I’ve given up coffee for Lent. Not sure why I do this to myself, but I figure it must do me some good. I’m going to put my coffee money in the Project Compassion box and feel all virtuous and smug for forty days. I’m three days in and already I’ve had enough. I already wrote this post out in my everything-notebook and now in my coffee-deprived state I’ve gone and lost it and I just know it won’t come out as good this time around.
Anyway, cast your mind back to Tuesday. It was Shrove Tuesday and my last chance to have a coffee before Lent. Unfortunately it was also a school half-day, so I would have all four of my darlings to share this special time with. But I’ve got this situation to work well in the past and, by gum, I would make three-children-and-a-baby-in-a-café work this time. Surely they owe it to me?
I went to the supermarket with them first and Harry and I played the game where Harry hands me random items which he considers essential and I systematically restore them to the shelves. My sister called me at one point, but as the entirety of our conversation consisted of me yelling directions at my children, I told her I’d call her back at a better time. Other than this, it all went pretty well until the last aisle, when I (rather stupidly) said aloud “and now all we need to get are the eggs!”. Christopher Robin and Harry both exclaimed “I’ll get it!” and raced to the end of the (long) aisle. I moved, as quickly as a person pushing a shopping-laden stroller can, through trolleys and old people, to the egg section. There, amid a small circle of spectators, Christopher Robin and Harry were wrestling over a carton of extra-large, free-range eggs (“I’m helping Mummy!”, “No! I’M HELPING MUMMY!”)
Somehow, I managed to confiscate the eggs and administer some lame reprimands to the boys. Miraculously, the eggs managed to escape their ordeal unscathed and so, seeing this as a good omen, I set off to our favourite child-friendly coffee haunt.
As this was to be the last coffee I was to have before Easter (or at least St Patrick’s Day), I was going to make it count, so I ordered I larger size than my usual small cappuccino and added extra fancy flavours (deluxe). The barista chatted pleasantly to Matilda, Christopher Robin and Harry as he put together their custom-made free babycinos and my children, cheerfully and all of one accord, failed to say ‘please’ or ‘thank you’.
I sipped and savoured and spoon-fed Annie with chocolate-dusted milk foam when it occurred to me that now would be a good time to call my sister back. It would seem I was having an abundance of stupid ideas on this day. But I love my sister and she lives far away so we don’t get to talk as much as I would like. I didn’t want to become the Boring Older Sister who is so wrapped up in her children that she can’t possibly take an interest in anyone else’s life. This was ‘Jan’, by the way, not ‘Cindy’, so it’s not like I’d scored sister-points by recently making her a hat either…
Accordingly, I contrived to continue chattering merrily whilst the following occurred:
- My three ambulatory children promptly absconded from the table and climbed onto an evil coin-operated Spiderman helicopter at the entrance of the café
- The weight of shopping bags caused the stroller to overturn, taking my remaining, rather startled, child with it.
- Matilda managed to climb her way to the top of the evil Spiderman helicopter and perched triumphantly on the rotor blades.
- Annie began to howl and I remembered that she needed to be fed (plus she’d just been for a ride in an unstable stroller…)
- Matilda started to clamber down again as I gave her the evil eye (as evil as one can give when one’s arms are full of fallen grocery bags)
- Matilda got stuck halfway down and then rescued by some random man
- I felt everybody’s eyes on me and realized with dismay that I had become That Woman, who talks on her mobile phone whilst her children misbehave.
I had to end the conversation when
8. I couldn’t see Harry anywhere.
But then I could (he was climbing all over the cake fridge and Christopher Robin quite happily joined him in this endeavour.)
After shouting random threats and gathering up groceries and offspring, I stalked off to the car. Once everyone was strapped into place and I sat in the driver’s seat. I launched into a tearful and incoherent rant about “coffee” and “your aunty” and “just for once in your life”.
Matilda piped up in a small voice, “you can listen to what you like on the radio on the way home, Mummy, and we won’t complain at all”
“That’s COLD COMFORT!” I snapped. But I put the radio on anyway.
I felt better by the time I got home. At least I could get a blog post out of this experience. And it was probably a good thing we weren’t going back to that café until after Easter. I sent the children upstairs to clean their rooms and started unpacking the groceries.
It would appear the eggs did not survive their adventure in the stroller.
When I told my mum this story, she suggested I find an all-natural organic substitute for coffee: “like, you know – whiskey”
So if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to have an Irish coffee without the coffee. Because I’m being good.