A month or so ago, in the run up to Halloween, I commented on the disastrous afternoon I was having, which had kicked off with a tantrum over a naked charity-shop Barbie and ended with me dragging a howling Henry home by his coat hood. To add insult to injury the hood was detachable and popped off as I tried to juggle the angry child with a bloody pumpkin.
It has taken me a fortnight to realise that said afternoon will go down in family history as a story to treasure. Oh how we'll laugh about barbiepumpkingate. The whole situation was ridiculous - from his insistence on me buying him the naked Barbie (whose previous owner had obviously hacked off half her fringe) to the moment he deliberately dropped to his knees on the floor of the shopping precinct prompting a total stranger to walk past and sarcastically mutter, 'Nice.' (That was truly inspired by the way, it really helped. Twat).
It's only now that I have worked out why barbiepumpkingate upset me so much. It wasn't the tantrum - I don't give two hoots about the public meltdowns anymore and I was actually quite glad I hadn't had £1 for the Size Zero wonky-fringed Barbie (I may otherwise have given in to keep the peace rather than delivering the valuable "I WANT doesn't get" lesson.) It certainly wasn't the first time I had steered an angry child home by his coat hood. Nothing about that afternoon was particularly out of the ordinary (except the one-armed pumpkin-carrying, which was proving a challenge).
So why did I go home and cry?
Well, maybe it boils down to expectations. You see, Henry and I don't usually have any time just the two of us anymore - it just so happened that after shifting childcare around that week we were left with a window of three hours after he finished his half-day at preschool . Not wanting to waste this opportunity I had built up an idyllic afternoon in my head. I had it all planned:
Pop into the library to choose some new books!
Stop off at local café for a milkshake!
Buy a pumpkin to carve together!
SO MUCH FUN.
For once I would be able to hold his hand and properly chat to him without simultaneously having to steer the pushchair and placate the baby with some yoghurt raisins. It was going to be perfect.
But Henry didn't get the memo about the idyllic afternoon. He didn't know I had been looking forward to it and that so much was resting on him behaving nicely. Unfortunately for me he didn't much fancy looking at books, he didn't like the rocky road slice I bought him at the café and after that charity-shop meltdown we undoubtedly should have gone straight home. The fact I further tormented myself by nipping to the Co-op to select a pumpkin (which I chose, he couldn't be arsed) was a mistake on my part. I was trying to squeeze too much into those hours in the name of being Fun Mum.
The truth is, Henry would have been quite happy to have come straight home after pre-school and played in his room with me. We could have devoted an uninterrupted couple of hours to Lego (without me nervously checking the baby hadn't stuck a brick down his windpipe). We could have snuggled on the sofa watching Scooby Doo.
Instead I had built our afternoon up to be something that later left me disappointed. Hence the crying.
Sometimes I think I probably expect too much. I was angry with Henry for letting me down that day, for spoiling our 'special afternoon.' Yet in reality he was in a bit of a shitty mood and simply didn't appreciate my itinerary. He's three. I don't think that registered with me at all at the time - I was blinded by the Barbie and the pumpkin and the sodding detachable hood.
Of course it's lovely to plan nice things - sometimes those things will work out just fine and you'll end up holding hands and taking selfies. But sometimes they'll leave you wondering why you bother. Next time I'll try to keep in mind that there is simply more to go tits up when you make grand plans.
And next time I'll carry £1 ;-)