On a recent visit to a friend’s house we sat in the garden on a picnic blanket while her kids played. She ironically pointed out the unfolded sun lounger sitting empty on the patio and told me how comfortable it was and that she had bought it at the beginning of the Spring. Granted, the weather up until then had mostly been appalling but on the odd occasion that the sun crept out she would get the sun lounger out of the shed and unfold it, promising herself a little sit down at some point in the day. Without fail she would then walk on past it and back on duty.
Later I laughed about the unopened newspaper I had in my bag and joked about the level of optimism buying the newspaper in the first place represented. In reply my friend suggested we should place it on the sun lounger so they could keep each other company in The House of Broken Dreams. And that was it – all the way home my head was full of thoughts of the tiny dreams we have each day that inevitably end up broken. Because, as well as the many gifts that parenthood offers in exchange for a limitless level of dedication to the small people, it also seems that we subject ourselves to hitherto unparalleled levels of disappointment.
There is the cup of tea that we optimistically make convinced that this time, this time we will drink it, only for it be forgotten about in the midst of picking up the Play-Dough before your carpet starts to resemble a preschooler’s Impressionist rendition of a Gay Rights rainbow flag. Later, we find its mournful, tepid self abandoned next to the kettle, its wings of pleasure cruelly clipped in that moment. We microwave it, aware that it will never be the same, then forget about it all over again.
Then there is the purchase of the kids’ magazine on the way to the cafe. Despite all of the evidence being to the contrary, we are somehow convinced that £3.99 worth of plastic tat, some ill-thought out “educational” activities, and running the gauntlet of the judgemental gazes that accompany your child’s choice of the pink and purple Princess magazine (complete with vanity mirror because Project Self-Love is something that every preschooler needs help with, right?), will afford you the time to have an Actual Conversation. But no, because someone has to read those stories, explain the activities, and when the plastic tiara snaps we all know that shit.is.gonna.go.DOWN.
The House of Broken Dreams also has a special place for the children’s clothes that you actually choose – the ones that do not arrive in your house by default thanks to family members or hand-me-downs, therefore rendering your sartorial preferences irrelevant as it’s impolite to complain when other people are paying, and I genuinely think that beggars can’t ever be choosers. You however, optimistically purchase the cute-as-a-button denim jumpsuit that you secretly wish was your size, and imagine just how adorable she will look when wearing it. Your dreams are predictably shattered when she reacts to the idea of a girl wearing trousers with the fervour of a fully paid up friend of The Taliban, and screams shrilly enough to convince a passing stranger that you are forcing her into a dress woven from freshly picked nettles.
As a result of this level of protest outfits styled by The Eldest are in plentiful supply and, despite my best efforts, her favourite colour is pink. It used to be blue. I was VERY proud. Then she went to nursery and the war was lost. These days I accompany the sequin-clad, neon-striped, welly-wearing, Princess dress preferring, monochrome-phobic, preschooler around the cafes, parks and playgroups of South London and while people constantly say “Oh wow, I LOVE your outfit!” I know that what they really mean is “She looks deranged”. I fight the urge to explain that she chose her outfit herself, accompanied by an apologetic shake of the head, because 1. I think it’s obvious 2. I know should ignore those little voices in my head who are foolishly concerned that others are judging me in some way, and 3. I’m actually pretty proud of my slight wacky, wonderful daughter who has super-strong opinions on everything from the colour of her socks, to the feel of the fabric.
But I still wish she would wear the jumpsuit.
It seems to me that the scope for dreams to be broken knows no bounds when you become a parent, because apparently these Small People are, you know, actually people. With opinions and stuff. The Eldest couldn’t give a toss that what you prefer is that she chooses the kids magazine with the doctor’s kit on the front because this says something about your political believes. The Eldest just likes pink. And surely I’ve got to respect that?
Besides, what all of this really illustrates is that, contrary to the prerequisite of parental doom and gloom about sleep-deprivation, the lack of “me-time”, and the emotional exhaustion of negotiating toddler tantrums, as parents we are in fact equipped with a never-ending supply of optimism. I mean, why else would be keep making all of those cups of tea?
This is CLEARLY not a comprehensive list so what I want to know is, what about you? What optimism driven purchases or plans would you submit to The House of Broken Dreams? Please tell me, I like typing to you!