Usually you will find stuff about travel and online on my blog, with some exceptions. Not that the other stuff in my live isn’t blogfähig, I just chose to keep it professional. As many friend, family and colleagues ask me what live is like with 4 kids, I thought let’s write about an average day. So let me know if this post amuses you might see more of it. :)
Once every two weeks my better half Anneloes leaves for her work and returns 3-5 days later. As you might have guessed, her employer is KLM and she’s a flight attendant. Her routes are intercontinental as she works in business class only (KLM doesn’t have business class in EU anymore). In the before-children era (BC) the arrival of her schedule meant a choice for me to join her either on a weekend partying in Hong Kong, 3 days wine tasting in Cape Town or a week of diving on Bonaire. After the Daltons (AD) it meant: is it in the weekend yes/no? In case of no: is it on our regular kindergarten days, is a babysitter or grandpa/ma available? In case all above are no, I take the day off.
This weekend was one of those single daddy weekends, which I absolutely love! Because you’re left to your own devices to do the job of caretaker, I am there for them 100%. Normally you find some unguarded moment to tweet, post or mail because the partner will probably keep an eye out, this weekend I’m at their full disposal. The key for me is to do a lot of stuff with them. Staying at home usually implies me having to play judge Dredd all day. So we cycle a lot, we have one of those all Dutch ‘bakfietsen’ which fits all four. Touring the vicinity visiting windmills and eating pancakes or wentelteefjes in child friendly places easily takes until naptime. Another one of our favorites is Artis the Zoo in Amsterdam, we’re a member and can go as often as we like.
Today was an Artis day, so I got up with my daily alarm clock: Bram (5yo who likes to wake daddy by plucking his eyebrows, somewhere between 6:00-6:30AM). As he selects his app of choice (Youtube, Angrybirds, Flightcontrol or one of the toddler TV apps) I fix him breakfast, as well as lunch to go for all 4. Thijmen (3yo) shouts, I run upstairs to fetch him in order for the girls not to be woken up. He joins Bram behind the iPad (reluctantly accepting that Bram’s choice is what will be watched) and I make him a bottle of porridge and a sandwich. A moment of peace in which I Flipboard my way through breakfast. I hear the girls are waking up and make their bottles, toss one at Floor (2yo) and feed Lotte (1yo) the other. I get them dressed and the boys downstairs as well (+1 for Bram who can do this himself, if you remind him every minute that is). I put the girls in their high chairs behind the other iPad (not a common thing but sometimes it’s so nice not to have an audience for your morning ritual) as my mom swings by to take Bram to swimming class. Just when I shampooed my hair, Thijmen enters the bathroom to tell me he switched off both iPads and is ready for ‘a #2’. (+1 for Thijmen to be potty trained, -1 for not being able to pull his pants down and mount the porcelain throne) I cut the shower short and help the little fellow out, before shit hits the fan (or boxer short in this case). While he’s sitting comfortably, I rush down to press play again on the iPad to keep the ladies quiet. Finally we’re all dressed and almost good to go. I unleash the girls from the chairs to play until I’m done packing all the diapers, hankies, drinks, sandwiches, Artis passes, etc. Suddenly I lear BOOM. Lotte lies flat under the table and is silent. This frightens me because a normal boom is followed by a 1 min cry. While I pick her up she gasps for air, I check all vital signs, the limbs on movement, eyes on focus. Meanwhile I scan the perimeter for clues what happened. Thijmen is so caught up in his iPad that he couldn’t have been involved or seen a thing. He wouldn’t even have noticed if Santa dropped by for presents. I see a pieced of chewed up apple on the ground and one piece on the table, so probably Lotte mounted the table via her high chair, snatched the apple, tried to descend again, slipped and went flat out spitting the apple out. Her age is a risky one, she does not see any danger, yet has the power to climb all furniture. As I lie Lotte down on the couch, she quickly recuperates so I no emergency room thankfully. Must have been a hell of a fall because this is the first time she stays put on the couch for 5 minutes.
Whilst I’m done packing the bus (Chrysler Voyager), Bram returns from swim class and we’re off. 10AM at Artis, I’m pretty proud beating the crowd. Two ladies in the stroller, two gents with the rickshaw-alike cart. This is my quiet time, the animals and raskals keep each other pretty busy. As I come here bi-weekly, the most interesting animals to me are the uncontained mammals. I love spying on other parents to confirm I’m not doing that bad of a job, considering I’m outnumbered severely. They spy back at me and challenge their spouse why they’re so busy with 2 kids while that guy can be so relaxed with 4 kids. My kids guide me passed their favorite animals; the Madagascar dancing squad, the smelly penguins, the agile sea lions, the butterflies. We have lunch, they squander off to the playground, I keep counting to 4 in order to keep track of them. My fearless Freggle Floor climbs the highest slides and pulls along her sibling Bram who would have never done it without her example. Thijmen prefers to welcome all the kids at the end of the slide. Lotte keeps dad company with a cold beverage and a snack. We leave in time for Lotte’s nap (which starts in the car and ends in her bed) and head home.
In the car Bram keeps me busy with all kinds of questions (what’s closer home or the zoo? I see 10 windmills, and you? This is where we ran out of gas 4 years ago, right?), continuously. Suddenly the car starts vibrating, a flat tire. On the rim I steer my way to a gas station that is conveniently up ahead and call my parents to keep the kids busy while I change the tire. We continue our way home safely. I love my parents and I love living around the corner from their house. It makes life so much easier that they take the boys while Lotte sleeps. As Floor plays in the treehouse I make use of the quiet moment and start writing this post. The joy was short lived, as my grandmother and her partner (together 183 years) unexpectedly dropped by to say hi and see their great grand children. Between the talks with them I cook dinner, get Lotte out of bed and keep an eye on both girls. My grandma usually can take an hour of the activity in my house and leaves when the boys return for dinner. A meal with the kids will not be consumed with a lot of taste. Most important thing is that you have a full stomach again to run the last few miles until bed time. Meanwhilst I’m feeding Lotte, making sure Floor doesn’t put her dish in her hair, Thijmen actually swallows something and Bram stays put. No matter how well prepared you are for dinner, kids will find for something to ask that’s not on the table.
The final sprint: divide and conquer. The key to survive the last and most challenging part of the day (as all are exhausted and contrary to one might think, hyperactive) is to put two behind the telly and take the other two upstairs for the evening ritual (bathing, pj’s, bottle, tooth brushing, story). Only when Lotte is in bed I invite the boys up, this way I avoid havoc and enable myself to run that last mile with a smile. I read a bedtime story with as many weird voices as I can think of and carry them to bed on my back. (no hernia yet, lucky to be a relatively young dad)
My body yearns for bed, I have to fight the urge to hit the sack with them at 8pm. The moment I realize they’re all asleep is one of pure bliss and victory for having exerted them enough. Strangely the freedom that follows lifts the energy level again to stay up until midnight which I regret the following morning at 6am when Bram plucks my brow again.
PS: after posting this to Twitter, Ilonka tweeted me this post. A must read for any parent of small children. You are not alone. :)