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Sunday, 24 February 2008

Cabin fever

It's the end of half term week, which I took as holiday in order to make up for my treacherous behaviour deserting everyone for New York the week before. I had envisaged fun days out with the children: to the park, to the London Aquarium, down to Brighton for the day. But first thing Monday morning, as I changed Ava's nappy at the changing table, I bent over to pick up a clean nappy, sneezed, and felt a nerve-jangling sensation rip through my lower back, pulling me up short. I was frozen by the pain, stuck with a seventeen month old half naked on the changing table and a three year old and a six year old in various stages of dishevelment and undress running around the house. I've heard people talking about sneezing and putting their back out so many times, but I guess I didn't really believe it was possible. Or maybe I thought it only happened to geriatric types. Until it happened to me. Long story, short: I spent the next four days in a virtually immobile state and with an almost unbearable sense of frustration, feeling that the precious days set aside for family time were slipping away as I ailed on the sofa. Meanwhile, however, I began to learn a valuable lesson: the children were basically fine. Yes, we had to stay indoors for most of the week. Yes, Mummy was doing a lot more sitting around than usual. Yes, the television was doing more of the entertainment than is usually strictly endorsed. But you know what? It's amazing just how fun a camp made out of three dining room chairs and a couple of blankets can be, especially when you add saucepans full of dried pasta and wooden spoons from the kitchen into the mix. A neighbour with teenage children came over to visit, and agreed that her children were always happy as larry simply 'hanging out' at home with Mum. What I learned was that I was the only one who had cabin fever, that maybe all the activity is often more for my sake than for the children's, that just 'being' with the kids is what matters. It's all about the 'KISS' approach ('Keep It Simple, Stupid').

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