Having three young children means that my head is on almost constant Linda Blair-stylee swivel, especially when we're out in public. Call me paranoid but, as I often to say to them, "If I can't see you, then you're in the wrong place."
So I rather like the fact that all three of them will happily be pushed on the swings for hours on end. It's a bit of pain, yes: finding three swings in a row in these far-exceeding-the-national-average-number-of-children-per-family neighbourhoods is never easy but, once that hurdle has been overcome, at least the children are contained. And I can push with one hand and sneak peeks at my iPhone with the other.
My head is still on constant swivel though: for other children. My three are total swing hogs; none of this "Can I get off now please mummy?" business that you hear from other kids. Mindful of the wrath of park mums, I keep an eye open for wistful children and huffy, impatient looking carers and, once they're spotted, always wrestle my children away.
Eager to get out and make the most of the increasingly rare sunshine, we headed to the park this afternoon and quickly snaffled all but one of the swings. A little blonde girl ran over and nabbed the fourth, announcing "I'm wearing a Hello Kitty top!" She was. I was impressed: a girl who strikes up conversations about clothing with complete strangers is my kind of kid. I glanced over at her mum, still busy with the pushchair. She walked over and smiled.
"Have you got another one in there?" I ask, gesturing towards the pushchair. "Just let me know if you need another swing or else my lot will be here until Christmas".
"No, just the one," she says. And then: "I love what you're wearing. I love those fur gilets; I keep looking for one but I'm not sure I can pull it off. You look great."
At last: validation.
It's not the Zara one over which I bonded (if it could be called such) with the Supermoggle; mum volunteers at a Red Cross shop and brought an Atmosphere (read - Primark) one home a few days ago. Do I need two fur gilets? Yes I do: it's a different colour, different length and reminiscent of the Yeti from the Myths and Monsters exhibition, with whom Master C is rather enamoured (he has requested a Yeti cake for his birthday in December, with the added instruction that I make a blue, no, a dark blue one).
She's wearing a pair of khaki combats that look suspiciously like Houlihans. "Are they Houlihans?" I ask. They are; she is delighted that I've noticed and we converse earnestly about the placement of the side pockets and how they can make thighs look tree-trunkish, but she sized up to a 27 so that they'd look slouchier and less clingy, how she bought them on US eBay for about half what you'd pay for them here, how she fights the occasional urge to think "why bother looking nice? I'm just a mum," in response to which I quote my friend Tracey: "It takes just as long to get dressed in ugly clothes as nice ones." The children swing like pendulums: we cover Uggs (the rights and wrongs of) children's footwear (the exorbitant cost of) and office wear (the current lack of need for)
Hours later, the children and I have fed the ducks, had a picnic of sorts and I am covered in smears of yoghurt. Bits of fur are sticking to the Bub's damp, slightly sniffly nose (from which I can deduce that there are traces of snot on my gilet). On the drive home, they want to play Shrek and Fiona, which basically means that I have to be Dragon and speak in an odd, croaky voice. They're shrieking with laughter; it's bright and cold and nearly the weekend, and The Bearded One isn't going to be working. What a great afternoon.
Wearing: Atmosphere gilet, Primark jeans, American Vintage long-sleeve tee and Bloch ballet pumps.