It's 2.24pm on a Thursday. My twin toddlers have declined the opportunity to take a lunchtime nap. It's pouring with rain outside. Only 4 hours and 6 minutes until dinner.
"Oh ****," I bawl.
"What are we going to do?"
Does this sound familiar? A recurring nightmare maybe?
Do you find yourself wailing with frustration at the constant pressure to entertain your children?
Having to come up with yet another cunning plan?
Or is it just me?
But seriously, is all the effort, pain and planning in entertaining our children 24/7 all really needed?
Do they need entertaining 24/7?
Picture this scene if you will.
We had been looking forward to seeing In The Night Garden Live at the O2 in London for months. When we bought the tickets back in February E-Man and Bell loved the TV show. It was a regular fixture in our kitchen at dinner time; we turned the TV off whilst they were eating of course. But come June and on the eve of our big morning out, Igglepiggle, Upsy Daisy, Makka Pakka et al had all been usurped in our kitchen by the dominant force that is now Peppa Pig.
We were nervous.
Would they still like the show?
Fast-forward this sorry tale (so far). We're now walking along the huge perimeter corridor of the O2 when suddenly, in front of us, five enormous pillowy characters appear looming large — it's the Haahoos.
Thirty-foot tall pin-cushions in yellow, blue and purple grinning at us and with slightly scary eyes wide-open.
Bell screamed first, "No, no, no Haahoos! No Night Garden!"
Mother had a "I told you we should have got those Mr Tumble tickets instead" look stencilled across her forehead.
"We're going in," I hiss.
I suppose the sight of five 30-foot tall brightly-coloured creatures was a bit odd. A bit scary.
But that wasn't the point.
£120 was the point.
I had visions of our recent visit to London Zoo experience when it took expert coaxing from Mother to prize Bell out of her buggy, past the fascinating ceramic statue of a gorilla and into the zoo proper.
But in the end we slipped past the Haahoos and into the show. And they loved it. I mean really loved it.
But the price was our sitting on tenterhooks throughout the entire 60-minute show. An hour of stress for Mother and Father.
Was all the stress and aggro worth it we thought?
Back when we bought the tickets we paid an extra £5 per ticket for ringsidepremiumseats (baaaaad idea) which on the big day actually played into E-Man and Bell's opportunistic little hands the chance to become a part of the show.
Oh the stress!
It was all rather Keystone Cops as the theatre's ushers repeatedly had to run up and down steps to ask us to please keep E-Man and Bell away from the stage and all the colourful, fluffy, come and touch me props as we the incompetent parents in turn had to jump up and down steps in a desperate effort to prevent E-Man and Bell from checking-in at the Pontipines' palatial home.
And that's basically how the 60-minute show went for us. Sixty minutes of hell and £120 spent. E-Man and Bell clearly loved the show but we the parents were terrorised by the prospect of E-Man knocking Pinky Ponk out of the sky.
Was it all worth it?
The point I am trying to make in this sorry tale is that do we all as parents put undue pressure on ourselves by thinking we need to entertain our children 24/7?
By thinking we need to visit a Peppa Pig World, Thomas Land or a Legoland every weekend. Or more!
I think so.
I think children can be perfectly satisfied by spending a large proportion of their time communicating on aone-to-one basis with a responsible role model.
It doesn't have to be an In The Night Garden experience every weekend.
Why invite the regular stress?
I find it easier to take my children to libraries, soft-play sessions, the playground and beyond than just purely entertaining my children on a one-to-one basis at home. I find that really hard work. But it's probably what they really want. Or really need. The chance to get to know me and the opportunity to learn how to play on their own.
I lead a fairly routine-based lifestyle. I'm not talking a Gina Ford strict type routine. But I have made a point of getting my toddlers outside for a walk/activity every morning and afternoon come rain or shine. Or come to think of it come hail or heatwave.
But is that good for them? Or is it good for me? Or a bit of both?
Now I'm not here to say don't go and see In The Night Garden and all the others; although clearly it would appear so.
I think day trips out together as a family are important. Family bonding time is crucial.
But I think we forget the importance of one-to-one communication and the vital skill of children learning how to play independently.
We don't need to add to our stress levels thoughts of entertaining our children 24/7. Or joining every club and filling every available minute of the day with a speech therapy class or dancing class.
That can stop our children learning how to play by themselves.
I firmly believe that children behave in accordance to their environment. If we as parents are stressed then our children will be stressed/overexcited and try to invade the In The Night Garden stage. Where's the learning in that? If we are exhausted then our patience and tolerance levels are shorter and we are unlikely to be much fun to be around for our children.
We need to give ourselves a break.
Then when it's raining hard and pitch-dark at 4pm come this November, our children might be better equipped to play on their own and give us exhausted parents a short break.
Children are just like us. They also need chill time!
Do you feel pressurised to entertain your children all the time? How do you cope?