In part six of our series, mum-of-three Becky Dickinson embarks on a day trip and gets more than she bargained for.
The trouble with having three children, apart from the obvious lack of hands, is how to entertain them all at once, with something that a) they all enjoy and b) won’t result in a trip to A&E.
So when INSET Day arrives, or insect day, as J calls it, I find myself in one of those parenting dilemmas, common to people with multiple children who aren’t actually multiples. (Not that I’m undermining the difficulties of triplets, of course.)
INSET day is basically a bank holiday for children, when the queues for LEGOLAND stretch half way down the M4 – and that’s just the traffic. J is adamant that every other child in his class is going. But despite my son’s pleas, the idea of taking a 6 year old, a 3 year old and a baby to a theme park on my own (Unhusband is conveniently at work) is enough to spark a frenzy of grey hairs before I’ve even worked out the cost.
Swimming is out for similar health and safety reasons. Soft play is too mental (me), the park is too normal (J) and craft is okay if it’s raining and there’s really nothing else to do. Plus, Baby A just wants to eat glitter, and I’m not sure the vacuum cleaner can cope with any more pompoms and pipe cleaners. Mr Maker has a lot to answer for.
Then it hits me. “Why don’t we go to a farm?” I suggest. “Yessss,” cheer J and D. Baby A cheers too though she has no idea why. It’s a winner. J and D can pet a few animals, maybe even ride a donkey or a tractor, Baby A can practise her ‘quack quack’ noises and I might even be able to grab a coffee. Result.
I stuff the changing bag full of snacks, wipes, drinks, hand sanitiser and anything else that happens to be on the floor; then strap J, D and Baby A into their various car seats and chuck a load of wellies in the boot. Since when did leaving the house become an exercise in long haul travel?
Five minutes after we set off D needs a wee and I realise I’ve forgotten my phone. We turn around. Ten minutes after that, we’re on the road again, singing ‘Old MacDonald needs a poo.’ Thankfully, no one does.
Finally, we make it to the farm. It’s like a rural utopia; geese greet us on arrival, flowers sway in the sun, the smell of manure wafts gently on the breeze. But when we get through the gates, a throng of people are gathered around the central enclosure in church-like silence.
We edge forward just in time to witness a sheep in the final throes of labour. A bloated ewe is sprawled on the ground, a pair of tiny black feet poking out of her hindquarters. Meanwhile, a bunch of Home Counties mums and their Mini Bodens gawp on.
It’s like a farmyard re-enactment of One Born Every Minute, minus the screaming crescendos and anxious other halves. Minutes later, without even a sniff of gas and air, or appropriate expletive, a slimy new lamb shoots out. Daddy sheep is still nowhere to be seen.
The ewe barely has time to lick her offspring before the famer bends over and announces he’s going to “give her a hand.” Shoving a brawny, gloveless arm further inside the animal’s anatomy than I would have thought possible, he proceeds to drag out another identical creature.
Twins… chorus the onlookers, with a mixture of awe and mild revulsion.
I find myself almost welling up at the sight of new life entering the world. Until I remember these particular babies will probably be moussaka before their first birthdays. I briefly contemplate becoming a vegetarian. Must be those post natal hormones, still swirling around.
My empathy for the ewe and her babies is soon interrupted by J. “Mummy, what’s all that red stuff?” he pipes up, pointing to the floor which now looks more like a butcher’s yard than a farmyard.
“It’s just a bit of blood,” I reply. “Don’t worry it doesn’t hurt her.”
“Does she need a plaster?” asks D, who has a plaster obsession, the slightest abrasion resulting in demands for a Mr Bump covered strip of latex.
“No she doesn’t need a plaster,” I say, preparing to usher them on to some other species.
But D has spotted something else.
“Look Mummy, it’s got a willy!” she exclaims, pointing to the trail of afterbirth, still dangling from where the lambs had just emerged.
“No darling, that’s just, err, other stuff”, I flounder.
Not wanting to alarm them, I shepherd them towards some slightly older lambs around the corner, who look more like they’ve come out of a picture book than a birth canal. Cuteness is resumed as we spend some time patting and ahhhing and I spend a lot of time telling D and Baby A not to put their hands in their mouths. Health anxieties and parenting, I have discovered, are closely acquainted.
There are donkeys, piglets, llamas, even an ostrich, though D is adamant it’s a flamingo. Whatever. Then J spots a sign that says ‘soft play.’ Damn that school for teaching him to read. Despite my reservations, we pile in along with what seems like 200 other children.
J and D insist I join them, so I squeeze through embarrassingly small spaces, wobble over wobbly floors and tackle obstacles that no one over the age of nine should really attempt – much to everyone’s amusement. I have to admit the bumpy slide is fun though.
At the end of a long, tiring, but enjoyable day I’m beginning to feel like I’m getting the hang of this mum-of-three lark. Well, I managed not to lose any of them at least and no one got injured or had a public meltdown. I never did get that coffee though. There’d better be some wine in the fridge.