Along with tea, the weather is a big thing in Northern Ireland says Kerry Thomson. It’s our default line, the Polyfilla for pasting over silence with “overcast, it’s trying, it’s meant to clear up in the afternoon…” A panacea for all known socially awkward situations.
When we first relocated here I didn’t fully understand it – the frequency with which it pitter pattered in conversations. Truth be told it’s like tea. (My mum is a bit suspicious of anyone who doesn’t drink tea). If you don’t engage in this in-depth weather chat and take a firm view on being ‘foundered’ or getting ‘a draught’ – well, let’s just say it’s not just the pavement that will be a bit frosty.
The start of March snow days (“Treacherous! Dicey!”) with schools shut reminded me of how much my outlook has changed since my two were ‘wee’. I’m ashamed to say it, but the two words that used to fill me with dread, were ‘house’ and ‘day’. A whole day in the house, usually if the weather was bad. These days, I crave them. I honestly love nothing more than being at home on a Saturday, pottering about with the kids.
Don’t get me wrong, every stage has its good bits, and its tough bits, but a house day is not now one of my challenges. However, do talk to me at 7.42pm on a week night when we are trying to build the Golden Gate Bridge out of toilet rolls tubes while mastering Numicon homework and trying to come up with a suitable answer to “What is the minty-est thing in the world?”
I still vividly remember that filling in a rainy day with toddlers in tow is a skill. So here are my rules for a house day with two under two:
Do not look at the clock. GMT does not exist in the way that you know it on a house day. By 9.45am – in addition to getting everyone up and organised – you have dug out the craft materials, played doctors, made biscuits decorated with sweeties, read three stories without skipping to the good bits, played dress-up, and done some colouring in. You look at the clock. It is 9.53am.
Ice pops are your friend. Tesco value range – 60p for 10. Yes, I know I could make my own with organic fruit juice and dilute it with locally-sourced spring water and decant it into a lolly mould and add real fruit. But on the days when I forget to do this I order three boxes for a rainy day. These bad boys will buy you a good 10 minutes (at an estimate, remember you’re not looking at the clock) in which you could peel veg for tea, put something nice in the slow cooker, or run and hide and eat Maltesers in the bathroom before they hunt you down.
Learn to do less. Now this is trickier than it sounds. Especially, if like me, you are not a natural relaxer. The word ‘relax’ makes me a bit on edge. I can relax, but I like to read a magazine, scribble stuff, have the TV on and stare into space thinking about my lists while I’m doing it. It’s an affliction. On house days you need to get good at doing less – you have around eight hours to kill – do not go at it full pelt or you will be a jibbering wreck, strung out on lollies, covered in glitter and praying for ‘Bing’ to come on so you can go to the toilet.
Equally, do not become obsessed with housework. Now that I work full time I marvel at how much time I must have had to clean! Of course this is utter nonsense, I had no time to clean. Being at home full time with two under two is a war zone – I was outnumbered and my two-foot foot-soldiers were permanently armed with glitter and a seemingly endless supply of crumbs.
Remember – this too shall pass. My children aren’t toddlers anymore. Now of course I look back on those days with my working-full-time-rose-tinted-glasses on. I don’t really remember the unreasonable demands, the sometimes (guilty) boredom. But I do remember the laughs we had. I remember putting Beyoncé on YouTube and the three of us having ‘dancing races’ with the youngest bum-shuffling. I remember spinning around until we all felt sick. I remember them learning to walk, then to talk and the best chats I’ve ever had. I remember their kisses as first teeth started to come through, so hard that you can feel bone pressing against your cheek. I remember, always, sitting with them both on my knee at the same time, two little butternut squashes, sniffing the back of their golden heads and my nose fitting just perfectly in that tiny dent between their hair and the nape of their neck.
As I finish writing this, the snow is thawing and to be honest we probably could get the car out of the driveway. Or not. We could make a pot of tea, cosy up and watch Friends re-runs on Netflix (we have now, at 5 and 7, gone from Bing to Chandler Bing). These days, I make the most of house days. And I hear Monday’s to be sunny, so it is.