Life is what happens to you…

…while you’re busy making other plans*.

We had no firm plans for today. Dh had mentioned vaguely last night that we should go to the park and it was a good choice because as I ran around it at 7am (I know! Running! Me! I’m surprised at myself) it was apparent that it was going to be a lovely day. As we were getting ready to go out Dh and I discussed what we would do for lunch (our lives basically revolve around meals) and decided that we would go out somewhere after we’d let the girls loose in the playground for an hour or two.

The playground was already heaving with people at 11am, all making the most of the first truly bright and warm day of the year. The girls sat on adjacent swings and suddenly shouted across as they spied one of their friends from nursery trotting into the park with his Mum. We said hellos and chatted briefly before going our separate ways.

We’re lucky to be blessed with lots of places to eat in the area and we happened to choose the museum café today. As we were munching our lunch the same little boy (J) we’d spotted earlier appeared with his Dad. J squeezed himself onto the bench that R and G were sitting on and promptly made himself at home. It was clear that J didn’t want to join his Mum who was sitting outside having five minutes peace while her family fetched her lunch so I said they were welcome to join us. We ended up having lunch with J and his parents and the three children ran riot (almost) around the museum afterwards while us parents chatted and acted as unofficial crowd control.

After an hour or two we parted ways and were just leaving the park when we bumped into another family we know from nursery. They were on their way to meet up with some friends so we chatted for a couple of minutes and parted with an invitation from us to come over for a playdate in a couple of weeks.

R and G were a little fractious by this stage and were getting antsy about the bus ride and walk home so in a moment of ‘Let’s do the show right here’ parenting, I mentioned that we should really return the hair slide that their ballet friend C left at their house after a playdate a few weeks ago. C was very sad to lose the slide because it was a present from her beloved Granny, so we were very pleased when G located it during a tidying up session.

I thought that C and her parents wouldn’t be at home when we knocked on the door but they duly answered and ushered us in. I said we wouldn’t invade and would only stay for a few minutes but they offered Dh a beer and a chance to watch the rugby and then they invited us to stay for tea…which was a full Sunday roast. I protested that we should leave them to enjoy their family Sunday for…ooh…about five seconds before they told me to shut up and peel some potatoes. We all mucked in with the chopping and peeling and the girls helped to make apple and rhubarb crumble. The three girls had a wonderful time and we finally left their house at 7.30pm after rocking up on spec at 3pm to drop a small item off.

As we walked home, I turned to Dh who was carrying a very droopy R and said ‘I love our life’. It sounds terribly smug but I think we’re very lucky to live in a nice area and to have built up a network of friends that we can bump into randomly and have a really nice time with. Living in London, I didn’t ever think I’d get to a point where I could turn up on someone’s doorstep and be invited in for the afternoon. I’m used to making dates and plans with people and it’s so nice that we’re now in a position to drop in and out without anyone raising an eyebrow. I still get a bit jumpy if someone knocks on the door and I’m not expecting anyone, but I’m learning to live with the fact that it might just be someone who’s passing and wants to say hello.

I still think of myself as the gawky, uber geeky, quiet as a mouse teenager with no friends and no life and occasionally sit back and marvel at how far I’ve come. Yes, I’m still a total geek but I’m an awful lot louder these days. It’s yet another thing I’m grateful to R and G for. They have finally given me (and Dh) a happy, friendly, sociable life that I previously could scarcely have dreamed of.

*from Beautiful Boy by John Lennon

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Wanna be in my gang?

I don’t like gangs. I don’t like cliques. I don’t like ‘Here come the girls’, loose women, hen night whooping and hollering. I think all-female workplaces are a Very Bad Idea and I don’t just mean the syncing of periods. In the immortal words of Frasier Crane, women shouldn’t be allowed to talk to one another. I’ve dabbled in all female-gangs before and it generally Doesn’t End Well.

However, I now find myself in a gang. Moreover, according to dh I am in fact the leader of said gang. As da kidz say WTF?*

As your children get older they have the temerity to start choosing their own friends. I now understand why my parents would occasionally get a bit concerned about me having yet another best friend. Or rather, the ensuing devastation that would be caused by me and said BFF falling out approximately two weeks later.  Luckily the girls have pretty decent taste and have accumulated a nice circle of friends. Though friendship come playdates, through playdates come birthday parties and through parties coms social events with parents but without children. This means that dh and I spend quite a lot of time with people who we wouldn’t have otherwise met if it weren’t for the children.

As I stood at yet another birthday party at the weekend, chatting with the usual crowd of parents and offspring (and very nice they all are too), I was struck by the fact that I’d seen three of four of the families several times at different parties and events over the last few months. It’s got to the point now where the presence of a different family feels a bit….odd. If the girls go to a party and some or all of their core gang aren’t present I feel (my favourite word du jour coming up) discombobulated.

When the girls started nursery I noticed that some of the parents already gravitated towards each other and I felt that we were being (unintentionally) excluded. Now I understand. I’m now a member of the Little Stars clique. We’re the feisty, shouty, rebellious parents that kick up a fuss when we’re not happy. When we mention that our children are meeting up for extra-curricular events you can see carers’ eyes widening and/or rolling (impressive if you can do both at the same time) and they know that Things Will be Discussed.

Dh and I were recently discussing the fact that the girls have added a couple of extra children to their friendship group. “Are you going to let them in our gang?” He asked me. I scoffed for a few seconds and asked in genuine amazement “What do you mean? It’s not our gang?”. He grinned and said “It is so your gang”. I thought about it and I can’t disagree with him really. It’s a terrible burden and one I’ll have to learn to shoulder but I’ll get through it.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go and bulk order wine, houmous and carrot sticks for our next round of ‘meet the guinea pigs’ playdates.

*I don’t think da yoof say any of this stuff

A house full of twins

Recently we attended a playdate…for four sets of twins, two of which belong to the same family. The children had all met before, and we have pretty regular playdates with one of the sets of twins but this was the first time that they had all been able to play together properly.

Note that I said ‘play together’. The three Mums there were extremely pleased with how well the children interacted and worked around each other. The children ranged from 20 months to 3 and a half, so the prime age range for the terrible twos, but there were no fights, no arguments over toys and no tantrums. It all went rather marvellously, really. We wondered aloud whether their twin-ness made them better at sharing and working around other children and I think there’s something in that. Half of the children there (including R and G) attend nursery or pre-school so that undoubtedly aids their sociability but it appears that having a close sibling (or three, in the case of the two sets of twin boys) really makes a difference to the way that they interact.

Now, I’m not trying to suggest for a second (as if!) that singletons aren’t as good at playing with other children. R and G certainly have their fair share of fisticuffs over the most trivial of matters when the mood takes them. That’s true of most siblings: look at Niles and Frasier or the Miliband brothers. My sister is 4 years younger than I am and we still love and drive each other mad in equal measure.

I occasionally wonder how things would have been had we had the only child we originally planned for. How would they respond to such situations? Would our singleton embrace social situations or shun them? Based on dh and I, I wonder. Having twins has forced us to become far more outgoing and sociable – you can’t blend into the background when two little girls with identical faces bound into the room before you. However, I have a number of friends that are only children and I consider them to be the nicest, kindest, most sociable people I know. They suggest that they had to become more outgoing because they didn’t have a sibling to practice arguing social niceties on, which makes sense. A game is far more fun if there are two of you playing it, for example.

Siblings have to learn to work around each other and that’s magnified with twins. They must drive each other nuts at times but faced with a room of relative strangers of a similar age, they’ll know how to deal with it far better than a singleton probably would.