum, who does the school pick up for me on the days I’m working, recently sent me these adorable pictures of my two kids playing together after school.
‘It’s so beautiful to watch,’ she said. ‘They’re always so thrilled to see each other and go running straight for the equipment to play together.’
It all sounded – and looked – incredibly sweet. Then I thought about what takes place when I do the school pick up and I started to feel a bit miffed. Not for me an angelic reunion between two precious cherubs, frolicking happily in the sunshine, their giggles tinkling like windchimes in the breeze.
Here’s what I get. One small child bucking wildly in her stroller screeching ‘Out, mama, OUT!’ No Matisse, I won’t let you out because you’ll never get back in and you’ll run straight for the play equipment which, correct me if I’m wrong, is OUT OF BOUNDS before and after school. (I may or may not have told my mum this. Even if I had, she probably would have let them play anyway. She’s wild, my mum.)
When Etienne sees us, he tries to make a beeline for the OUT OF BOUNDS play equipment as I tut, look annoyed, and say ineffectual things like ‘come on, please’, ‘you’re not supposed to be on there’ and ‘I’m leaving now’. When he finally graces me with his presence, I’m met with: ‘I thought Nas (that’s my mum) was picking me up today?’
‘No, meee!’ I reply gaily.
‘But I want Nassy to pick me up!’
‘Well, you’ve got me!’
‘I WAAAANT NASSSY!!’ (‘OUT, MAMA, OUUUT!!!’)
This is followed by clenching of fists, stamping of feet and baring of teeth as I join the exiting throng of bodies and try to hustle Etienne out with one arm while pushing a stroller, lugging a backpack and clutching the small bear Matisse has hurled in an ‘I will not be contained’ rage with the other.
And it got me wondering, why is being a mum synonymous with being the fun police?
I mean, I know why. Because boundaries. Because health and safety. Because moral compass. But geez, why is it so hard to draw the line between safety-conscious, boundary-setting moral compass and BORING. OLD. NAG? And why does it sometimes feel that when it comes to being the Fun Police (FP), I’m in an Army of one?
Like when the kids ask for ice-creams while at their grandparents’ place and all eyes turn to the FP hopefully.
‘You’ve already had two snakes and a packet of Twisties. And dinner is in an hour. So no.’ (Cue sympathetic look from grandmother while the FP has to remain stern and unwavering.)
Like when Dad decides to play ‘Tickle the Kids Like Crazy’ at 7.45pm and they’re giggling hysterically and clearly having the time of their lives. FP alert!
‘Um, it’s almost bedtime and we really need to be CALMING DOWN now.’
Like when Dad plays ‘fling the kids in the air’ (FP: ‘Careful! They’ve just eaten!’), or ‘Spin the Kids by Their Arms’ (FP: ‘Look out! Her feet are almost hitting the wall!’) or ‘Take the Kids For an Elephant Ride on my Back’ (FP: ‘He’s slipping! He’s slipping!’).
In fact, pretty much any time the kids are having fun.
FP: ‘Don’t jump on the lounge! You’ll fall off!’
FP: ‘Don’t drop your trains off the dining table! They’ll break!’
FP: ‘Please stop squealing. It’s giving me a migraine!’
FP: ‘Don’t tip those blocks out! I’ve just tidied in here!’
Sometimes – in fact, quite frequently – even I don’t want me around, I’m such a killjoy. And yes, I know being the FP is all part and parcel of being a caring mum, but this isn’t who I am. I’m a fun gal. No really, I am!
So from hereon in, I’m going to be more fun, less police. There’ll be more noise, more mess, more chaos, more madness, possibly more broken bones (theirs) and headaches (mine). But there’ll be more good memories and gosh dang, ain’t that what it’s all about? And my kids might actually start being excited that I’m the one doing the school pick up. (Hey, they will when they see the giant jelly pythons I’m twirling above my head.)
They’re still not playing on the play equipment after school though. Because that’s OUT OF BOUNDS.