Weekends with our three kids are now like a real-life version of the old river crossing puzzle.
You probably know this brain-teaser already. A farmer has to transport a fox, a chicken and a sack of corn across a river. He has a boat but it can only carry him and one other thing at a time. If the fox and the chicken are left together, the fox will eat the chicken. If the chicken and the corn are left together, the chicken will eat the corn. How does the farmer get everything across the river safely?*
Welcome to our weekend. Instead of a fox, a chicken and some corn, we have Isaac, Toby and Kara. And instead of a farmer and a boat, we have two parents and two cars and the requirement that no child can be left at home unattended, lest they burn the house down or something.
Here, for example, is how our day panned out last Saturday.
8am: Heather and I work out the logistics of who is going where with which combination of children at various times during the day. Using a combination of Microsoft Project, a whiteboard, several colours of Post-it Note and much frantic arm-waving, it only takes us 17 hours to finally devise a workable plan. Which I then forget within eight seconds.
10:30am: I take Kara to dance class, then for coffee and to shop for both lunch for the two of us, plus dinner for us and Toby. This requires a trip to Waitrose and a second mortgage.
11am: Heather takes the boys for a play-date and lunch.
12pm: I return home with Kara and make lunch for the two of us.
1pm: I drop off Kara for gym squad training and return home. As usual, I leave the house thinking we have plenty of time. As usual, we don’t and we’re racing through the door not to be late.
1:30pm: Heather leaves play-date with both boys, drops Isaac off in Newbury for another friend’s birthday bash. The plan is to then drop Toby back at home so I can go on a photo-walk with him and get my hair cut in Thatcham.
1:45pm: Toby, who routinely changes his mind every 11 seconds, decides he doesn’t want to go for a walk with me after all because the prospect of spending one-to-one time with me is just too boring. So he goes with Heather to watch Kara training, where he complains non-stop about how boring it is.
2pm: Meanwhile, at home I’m using this unexpected window of free time productively. Not. I’ve been distracted by a friend’s Facebook post and have been watching YouTube videos for the past half-hour. (This happens more often than I care to admit.) Finally I walk into town to get my hair cut.
3pm: I’m back home. Kettle on. Ten minutes of frantic running around doing household chores before the inevitable chaos ensues.
3:15pm: Heather returns with Toby and Kara. I need to take photos for forthcoming board game reviews I have to write. After 20 minutes perching precariously on a stool to capture overhead video footage, we end up playing several games together.
5:15pm: Heather leaves to pick up Isaac from Newbury. I cook dinner for me, Toby and Kara. They refuse to eat it. I get annoyed. This is pretty standard.
6pm: Heather returns with Isaac who, despite having already eaten, hoovers up most of the food left by his siblings.
6:30pm: Heather heads out for an evening with friends in Oxford. The kids and I watch half of Strictly before I usher them upstairs, where for some reason it takes 20 minutes for all of them to spend the usual 4½ seconds brushing their teeth and get into bed.
8pm: I settle in for an evening of blogging stuff. And beer.
That’s a pretty average Saturday in our household. I rather suspect it will continue to get worse before it gets better. It’s little wonder we often all spend Sundays in a zombie-like state.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m sure I left a sack of corn around here somewhere …
* In case you were wondering, here’s the solution to the puzzle … The farmer and the chicken cross the river (as the fox and corn are safe together). He leaves the chicken on the other side and returns. He then takes the fox across the river but since he can’t leave the fox and chicken together, he brings the chicken back. Since the chicken and corn can’t be left together, he leaves the chicken and takes the corn across and leaves it with the fox. He then returns to pick up the chicken and brings it across. Everyone is now safely on the other side.