The Art of Nothingness
Friday afternoon, 3PM, a cold, wet, windswept playground. ‘Up to much this weekend?’ My friend makes small talk, we don’t have to make small talk, we know each other well, we go drinking together and bitch about the world in general, but at this time on a Friday neither of us wants to be getting drenched and are wondering why the hell the teachers haven’t kicked the kids out already (surely they want their weekend to begin)? ‘Absolutely nothing!’ I reply smugly, he looks at me enviously, ‘Nice!’
3.25PM Even more drenched, with a wild, almost 8-year-old, in tow, waiting for the 4-year-old to be released from day-care, another friend, same conversation. ‘Nope nothing planned!’ ‘Oh, you lucky bastard!’ I remember a time when no weekend plans called for pity, when my friends were envious if I had a weekend of hardcore partying planned. Now, thirty something, with two kids under my belt, a weekend of nothing sounds like pure bliss. Get the kids to bed, pour the wine, stick on a satisfactory movie, no kids’ parties to have to get up for, no sports clubs, no dinners or lunches with well meaning relatives, an excuse to totally doss in our pjs… but does that ever really happen?
9am Saturday morning and the kids are jumping on our heads. No, we have not been asleep all that time, Smallie entered our room well before six demanding yoghurt. We have postponed the inevitable, palmed off dairy goods onto the (slightly) lactose intolerant infant, thrown hot cross buns and bananas at them, but they have had their fill now. It’s ok, we still don’t have to get dressed, we can stick the cookery programs on, but even kids that love food as much as mine only sit for a short while, within minutes they are trying to kill each other, and any illusions of calm are diminished.
Midday. Narrowly escaped a trip to A and E when one child thought it was a good idea to sew up the other. Not quite as dramatic as it sounds, an old singer sewing machine with no needle, intended only to make my home look cool and arty, but apparently will pierce a small child’s fingernail and produce more blood than is entirely necessary. Needless to say, it’s time to head out.
Our weekends are definitely not what they once were, I can’t go partying any more, one because I’m getting older and the hangovers are generally monumental, but mainly because I still have to be a responsible parent the morning after. A weekend doing nothing, therefore, feels like the better option, the more relaxing one. After all, sometimes I revel in being antisocial, always a bit awkward with small talk. But in truth, nothingness never really happens.
Whilst nowadays my fantasies consist of curling up with a book by the fire for an entire forty-eight hours, that isn’t my kids’ idea of fun. Kids have energy, so much energy I often wonder where they get it, if we insist on a morning at home, we better make sure we have something planned, because they will expel that energy whichever way they can; a football match in the garden works for a while, chucking each other down the stairs? Not so much.
One of my childless siblings asked recently why we do so much with our kids, why Saturday mornings are generally taken up with tennis or swimming or (before the broken leg) trampolining, when clearly, we loathe leaving the house that early on a weekend. I have come to find, it appears to be for our own sanity after all. Don’t plan anything and A and E beckons instead. I am sure one day, when my kids are teenagers and I can’t get them up for love nor money, we will perfect the art of nothingness. Until then, I suspect a weekend doing nothing won’t be nearly as relaxing as it sounds. Doesn’t mean I won’t look forward to it though…