I’m proud to say that we have developed something of a family evening routine. (In this house, the word “routine” has a looseness to it, we follow a sequence of actions, though we are flexible about certain details and there is no rigidity on timings.)
We all have dinner together (which often means four slightly different meals given our three different vegan/vegetarian/meat-eater diets, plus one straight up fussy eater), then the children have a few minutes of playtime before bath and bed.
Joel bathes Leo whilst I put Maia to bed, which might be ten minutes or half an hour depending on what time we had dinner. And how tired and grumpy we all are. Sometimes I’ll read her a story or vice versa. Sometimes we’ll just lie together and talk. This is one of my favourite times of the day.
At some point her little brother will burst in, exclaim “NIGHT NIGHT”, then toddle over and kiss his big sister good night, turn off her bedside lamp, and promptly leave the room, shutting the door behind him.
After reading “Dear Zoo” 17 times and jumping on the bed (Leo, not me) it’s his turn to go to sleep. Whilst I’m putting Leo to bed, Joel will clear away the kitchen. Often we will reconvene later for T.V and junk food.
This is all well and good when we are both home. We get one to one time with each child, and I can spend a few special uninterrupted minutes with Maia. It all runs tickety-boo. (Mostly.)
Then there are the nights when Joel is working late or has an evening thing, a work event or a band rehearsal. It is on these nights I feel like we are missing a team member and suddenly I am sailing the ship all on my own and whilst I can manage perfectly well on my own, it is much nicer knowing I have my co-pilot there with me for back-up.
Dinner is fine, bath-time is easy as I just plonk them in together, but bed-time is something else. It can quickly become chaotic as I attempt to put Maia to bed whilst Leo makes every effort to prevent this from happening smoothly. She rarely gets a story, and if we talk about her day it’s whilst watching Leo mess up her bedroom section by section.
“Mummy get him out of here!!” She is exasperated.
“Okay night night I love you bye!!” I rush out the door, guilty and frazzled.
I have come to dislike doing bedtime this way so much, that I’ve begun quizzing Joel on the necessity of his extra-curricular activities.
“Will you be late?” I ask.
“Probably..” He does not like where this is going.
“Is that an optional late or an absolutely-necessary late?” I’m being tricky.
“Oh it’s necessary..”
“But is it actually or do you just want to stay out late?”
“It’s for work!”
I am not convinced.
Joel also occasionally has band rehearsals, he plays the drums in his band The FiLF. Every parent needs a creative outlet. Or just an outlet. I go to acting classes every Saturday, write blog posts and practice monologues whilst hanging laundry. Joel likes to spontaneously (and of course highly enthusiastically) blast out elaborate verses from hip-hop tracks I have never heard of. Sometimes these are lyrics he has written himself. I can rarely tell the difference.
“Mummy what is he doing?” Maia asks, as bewildered as I am.
“Just…let it happen..” I respond.
“He’s..expressing himself..” Often he will attempt to break down the lyrics and explain the context and background, but the history of hip-hop music is a complex web of stories with many characters and by 7pm I just don’t have it in me to feign genuine interest. Plus, it is bath time.