You’d better go in disguise!
Oh yes, today was the Teddy Bears Picnic. One of the many events that the wonderful people of Reading are putting on for the children over the summer. Say what you like about Reading Council (and believe me, I will) but they do like to keep everyone busy. Which is fine by me.
There was mask making…
and even the chance to help tidy up.
Not bad for 50p.
It was a lovely morning, and the children had an absolute riot. We had been looking forward to it all week and, for them at least, it was everything they had hoped. For me, it was a real test of my confidence.
Yesterday we had friends round for the day, and spent hours in the garden chatting. As we talked, the issue of confidence came up. Specifically how becoming a Mummy can strip it away. Before the babies arrived I was fairly confident in myself – I may not have been particularly successful but I knew I was fun to be around. I certainly didn’t second guess the way that I looked after myself or how I ran my life.
When Elvie arrived, all that changed. The desperation to do the right thing by my daughter mingled with all the conflicting advice that I was given, and I doubted myself continually. Would people look down on me if I tried to give her a bottle? Would I spoil her forever if I let her sleep in my bed? How many layers of clothing should she be wearing? Etc etc etc
As time has passed, I’ve grown to trust my instincts. She’s nearly three now and is amazing. I’ve clearly done something right. Joel is only 10 months old and he’s walking and chatting – it would seem that he’s not stunted either. Yet all too often, my confidence takes a massive knock as a result of something so tiny that it seems ridiculous.
I had a schedule for this morning. We would go to the Teddy Bears Picnic, then on to the market and home for lunch. I’d packed some snacks for the children to eat, and it was a perfectly solid plan. Until five minutes after we arrived. When we bumped into a couple of friends from our old side of town.
These friends are the definition of yummy mummys. Driving Audis and wearing Tiffany bracelets, with perfectly dressed children, and actual hairstyles. There’s a reason I never really fitted in. They both have daughters slightly younger than Elvie, and sons slightly younger than Joel. We should be a great fit. We’re not.
I was genuinely happy to see them, for about three minutes. Right up until one of them asked “so, did you move house then?” Umm…yes. Six months ago. To the other side of town. Nice to know we’ve been missed. Then the other said, ” I was showing my daughter her birthday party pictures the other day – she didn’t remember who Elvie was.” Oh. Not only have we not been missed, we’ve been completely forgotten. I wonder what happened to “So nice to see you, it’s been ages.”
We didn’t have much else to talk about. But we stood next to each other for a while, which gave me time to notice that, despite their babies being younger than mine, their bellies were flat. Mine is definitely not. I decided that they would probably go home and tell everyone that I’m pregnant again. If they even remembered that they’d seen us.
That wasn’t the worst of it. I wandered off to help Elvie along a balance beam, and came back to find my friends sitting on a picnic blanket, with a picnic. A real one. Not rusks and breadsticks stuck in the side of the buggy. They had sandwiches and fruit and everything. In that moment, I forgot that my plan for the morning didn’t involve eating lunch at the park. It didn’t matter that my children were having a great time. It didn’t matter that I’d done six days by myself without Wes and that I’m exhausted. I just knew that didn’t match up to these other women, and that I was failing.
I almost left for the market right then. We’d only been there half an hour. Thankfully Elvie chose that moment to pull me over to the mask making. We didn’t go back to see my friends. We didn’t say goodbye to them. We sat behind the buggy to eat our snacks, so that nobody would see how badly prepared I had been. I’d even forgotten their drinks.
The irony is, the children weren’t bothered at all. I doubt my friends meant any harm. They certainly didn’t bring a picnic just to spite me. It was all in my mind.
My mind plays a lot of tricks on me. I’m slowly getting better at noticing – that’s the only reason we stayed. I know that I shouldn’t let my parenting confidence be determined by a chance remark from someone I’ve not seen for six months. That I shouldn’t be so worried if my plan is different to everyone else’s. I love that about my family. I love that my children are not the ones who sit quietly on a mat for hours. I love that they’d rather climb into the Play Rangers van or roll around on the floor of the bandstand. I love that they wear their bear masks upside down. I love that often, we do things just a little bit differently. I need to remember that. Especially when I’m bulldozed by ‘perfect.’
It’s all about confidence. I’m getting there.