It sounds so idyllic: I took the kids on a late afternoon picnic to a gorgeous harbourside park on Saturday. Before we left, we baked raspberry swirl cake and sausage rolls, and I made cucumber finger sandwiches and vegetable crudites to dip into tzatziki. A naughty six-pack of little cans of raspberry lemonade – and an apple cider for mum – were thrown into the esky for good measure.
We collected a friend for each of the girls and settled ourselves onto a rug under the trees with a lovely view of the tawny frogmouth baby we’d discovered the previous week.
I told the kids to run off and play. Then I lay back on the rug with my cider, gazed up at the gorgeous blue sky and relaxed. I only rose for toilet runs and a quick walk to the pier to dangle the kids’ toes in the water.
When darkness fell, we finally packed up and headed home. I’m pretty sure everyone had bulk fun.
Husband sent a message later asking if he could pick the kids up at 9.30am the next morning. I told him to make it 10am because we were “hopelessly disorganised due to picnicking until nightfall.”
And then a guilt wave dumped on me big time. It started to swell when one of the friends’ mums said what a “good mum” I was for taking them on a picnic.
A little voice in my head said: “If you were such a good mum you wouldn’t be taking the kids’ friends along to amuse them, you’d be playing with them yourself.”
The voice got louder after I sent that message to Husband. It felt like I’d deceived him, pretending to be super mum when all I did was cut slices of raspberry cake for the kids and suggest they take the dog for a walk. I didn’t offer to throw a frisbee or play catch or chase them around the play equipment.
I was lazy. I sipped on my cider, twirled idly through my Facebook feed, dipped sausage rolls in tomato sauce, smiled indulgently as the kids roly-polyed down the grassy hill, rolled my eyes when they tottered up complaining about their roly-poly injuries, and chatted to fellow dog owners who wandered past with their various exotic breeds.
Most of my kids’ childhood has been spent feeling judged on my mothering skills by Husband and found wanting. The weight of expectation became so oppressive towards the end of our marriage.
The freedom I’ve felt since we separated has been exhilarating.
But the little voice remains. It whispers to me that maybe he was right, I should do more with them.
I’ve tried to be “good.”
I suit up in a cossie every Tuesday afternoon and splash in the local swimming pool with the kids before their lessons. And I HATE the water.
We go on long walks that end with salted caramel gelato from the local deli.
We make incredible messes in the kitchen together, chopping and baking.
I read them a chapter of Harry Potter every night before kisses and cuddles in bed.
But is that enough?
As I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, Husband is the most amazing hands-on dad. Kids go to his place for playdates and he’ll embark on the most fabulous craft projects with them or play endless board games. When I invite the kids’ friends over for playdates, they get a very frosty reception if they start whining that they’re bored. My philosophy is that organising the playdate and providing snacks is my job done.
I’m not saying either approach is right or wrong.
This isn’t another needy cry for my followers to huddle around me and say “We love ALANA!”
I’m just curious, I’d like to know: how involved are you in your kids’ playtime?
Song of the day: Bruce Springsteen “Dancing in the dark”
(I’m a bit worried I still dance like that … just in lower-waisted pants)