There is a time in life that all mothers dread. It’s worse than childbirth, because it goes on for longer, it’s worse than breastfeeding, because it comes out of the blue. It’s worse than looming housework, because housework can at least sometimes be soothing in its mindless repetition.
It’s when your toddler drops their afternoon nap. Because right up until they are about two, or even two and a half (or even three if you’re really lucky) the little suckers go to sleep for up to two hours after lunch, allowing you to do whatever the FUCK you want. I mean, you can’t leave the house, but those two hours are yours, yours, yours and no-one can take them away from you.
The minute your child nods off at lunch also pretty much marks the end of the day because mornings are the hardest work with toddlers. As soon as they’re a-bed, you’ve got two hours to do WHATEVER!!!! and then in the afternoon you can both just doss around eating fingerpaint until bedtime.
It’s hardest on the mother if the child has been doing this nap strictly, in its bed, for 2 hours exactly, pretty much since birth. If you’ve been more relaxed about it, letting the child nap in a buggy while you sail off to, I don’t know, Westfield or something on the overland the transition to no nap is less horrific – you are used to being flexible, you are used to just dealing with every day as it comes.
I am not like that. I am not bendy, like a willow – I am rigid, like an oak tree. Or maybe just doomed, like the ash.
It’s not like I didn’t know that Kitty was going to drop her nap. In fact, I’m surprised she’s kept it up for this long. But now we find ourselves in a mid-nap-dropping slippery patch. She still needs to have a little kip but she won’t pass out in front of the telly and won’t go to sleep in her cot. She will only now nod off in the car, or in her buggy.
Which means I have to go out, somewhere, at about 2pm, so that she will sleep between 2ish and 2.30ish.
As the end of the nap loomed, I dreaded this. But in actual fact, it is oddly freeing.
(And I am lucky – some toddlers suddenly do a thing where if they nod off for even 2 minutes after lunch, they won’t go to sleep until 9 or 10pm at night. Though that could well happen to Kitty I suppose.)
A thing that mothers who choose to be very strict about a routine sometimes complain about is that you are confined to the house, you can’t really ever go out for lunch and you have to rush back from whatever you are doing in the morning so that the child doesn’t fall asleep on the way home and thus ruin completely your two hours of peace. You are in a gilded cage. That’s been me for two years.
So today, for example, as it’s nice and sunny I’m quite looking forward to bundling us both up and going for a very relaxed stroll somewhere – because there is no more relaxing walk to have than when you are pushing a sleeping child in a buggy (and that child is supposed to be asleep). Maybe we’ll go to Primrose Hill? Maybe we’ll go to Hampstead? North West London is our oyster.
In other news, my husband is away in Canda until next week, which means that Kitty and I are even more loose, twisting in the wind really, with nowhere much to go and nothing much to do. We can eat our dinner in a fancy restaurant at a moment’s notice. Or just come home and eat crackers in front of the telly in our pants. Not that my husband ever prevents this sort of spontaneity, you understand, just that it is somehow less likely.
I saw my husband off on his chilly cross-Atlantic adventure with a luxury baked potato, which is a baked potato loaded with sour cream, caviar, chopped egg and spring onions. Not expensive caviar, just lumpfish caviar from the deli fridge at Waitrose – although we did once do this with really expenseive stuff and drank champagne with it; possibly one of the best dinners of my life.
I only learnt how to bake potatoes properly in the last two years or so – I’d never really done it before. What you must do is bake them at the absolute highest temperature that your oven will go for 1 hour – not at 180 for 1hr 15 or 200 for 45 min or any such nonsense. FULL HEAT, 1hour.
Then split, butter, sour cream, caviar (one little pot is enough for 2 people) I boiled egg chopped finely, some spring onion. Whether or not you have champagne too is up to you in that moment. Because, sometimes, there’s nothing quite like just winging it.