I swear Thomas and Ben are operating some sort of tag-team system to drive me insane.
Today it was Thomas’s turn.
I knew the day wasn’t going to go smoothly as soon as I heard the sound of the kitchen door being very carefully closed at 7am. I finished feeding Ben and made my way downstairs to find Thomas doing a frozen rabbit in the headlights impression, both hands buried up to the wrists in a rather nice chocolate cake that was sitting on the side, having dragged his stool in from the bathroom to stand on.
I have to give him credit for his honesty. When I rather pointlessly shrieked “What do you think you are doing?” he candidly replied that he was eating cake. While I was still digesting this bit of information, he clearly decided that he might as well come completely clean.
“Ate chocolates too. Those red ones.”
“All those red chocolates.”
Wonderful. About half a dozen of Tesco’s finest milk chocolates from a gift box.
I pointed out that this was unacceptable behaviour and would lose him a sticker. He contemplated this for a moment before giving me an “oh well, what can you do?” look. Clearly the loss of a sticker was entirely outweighed by the gain of about a million calories of chocolate and cake.
I might as well have gone back to bed at that point. However, I underestimated the destructive capabilities of a sugar-fuelled small child and tried to plough on with my day.
I had my first heads-up when I heard “look, mummy!” and came back into the room to find Ben spread-eagled beneath a jenga-like construction of changing mat, muslin cloth, collection of baby clothes and pile of toys. All four of his limbs were protruding from beneath the edges of the mat, waving faintly like a beached star-fish. When I rescued him, he did not appear particularly perturbed by the sudden disappearance and reappearance of the world but this, as I pointed out to Thomas, was not the point. It is generally, in my considered opinion, bad practice to put things on the baby.
Now I needed a bit of peace around 11am when there was a round of Olympics tickets going on sale for previously unsuccessful applicants. I figured my chances of hitting buttons fast enough to get the rowing tickets we have been chasing for months would not be improved by a thousand repetitions of “wotcha doooing, my mummy?” screamed in my ear at an illegal number of decibels. What I needed was a tired Thomas. So I decided that we would go for a walk.
The last time we did our favourite walk through the fields, we met some people who said there was a geocache nearby. I have never particularly fancied geocaching as a hobby, but I figured that it might provide a handy distraction for an increasingly hysterical Thomas. So I downloaded the geocache app for my phone and off we went.
Well, off we went after I screamed “Put your shoes on,” about thirty times and “No! Your other foot” another ten. We also had a brief tussle at the door when Thomas tried to bring his bike and I objected. No doubt our neighbours enjoyed the sight of the frantic tug of war going on in the doorway.
The geocaching expedition initially seemed to catch Thomas’s interest. Unfortunately I soon realised that, following my explanation about the “blue dot” on my phone, he thought we were actually looking for a blue dot. He therefore wandered about, peering into bushes and squinting up into trees, with an incessant, audible stream-of-consciousness. “Where’s the blue dot, mummy. The blue dot, where’s the blue dot. Not here. The blue dot. The blue one. That blue one there. Where?”
We eventually located a small plastic box in the fork of a tree. It contained a small notebook a pencil stub, a business card and a dice. To say it was an anti-climax would be an understatement. Thomas peered at it with a distinct “Is that it?” expression while I scribbled our names in the log book. He was so disgusted that he forgot how to use his feet and nearly fell headfirst into the stream.
We replaced the box and headed onwards and discovered that the recent rain had turned what is usually a small patch of mud, easily crossed by some stepping-stones, into a vast swamp with some lonely little peaks sticking out hear and there. We sat on the stile and surveyed the obstacle. Did Thomas think that he could do exactly what I told him? He thought he could. Would he put his feet exactly where I did? Yes, he absolutely would do that. Was he sure? Yes, he could not be more sure.
Within five seconds of starting our attempt, I was standing ankle deep in mud, having been pushed off my stepping stone. Thomas was standing on the stone that I had just vacated, pointing at my feet and yelling “Muuuuuud! Eeeeeergh!”
I resisted the impulse to deposit him head-first in the mud and hauled myself back onto the next stone. Encouraged by my example, and apparently entirely deaf to my shrieks of “When I say! Not until I say!” Thomas promptly took a flying leap towards me, hit me in the knees and knocked me back into the mud. At which point I gave up, picked him up by the coat and waded through the mud to deposit him screaming and wailing on the grass.
Ben emerged from the depths of the sling, gave me a Look, and retreated back inside again.
We trudged home and fortunately Thomas decided that watching your mother hauling herself out of deep mud is strangely tiring and agreed to go to bed. Even more fortunately, after a tense 20 minutes of hitting refresh about ten times a second and discovering that I had the wrong debit card to hand, we finally secured tickets for the men’s eights finals. I did the Dance of Triumph in our living room. Unfortunately, since Dody and Teeve are still decorating, our available living space is about two feet by three feet and I promptly danced on top of Ben’s playmate and set off the funereal low-battery drone of its educational Mozart tunes. Ben woke up and informed me that he didn’t give a buggery about my Olympic tickets but I was an arse of a mother and could at least feed him if he wasn’t going to be allowed to sleep.
A few minutes later, Thomas joined the party once again, not noticeably calmed by his nap. In fact, it just seemed to have allowed him to gather his hyperactive resources. After he had run around shouting “Uhuhuhuhuhuh” for a while, I had had enough. I threw him in the car, chucked his brother in after him and set off to the regular soft play session run by the very lovely Liz and Mike of Monkey Puzzle Soft Play at Croscombe Village Hall. This is the best soft play ever. It is a small family business, so you know that the equipment is cleaned regularly and, as another mum pointed out last week, there is a good chance that you won’t find 6 inches of wee and drool and a mummified small child at the bottom of the ball pool. They also serve home-made cake and biscuits.
I had assumed that Thomas would disappear as soon as we got inside and that I wouldn’t see him for the next hour. But no. It was becoming apparent by now that he had decided to devote his entire day to annoying me as much as is humanly possible. He circled me on a small plastic bike as I tried to drink a cup of tea. He climbed on a raised platform behind me and launched himself off. And finally, he stole my biscuit while I was distracted with Ben. The first I knew of it was when I heard a muffled cry of “Muuumeeeeee” and turned round to see him leering at me from a small plastic window in a play tunnel. When he was sure he had my attention, he very slowly raised his hand so that the biscuit appeared from the bottom of the window. When it reached head height he broke into a little dance and wobbled it at me tauntingly before disappearing back into the tunnel. I considered giving chase, but I figured that you should probably never follow a toddler into their own territory. You will lose.
Soft play did not wear him out. Somehow it seemed to wind him up still further. It was like the Duracel Bunny on speed. By the time I loaded him into the car he was incoherent with the sugar-fuelled energy rush. Suffice it to say that the day did not improve until the moment when he fell into his bed and passed out mid-witter.
However, I would like to think that I have learned something from today.
Toddlers. Never, EVER, let them eat cake.