Being a smug, middle-class parent can be a real torture at this time of year. It’s easy in summer, when you get to hang about forest school in your cut-offs in the sunshine, congratulating yourself on providing such a wholesome menu of life-enriching activities (so much better than it was in your day, when your parents thought it was a big deal worth a prize when they got the paddling pool out).
But cut to January, when it’s -2 and you’re in your flimsy Topshop coat wondering why the hell they need to know how to build a fire anyway, and it’s a different story. After all, you’re in Reigate, not the bloody Revenant, and now that you think about it, there is good reason bushcraft is a forgotten skill. Why are you even here? Is it OK to just leave? Will the hippies get offended?
Even if you had the sense not to sign up to an outdoors-even-in-winter, parental-presence mandatory activity, you may still find yourself getting the guilts because they haven’t been swimming since August and weren’t exactly much cop at it then. If you’re not careful, this can develop into full-blown self-flagellation about what a vital life skill it is and how they’ll end up drowning on holiday because you didn’t fancy leaving the leisure centre with damp clothes and a raging case of athlete’s foot.
All those activities that seemed kind of fun in July are now, when you’re schlepping to them on a dark winter’s evening, pure misery. Even going to the park, plain boring most of the time, is now an expedition – particularly given that it hasn’t stopped raining since Christmas and every unpaved stretch of ground is a quagmire intent on ruining your nicest shoes.
Having watched them face-dive enough puddles to know that jeans are no longer sufficient outdoor wear, you wrap them up in one of those all-in-one waterproofs. They look like they’re going in to find the dead bodies, but undeniably weather appropriate. Congratulations, mother, you have done your job – they can jump in all the puddles they like.
Two hours later you have finally persuaded them to go home, with promises of chocolate, sweets and all the TV they can watch. With freezing hands, you peel it off their overalls, trying not to mind that they’ve just splashed mud all over your new Christmas Brora gloves. You find out that their wellies leak.
This is all made much worse if you decided it would be fine to move with two small boys into a house without a garden (why? WHY???), and so are therefore obliged to take them out for at least an hour a day, even on Saturdays. Or if you thought that two boys and no garden wasn’t punishment enough and you should totally get a dog. In which case you will spend half your life Googling Canada Goose jackets and Sorel boots, weeping at how ugly they are for the money, and praying for the onset of spring.
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