WHEN you have more than one child, finding time to spend one-on-one with them can be difficult. So when I was invited to experience a new Hamleys superhero party in Cardiff I thought it would be a great chance to have a day alone with my eldest son.
Santi is three, and I can’t remember the last time we spent a day together just us, which is quite sad really. It’s nice that we do so much as a family, but I think it’s important for him, and Ezra, to have some quality time with me or Stew on their own. So we headed up the M4 to Cardiff for the day, with Santi dressed as Batman and planning “to lead the party”. You can read the full review here – this post is about our day out in general.
After parking the car in St David’s 2, the first place we headed was to Cath Kidston to buy a schoolbag for Santi. I’d seen a soldier-print bag that I liked, and when we were out for the day a couple of weeks ago he spotted a little boy with it and pointed it out to me, so we knew what we were after. We also ended up with the matching a drinks bottle and a pirate-print sun hat for Ezra which was in the sale … and very nearly bought soldier-print hi-tops and a guinea pig-shaped egg cup for Santi, and a cloud-shaped handbag for me. Everything is just so cute in there.
Being dragged away from kitsch / ever-so-slightly tacky kitchen accessories (a cat mug, anyone?!) we headed for The Cardiff Story (via Costa for a takeaway caramel latte). It’s an interactive museum based in The Old Library next to The Hayes that we’ve been to once before, and it’s absolutely fab for escaping the busy shops.
We first went there after the Hamleys Christmas party last year, and have been meaning to go back since. On the bottom floor of the building there’s a corner with a small train, a dolls house, little kitchen and lots of dress-up clothes. Santi loved the train, and I mean LOVED it. He dressed up in a driver’t hat and engineer’s jacket, and could have played for hours if we didn’t have to leave for the party.
He has such a fab imagination – he was filling the engine with coal, oiling the wheels and waving the green flag when it was time to go. I sat and drank my coffee watching him play, and joined in when he insisted I be the second engineer – he was in charge, of course. We actually went back later in the afternoon for a second round of playing on his request. There were a few more children there then, but hardly any considering it was a drizzly day in the school holidays – definitely somewhere to bear in mind if you’re in Cardiff with children.
The second time we popped in, Santi was starting to get tired and it was quite difficult trying to leave. He wanted to try on all the costumes, and dragged out his game as I’d told him he could play until the train got to the beach. All of a sudden there were all sorts of problems with the engine that only he could fix. I tried the old “it’s closing now” charade … which of course didn’t work because a family walked in and started to play.
As well as the train costumes, there are old football kits, school uniforms, Victorian-style aprons and hats … it really is a fab place. Older children can have more of a look around the museum and learn about Cardiff’s history. I’m so surprised more people don’t know about it … maybe those who do are keeping it a secret! Oh, and it’s free, which is always a bonus!
After the party we had a quick look around the Lego shop, where I was expecting Santi to want something, but surprisingly he was happy to point things out and then go for dinner. It was a bit of a mistake choosing the restaurant at John Lewis as neither of us particularly enjoyed our food – I should always stick with Pizza Express! Santi complained his sausages were “spicy”, I’m guessing the leek was a bit strong, and my focaccia was dry … oh well, we know for next time. Santi still enjoyed people watching while we were there – I think he gets that from me, and he asks so many questions about people too. It wasreally nice being able to talk to him without rushing around getting ready for work or nursery, or dividing my attention between our two boys. I feel like I need the same time alone with Ezra now too, although he’s turning into even more of a whirlwind and would’t sit still for a minute if I took him out for food.
I’m not sure if I’ve said before, but Santi has developed a bit of a love for bands – as in brass bands, marching bands, military bands … basically anything with trumpets and drums – so he was over the moon when we were walking through town and he spotted a group of buskers. They were pretty good to be fair. We stood and watched until they finished – and then moved right up in front of them in case they started again. I love how children don’t care if they look daft, or feel awkward about being a bit different. Everybody else kept a distance and formed a semi-circle around the players, but nope, there we were within touching distance!
By chance, two of my friends from uni were in Cardiff too, so we met them for a quick coffee at Howells. I didn’t realise that on the top floor there’s a cafe with a small play area. I can’t believe there are all these places I didn’t know about! Santi happily played on the slide and car, while the three of us mothers had a chat. It’s so much less stressful when your children are kept occupied. Another place I’ll be keeping in mind next time we’re in Cardiff.
On the way back to the car we popped very quickly into Jo Malone for me to buy a new perfume. Now, believe me, taking a toddler in a perfume shop is one nerve-wracking experience! I don’t think I’ve ever chosen a scent so quickly, or repeated “do not touch ANYTHING” so many times in five minutes. I’m not entirely sure I even smelled the perfume I bought – I just went on the assumption that all the perfumes are so nice in there I’m bound to like it! So, if Earl Grey and Cucumber turns out to be a bit odd, you know who to blame.
I have to admit, I was pretty proud of myself at the end of the day. I love Cardiff, and have no worries about driving there or finding my way around, but taking a free-spirited toddler into a city centre isn’t something I’ve done on my own before. The only problem was, being a non-city person I really didn’t think about rush hour and timed it completely wrong leaving. Instead of taking an hour to get home, the drive was just over two-and-a-half! What a nightmare. At least it meant we were too late to cook and ended up having a Chinese takeaway instead 🙂
I really think Santi appreciated having a day just the two of us. I feel like I’m making a big deal about it, but it is so hard spending quality time with him, and bedtime is usually the only time we have together one-to-one. We weren’t rushed, we weren’t tied down to plans once the party had finished, and we could just do as we pleased. With school starting in September it feels like time is slipping away too quickly, and I’m really glad we had a chance to spend the day together.