Before becoming a parent, did you ever have idyllic visions of what family life would be like?
Days out where everyone is laughing and smiling like the pictures you see in holiday brochures? Impeccably behaved children who could teach the Queen a thing or two with their perfect etiquette? A dinner table where everyone converses cordially and exchanges bon mots and amusing anecdotes about their day?
Yeah, me too. Of course, reality is somewhat different. Except for yesterday.
My parents come to visit for the weekend on a regular basis and we often prepare a big roast for Sunday lunch. They bring the food and do all the chopping up, then I do the cooking.
Getting the kids to appreciate the fact that we’ve been slaving away in the kitchen all morning isn’t so easy, however. It often takes 15 minutes of chivvying to get them all to wash their hands and get to the table without wandering off, then one or more of them will be in a grumpy mood and whine through the entire meal before asking if they can leave the table before I’ve barely sat down.
This time, though, by the time I had finished bringing the food through, the kids were all in their seats, smiling and filling their plates. Okay, they weren’t exactly in their Sunday best – Toby was still in his dressing gown, Isaac in his pyjamas – but that’s as close as the boys get to formal wear at weekends.
Nobody whined. Nobody refused to eat their vegetables. Nobody desperately wanted to be elsewhere.
The boys talked about their weeks at school while Kara, whose conversational skills improve noticeably with every passing week, also participated fully in the chat and all the jokes about ‘Daddy’s big tummy’. (It’s a Peppa Pig thing, and I can’t deny that I do bear an unfortunate resemblance to Daddy Pig in terms of body shape.)
We talked. We ate. We felt like a proper, old-fashioned family – three generations’ worth. Good food, good company. It was everything I would want the perfect Sunday lunch to be.
Afterwards, Isaac, Kara, my mum and I cycled/scooted/walked into town to burn off some of the calories. And once my parents had set off home, we all settled down to watch a film before the kids’ bedtime.
And that was my perfect Sunday. Nothing particularly exciting or extraordinary, but in a way it was perfect simply because it was just us doing ordinary stuff. It’s what the nuts and bolts of family life – the little moments that dominate our time – should be but so rarely are, like capturing lightning in a bottle.
It’s not often (okay, rarely) as perfect as this but, on those occasions when it is, it makes the moment that much more special. Add another entry to the memory bank of great little things. No doubt normal service will be resumed next weekend!