It was one of those days where it was so cold I could see my own breath when I exhaled and I watched memorised as the tendrils of air sailed out of my mouth and into the atmosphere.
I looked at my two older children who danced in front of me in an effort to add heat to their bodies. Both wore matching blue shorts, they were on sale in Asda, £1.99 for a two pack. The effect of them having to share shorts was that Twin boys hung a little loose round his legs and twin girls clung a little like hot pants; but what mother can resist a bargain of £1.99 for two.
On their upper bodies they both wore identical dark blue running vests with their school name emblazoned on the front. The vests had just been plucked from a box under the registration table and were designed to fit any child of primary school age. Combined with the shorts the overall effect for twin boy was that he looked as if he had dressed in the dark and pulled clothes from an older siblings drawer. Twin girl fared a little better as she looked like a poor Kylie cover act in her hot pants and floating vest.
I tried to keep them warm as they stood on the line waiting for the klaxon to bark out the start of this years first cross-country race. I suggested exercises that would get their blood moving as I stood on the sidelines in my shirt, jumper, coat and gloves.
Then suddenly I felt the change come over me; one moment I was looking at the kids, full of empathy for them, watching their legs turn blue and wanting to rush them home to a cup of cocoa and a warm bath and then instantly like Jekyll into Hyde I was transformed.
My hands clenched into fists and my heart began to pound in my chest. My eyes narrowed into darts as I fixated on my children.
Normal lovely mummy was gone, The Competitive Mother had taken hold of my body and was fully in control.
Powerless to stop my own voice I bellowed out above the noise of the other parents;
“Children,”. I yelled “remember do not stop, keep running and run like the wind is shoving you.”
“Twin girl,” I continued “for heavens sake do not stop to help like last time if one of your classmates falls over, there are no prizes for second place.”
The klaxon sounded and as the children picked up their feet to run my own little tootsies bounded into action.
“Run” I screamed with a slightly crazed edge to my voice as I almost sent a toddler flying in an attempt to run alongside the twins on the outside of the course.
I could have swore I heard other mothers tutting slightly but maybe I was mistaken.
Like The Terminator I followed the children using my voice as a fog horn.
“Gooooooooooo” I ‘encouraged’ as I felt the sweat drip from my nose as suddenly it felt like the tropics in my shirt, jumper, coat and hat.
As the finish line approached I suddenly found myself in a gang, somewhere where my attitude was normal rather than extreme. Scores of parents used their elbows to propel themselves closer to their six year old offsprings. I heard comments like “go on Tommy you can take him,” and “move your backside Emily you can go faster than that.”
Then that was it, it ended, and the field was full of hot, beaming, tired children and bewildered parents who had encountered a momentary body hijack of the infectious competitive disorder. We all looked at each other as we sought out our small ones and smiled with a taste of embarrassment lingering behind our lips.
“Didn’t they do well.” We murmured to each other, “it’s not about winning” we all agreed (except the parents of the winner who were too busy turning cartwheels across the finish line.)
Twin boy came 7th, twin girl 17th out of 50 or so runners.
Normal mummy was returned, although competitive mum remained on my shoulder whispering what could happen if we trained a little more for next months race.
The twins looked at me…
“Are you proud mummy?”
I answered a triumphant yes and took them home for hot cocoa and a nice warm bath.