Monday, February 26, 2007

A Day Off for Mummy!

It sounds terrible. No, despicable! How can I put this. I spent the whole day with Oliver on Saturday, taking him out and about and generally having fun, and afterwards we realised it is probably the first time I have ever been solely in charge of him for a whole day.

Now, I know how bad that sounds, so in my defense let me say that it doesn't mean I haven't spent a whole day with him before! Nor does it mean I don't spend much time with him. I love my time with him. I try to be home every evening in time to have an hour with him before he goes to bed. But at the weekends I tend to let Hayley take the lead and I prefer us all to spend time together when possible.

The biggest factor in the last few months has been the amount of time I've had to give over to my Open University studies. Thankfully that will end in May.

I spend Saturday mornings with him while Hayley has a much deserved lie-in or takes the opportunity to read the paper unhindered by clamouring hands. But after that if I go out with him it tends to be with Hayley too. That's partially because I like us all to do things together. It's also because Hayley knows all the best places to go!

And, I must admit, it is because even today I probably don't have quite the same unhesitating confidence as Hayley in all situations when it comes to taking him out. It's not just that I don't know the drill in some of these kiddie places. I've always tended to defer to her when we take him out and about because she has him all week and she has always been the one who knows how to handle him best (he says, as if he is some sort of explosive material!). But now that he is communicating so much more I think I know him pretty well myself and he can tell me what he wants anyway (in so many words and gestures). Consequently my confidence with him has really grown.

So after we all went to Funizuz a week or so ago, I jumped at the chance to take him there again this weekend, this time on my own.

But before we did that we ran riot in Decathlon where Oliver persuaded me to buy him 2 tennis balls. And we popped into our old favourite, Fresh, for tea and toast.

But Funizuz was what we enjoyed the most. It's a building full of ball pits and padded climbing areas and slides. In fact there is a very big slide at the heart of it. So big in fact you sometimes see Mums coming down it with no kids!

I have to admit I enjoyed it less than the previous week. It was busier and although there are "Under 4s only" areas, they aren't policed and I spend my time looking out for rampaging 8 year olds who might trample my 17 month old under foot and not even notice.

I also find myself occasionally enraged by the antics of some of the kids. One girl, much older than him, sat at the end of a tunnel as we crawled through and started throwing plastic balls straight into his face. I was right there with him and stoppped her pretty damn quick but the little man had to be encouraged to go on. He didn't seem scared, just hesitant and bemused by why she was doing it.

Of course you have to be careful, especially as a man, about intervening physically to stop this sort of behaviour. But frankly any child that does that sort of thing to Oliver while I am around is dicing with death. I may cut an urbane and liberal figure as I read my Saturday Guardian in the car park as he sleeps, but once we're in the ball pits... well, let's just say it's a padded jungle out there.

Once back out into civilisation we drove home and Oliver fell asleep again. Worn out by our endeavours.

Prior to this weekend, my recent Saturdays and Sundays seem to have been too full of studying and jobs around the house. But I'm determined to shift that balance. All work and no play make Daddy a dull boy. And that would never do.