So I noticed a discussion thread amongst some fellow “C-WAGS” this week, about the highs and lows of this first collared Christmas. One of the most common themes seemed to be the loss of routine, sanity and, well… Daddy, amongst those of us at home, in new places, with young children.
So… In this vein… Two stories spring to mind.
The first, actually, is a definite perk of the job. The variety and, at times, freedom of the Curate’s role, in our experience, can often mean that we see a lot more of Husband than other working spouses. Some days he is working at home, often he calls back for lunch and usually he aims to be around for family tea before heading back out to work in the evening. The only downside to this, really, is irregularity. No day or week is the same, and so we generally discuss and plan each week as it comes; communicating with the kids if and when they’ll see Daddy today, and trying to manage their (and my!) emotional needs and expectations accordingly. Of course, this all goes completely awry when you throw in the added element of surprise. The last minute funeral; the meeting that goes on for hours; the impromptu pastoral chats, hole-y sermons and help required elsewhere.
(For the stay-at-home mum, that’s the feeling when, on a mental day; you’ve been anticipating the Cavalry, only to find they’ve suddenly ridden the other way!)
And Christmas, it would seem, is especially full of these surprises. Some of these, as in the first story, are pretty jammy, actually. Others, as in the second, a different kind of sticky!
H: “Hey it turns out that Carol service I’m doing at the old people’s home tomorrow is actually for the whole family, if you want to come with the kids? There’s a Father Christmas giving out gifts and songs and stuff?”
M: “Tomorrow? After lunch?”
M: “Are you in charge of it?”
H: “No, why?”
M: “You’re not leading or organising or supervising in any way?”
H: “No, just taking part…”
M: “Brilliant! You can take Tinker with you then. Toddler and I will be at home, having a nap!”
Exhibit H, A, O, S…
H: “I’m a bit all over the place today, I’m afraid. I’ll be out for tea and tonight, but I’ll be home at lunch from 12 to 12.45.”
M: “Ok, well take the car anyway. We aren’t going out and it’ll save you some time.”
H: “You sure?”
M: “Yep, see you at 12.”
M: “Kids… thank you so much for your help butchering the vegetables with blunt knives, throwing the chickpeas and licking the insides of the tomatoes! Well done! But Daddy is due home in ten minutes and he hasn’t got long, so I’d better get on and make the soup, super quick! Off you go and play in the lounge, now!”
And off they trot; pockets laden with cherry tomatoes. (They think that I don’t know.)
(5 mins later…)
M: “Oh my goodness, what have you done?!!”
Toddler holds up both hands, which are covered and dripping in blood. There is a trail of bloody handprints on every surface between the lounge and the kitchen, and I realise that whatever hazardous item I’ve left in his reach makes me just as bad a parent as I am a First Aider.
This. Is. Bad.
I turn off the stove, (there’s one health and safety win!), and wash his hands under the cold tap until I can discern the source of the outpouring; a tiny, but deep, thin cut on his middle finger. Which keeps on bleeding. I leave him rinsing his hand under the tap, next to all of my non-blunt cooking equipment, (health and safety fail!), so that I can haul my heavily-pregnant bulk up onto a rickety chair to retrieve a plaster from the highest cupboard in the kitchen, (health-and-safety-fail-slash-win, no?). Scooping him up, I secure the plaster to the wound and enquire of the cause.
Tinker holds up a small, metal tape measure, which I think was once white, but now looks like a prop from Jaws.
“Where on earth did you get that?!” I ask her.
“Father Christmas!” She beams.
“Father Christmas gave you a tape measure?!”
“Yes, when I sang carols with Daddy!”
(I knew it was too jammy to be true! Note to Santa; don’t give Toddlers tape measures, will you, please, you absolute tool!)
I bin the offender, wash Tinker and begin to scrub the blood off the patio doors, when Toddler pipes up again…
“Oh no, Mummy!”
“What… Where’s your plaster?!”
He points to the discarded sticker on the floor and then waves his freshly-blooded hand about.
Oh. Dear. God.
Once was enough; my neck starts to go hot and I remember I’m not really good with blood. I grab a tissue to stem the flow, and climb up again, now dizzy, to retrieve the full box of plasters. The tissue is now red and he’s waving it around. Helpful. I sit him on my lap, stem it again, and make three attempts to get the paper off the plaster and round his finger before he throws it off again.
Oh heck. How much longer until Husband arrives?! It can’t be long now!
I ask Tinker for another plaster from the table, which she gladly gets; before insisting that she should be the one to peel and apply it. Meanwhile,the tissue is getting redder, I am going greener, and, at about quarter past twelve now, Daddy’s reputation is growing darker!
Finally, prizing the plaster from Tinker, I get it back onto Toddler’s hand with the absolute instruction that he is NOT to take it off! All the while, Tinker is helping herself to the rest of the box, insisting she needs one too, and I’m wondering where the heck this flipping knight in a white dog collar is, and whether he still needs lunch to boot?!
Eventually, I find my phone upstairs, with the dreaded text message…
H: “I finished earlier than planned so have gone into town to do a few jobs instead; will see you for an hour at 3.”
Internal swear box overload.
Just as I’m about to throw the phone at the wall, both children appear upstairs, chiming, “look Mummy!”
Toddler has yet again chewed off his plaster and is bleeding down his hand, whilst Tinker, at the other end of extremes, is so covered in the wretched things that she looks like Nelly.
“What’s wrong Mummy?” Tinker asks as I sit Toddler on my lap with yet another tissue, trying not to look too closely and typing furiously on my phone.
“Oh, don’t worry darling,” I reply, ” It’s just that Daddy isn’t able to come home after all; Mummy was busy making his lunch, and she really, really doesn’t like blood. That’s all, sweetheart.”
I say calmly and lovingly… whilst simultaneously typing “FFS!!!!!!” back to the Reverend.
We go downstairs, realise the box of plasters is now so depleted that we have to resort to scavenging the nappy bag, and I sit Toddler on my knee; pinning his arm behind my back, and singing This Little Piggy to his other hand for a good twenty minutes until I’m sure the bleeding has subsided. Eventually, in a state of calm, we eat lunch, tidy up and Toddler has a nap on the sofa.
All the while, I reflect on the fact that, at this point in my previous pregnancies, I was on a leisurely “mat leave”…
(Also now known as “what’s that?!” leave!)
First, from work;
Second, oh… that long college summer!
And I wonder when this particular “placement”ends?
And if it’s really too late to do a runner?!