Daughter: Daddy, my back hurts.
(Ten minutes later - after not being able to find anything wrong and assuring her she may have just slept all wonky)
Daughter: My back feels better now Daddy. It was just a poo pushing on my spine.
The last two places I worked lots of my coworkers would arrive n work on a Friday and say, "I've already checked out." It was an open, honest confession that they will not be trying very hard to get anything done. Monday to Thursday you can't get away with behaving like that without animosity from others. But oddly on a Friday people stopped pretending to work and openly warned everyone that they were just going to go right ahead and do nothing. Take that. That's sort of what my daughter did this morning (I know - you thought I was going to say I'd checked out). After lying down in various places in the house she went back upstairs and called me up to lie down. "I don't want to get up today Daddy. My back hurts."
To be fair she does feel like she's waiting again. Anyone who has kids can attest to the irritating mistake you can make by telling them that you'll be doing something exciting - but not right now. Because then every three minutes they will urgently beg to do it. And if they are rebuffed (which they will be) they will behave as if waiting until 2pm (or whenever) is completely unreasonable. That's sort of how this is. Except - like her mother often feels - my daughter feels like she is in limbo. Waiting for things to correct themselves and change - so that you can be happier again. She doesn't want to wait a week to go back to school. That's driving her mental. The summer break was the exact opposite of what she wanted out of life this summer. We had lots of fun - but she wanted lessons and more independence. I should have understood that better simply from the fact that whenever her school has a Friday off (seemingly every other week) for training she is abject with disappointment. She also doesn't want to wait until tomorrow to go to the State Fair. She wants to milk a wooden goat, get her rabies fridge magnets, eat some freshly-squeezed honey and see the repelling police team jump of a tower. Her brother is also oddly enthusiastic about touching sheep. I've made a mental note about that in case I'm asked by police in future, "were there any warning signs that he would break into a farm that you know of?" Add my daughter knows that Labor Day marks the End of Summer. Things close arbitrarily. Ice cream stands close their doors. The library changes to different hours. People talk endlessly about putting the pool away. We all change the clothes in our cupboards and get out the garden rakes to make leaf piles. Summer ends sharply.
All of which marks the official start of manically waiting for Halloween, Fall, Thanksgiving, Christmas, the cold and all that goes with that. Finally her mother has been working very hard lately. Gone at 5am and back at bedtime is the norm - and we know it will be for a month or two. There's a lot of waiting all day for her to get home - hoping that she'll make it back before pajamas are put on. So she's been doing that thing where she's frantically doing things to help pass the time, but then being disappointed because the day isn't going quickly enough. And then hoping it last a little longer so there's enough time for her mother to make it. Which she has been. So she ends up just waiting. All of which reminds me of my favorite Dr. Seuss book - Oh The Places You'll Go. A lot of Seuss books are nonsensical and silly - so not actually all that fun to read. But this one has a fundamental point and a message (that isn't even anti-Semitic or clearly about Japanese people) for people anticipating something and going through change. My favorite part is a page about The Waiting Place. It's got the usual Seuss sense of felling good to verbalize, but it also feels better than the gibberish pish of Green Eggs, and Ham.
While I thought about that she went back to bed. She didn't even demand breakfast right away. A sure sign of something awry. Fortunately it may have been a false alarm (fingers crossed). Turns out her lackadaisical attitude and morning discomfort was just a trapped poo. I had wandered downstairs to read books to her brother (that very book, in fact) and told her I'd be back up soon. But she came down a little cheerier a few minutes later to tell me her back only hurt because her poo was pushing on her spine. But that she'd "taken it out" (shudder.....) so is much happier and lighter. And that also now she's churned that out she has more room for, "breakfast cookies." We'd made those together yesterday (your run-of-the-mill Tollhouse cookie). Which gave me a chance to demonstrate my own mental failure to the kids again. I've been having a lot of clumsy or scattered moments lately. Basically doing things completely wrong. Two fine examples being putting the car in Reverse instead of Drive in the grocery store parking lot (no damage or anything - but onlookers surely thought I was mental or drunk). And then making a big pot of soup, walking into the kitchen when it was done and inexplicably pouring it all down the sink. Obviously I was thinking of something because I got a colander before I poured it - but what that was I don't know. Add there are the umpteen moments of dropping drinks, walking into door frames and finding myself upstairs and having no idea what I went up there for. Probably looking for a Scotch Egg. Hopefully I can shake that quickly.
This cookie thing was in line with that. We put the flour/baking soda/salt part of the cookie mix in one bowl, and then the butter/sugar/eggs in another. Then - EVEN THOUGH IT WAS OBVIOUSLY WRONG - I put the creamed butter-lumps on a cookie tray. I even made a comment that they looked all wrong and too wet. Four or five minutes later I remembered that I hadn't mixed the flour in at all. At which point I pulled out a sliding wet brown puddle from the oven and tried to salvage the mess. The fact that the kids and their mother ate the entire thing proves nothing. They'll eat almost anything that claims to be a cookie.
With that in mind I've been deliberately changing the daily routine. I often let the kids watch TV from 4pm until 5.30pm while I get stuff done and get dinner on the table. But as soon as 5.30pm hits they go insane. They cannot calm down, behave or find compromise with one another. Arguments and accidents aplenty. So to avoid that I've kept the TV off and gone for a walk with them instead. Sometimes across the street. Sometimes down by the river. Yesterday we did this.
There's probably something a bit odd about going for a wander about in a local graveyard, but they like it so I'm not that bothered. I'll only look back on it as a mistake if they end up with grave stomping on their criminal record. To counter the Waiting I've been doing the opposite of things that I'd normally do at that point of the day too. Around 4pm - and after having been outside and doing something for hours already - my daughter will always ask for food and if we can go somewhere odd. Like a playground or bike path. Usually I'll tell her no - it's too late now and I have stuff to do before her mother gets home. This week though I threw that all out and we've been going out instead (although to be fair the football ha been light this week...). The bike path being the most common visit. They only zoom about around it for about 25 minutes anyway so it doesn't really make much difference on time. Add simply doing that makes them feel like they've done something extra special. It also reinforces the notion in my mind that my daughter has picked up the argumentative skills of her mother and the talking-bollocks skills of her father. For example on the way into the parking lot for the bike path there is a speed bump. My daughter suggested that I might be frightened of it. I laughed that off. Only for her to immediately reply with, "You would be afraid if it was on fire. Or if it squirted alligators at you." You can't ever win with responses like that.
After that the time seems not to be so painfully slow in the early evenings. When their mother doesn't come home the two hours after 5pm can feel like eons. We usually factor in a bath or something that takes up time and calms them down. But doing something different has allowed us to eat up some of that time and not make it feel like we're just waiting to see if their mother makes it home in time for bed. Yesterday I was smart enough to make a big dinner in the creuset, chuck it in the oven and then bugger off to the cemetery. I had to make use of the buckets of tomatoes we grew. And I wanted garlic and beans for some reason. Simple solution - I browned some chicken, deglazed the pot, chucked in a bucket load of tomatoes, beans, and Vermouth, a hard of garlic, bunged the chicken back in and baked the whole thing for an hour. The kids go bonkers for spaghetti and "shaky cheese" (that would be Parmesan) - and will pick the beans and chicken out of the sauce. So they were happy. Mostly because they got to make slurping noises.
Right - I promised I'd make some train tunnels out of old shoe boxes.