I detest it when the weather decides to be so glorious that I am obliged to venture out, regardless of whether I actually want to.
Saturday. A day of wholesome family activites. Bébé nageurs at 9 am (because, as you may recall, I queued for half a day to get a coveted place in the Saturday session) – during which Tadpole, tightly wedged in a polystyrene ring, executed giddy circles around me until I grew dizzy and developed lockjaw from continuous reciprocal grinning. A spot of windowbox gardening on the balcony – where I inadvertently showered several passers by with potting compost, only realising I had done so when a chorus of indignant “Ca va pas là haut?”‘s assailed me from five stories below. The tricycle quest – an adventure requiring me to cross the sweaty threshold of GoSport, an act against all my principles, as I heartily detest every conceivable form of sport, with the exception of snorkeling. The indignity of always being picked last for team sports at school has left scars all over my self-esteem which may never heal.
Sunday, I awoke feeling sluggish and slothful, craving a day filled with nothing but cocooning, as the French are fond of calling it. I longed to curl up like a cat in front of the window and snooze in a patch of sunlight, or to steal some precious me-time to read more of my book. Of course none of those things are actually possible when you have a toddler bouncing on your midriff and entreating you to ‘faire le cheval?’
As the afternoon drew to a close, Mr Frog became insistent that we had to go to the park and ‘make the most’ of the lovely weather. I looked up at him, dejectedly, from my den under the dining room table, where Tadpole and I had created a makeshift wendy house and were entertaining several teddies with (virtual) afternoon tea and biscuits.
My suggestion that he might enjoy spending some quality time outdoors with his daughter sans moi was met with dismay. He claims that when chaperoning Tadpole alone, he cannot endure the pitying, oh-look-a-poor-single-parent glances. Bribery, in the form of offering to do his share of the housework while they were out, was unsuccessful. Mr Frog can be very stubborn when he puts his mind to it. I reluctantly got dressed, packed bubble mix, sippy cup, nappy and wipes into my bag and we headed for the Buttes Chaumont en famille.
Mr Frog and I habitually rave about how wonderful it is to live a stone’s throw from the largest park in Paris, and it’s true that I do love my idyllic walk to the childminder’s in the mornings, when I have the place pretty much to myself, give or take a few joggers and dog walkers. Tadpole and I mimic the birdsong, and I pick blossom from the trees for her to study, which invariably makes her sneeze.
On this unseasonably warm April Sunday however, the park ressembled a teeming Côte d’Azur beach in high season. Bodies lolled everywhere. Old folk lined the benches, families and clutches of young people were sprawled over every available patch of grass. On the main thoroughfares it was mayhem: tricycles plowed into pushchairs, tired children screeched as their parents attempted to drag them away from the adventure playground and home for tea. The so-called relaxing stroll was turning into a stressful nightmare. My patience faltered and then flatlined. I was irritable with Tadpole, who had decided she wanted to balance on the kerb but absolutely not hold my steadying hand. I had visions of milk teeth embedded in the pavement. When Mr Frog lit up a cigarette, I launched into a tirade about how I didn’t want to nurse him for years when he finally succumbed to a well-deserved lung cancer. I hated myself for being so needlessly unpleasant, sincerely regretting leaving behind the haven of tranquility of our apartment.
As we approached the man-made lake (a rather unappealing shade of khaki, undoubtedly in need of a thorough clean), the obstacle course began. There are all manner of paying activities for little people in the Buttes, designed to ambush desperate parents, who will, when at breaking point, gladly pay through the nose for a few minutes of peace and quiet: pony rides, a horse-drawn carriage, a Guignol (French version of Punch and Judy) puppet show, swings, a duck fishing fairground-type game and a merry-go-round. Should one manage to escape all of these unscathed, the final hurdle is the kiosk selling candyfloss and garish helium balloons. A stroll through the Buttes with a tantrum-prone young child could easily cost upward of 20 euros.
For this reason I invariably leave my wallet at home on such occasions. A decision I came to regret as I stood downwind of the stand selling crèpes and Belgian gaufres.
Something in me snapped. I hated the park, despised the mocking sunlight and craved my duvet. I left a bemused Mr Frog and Tadpole gaping at me open-mouthed and stormed off home.
I wonder whether it is possible to suffer from reverse SAD?