I have recently been watching Ninja Warrior UK on a Saturday evening with my 7 year old son. We like to see the deluded contestants brag about how “tough” they are and how they are going to “smash it!” and then inevitably fall off the ridiculous obstacle course into the water within a few seconds. In my view it all looks like just a bit of fun; a day out at the soft play centre for grown-ups!
And as I was rocking my baby to sleep for the 5th time the other night, my arms aching and my body exhausted and my bones creaking I concluded that mums, all mums, are tougher than a Ninja Warrior. Here’s why:
1. “Feel the burn”
I often chuckle at the commentary on this programme, with phrases such as “oh, you can see he’s really feeling the burn now!” Feeling the burn, is he? Are you sure? Have you felt the burn of rocking a one year old to sleep…repeatedly? Try to put them down and waaaaa! Start again. This can continue for several hours!
Or maybe let’s consider the burn of carrying a toddler around the zoo! You have that conversation when you leave the car, the one that goes like this:
“I want to walk mummy.”
“Are you sure? The zoo is very big, it’s a long way round and I can’t carry you that far”.
“Yes, I walk!”
“Here is the pushchair, look! Ooooh! Shall we take it with us?”
“NO MUMMY! I WALK!”
Off she trots on her insistent, independent little legs. Then, at the point furthest away from the car your toddler utters the dreaded words “Mummy carry… Up mummy, Up!!”
You wince at the thought of hoisting your giant toddler onto your hip and trying to walk, whilst also carrying a bag full of ‘essentials’, drinks, snacks, nappies, wipes, dummies and Mr Tea monkey. (I’m sure the soldiers in the SAS carry less!) And yet you do it to avoid a screaming tantrum in front of the elephants.
I would therefore argue that you, Ninja Warrior, dangling from the monkey bars having experienced the burn for only a matter of minutes, have not truly “felt the burn!”
2. “He is an amazing pain threshold.”
“Wooah!” Cry the commentators. “He’s in a lot of pain. Will he hit “the wall” before he reaches “the wall”? (A stupidly high wall that you hurl yourself at in an attempt to reach the top).
As a parent there are so many painful incidents in a day it’s hard to know where to begin. How about being woken up in the night by a small person who has crept into your bed and is kicking you repeatedly in the ribs, or when your baby gets their tiny little hands in your hair and pulls with great delight! Pinching your finger in the seat belt clips on the car seat and then slamming pinched finger in the car door (That one caused me to cry all the way home!) or, worst of all, STANDING ON LEGO!!
And for mums and mums alone I will just say two words… Child birth.
I think most parents hit “the wall” on a daily basis both mentally and probably physically with their own head!
3. “Such Stamina”
“She has tremendous Stamina” say the commentators, referring to a spritely young, trim barely 20 something competitor, as she gracefully leaps across the bouncy tiles like a leopard in Lycra! It takes 5 minutes of energy to do Ninja Warrior course, 10 at most so I would debate the use of the word stamina!
Let’s compare these 10 minutes of “stamina” to a sleep deprived mother of three’s day complete with supermarket trip and two school runs.
- After a night of little sleep she falls out of bed to try and get everyone ready to leave the house. (See School Run Fun blog)
- After feeding the children, making packed lunches, finding clothing, catching and dressing, changing and cleaning the children she runs down the road with the double pushchair book bag, lunch box and homework to deliver biggest child to school.
- The remaining children (a baby and a toddler) are then decanted into the car (which needs washing- there’s another job).
- Everyone strapped in, pushchair folded and wedged in the boot in a herculean effort; she then drives to the supermarket, singing “The wheels on the bus” all the way because the radio has broken on the car and she never has time to fix it!
- Once at the supermarket both baby and toddler are wrestled into a trolley. Toddler tries her usual “I want to walk mummy” trick! But this time mummy doesn’t fall for it. Screaming toddler and baby are secured in the trolley and off they go.
- Trying to remember the words to “let it go” whilst simultaneously trying to remember what on earth she came to the supermarket for, the mother makes her way up and down aisles grabbing things her children might possibly eat and removing things that the baby and toddler have grabbed from the shelves.
- Once the shopping is done the children and bags are deposited back in the car and she drives home, singing the “rainbow colours song”.
- Now to get the shopping and both children in from the car… the mother runs up and down the garden path with the bags of shopping dumping them all on the door step, before returning to remove the giant pushchair from the boot. Baby is wedged in pushchair and the toddler totters off down the path to “help” with the shopping.
- Once inside there is the joyous task of putting away the shopping with the help of two small people. Peppa pig will only hold their attention for so long before they make their way into the kitchen and demand to eat everything is sight!
- The best option here is to make lunch for the small people and put the shopping away whilst they are distracted, it’s a bit like throwing a ball for a dog…or a steak for a lion!
- Children fed, shopping away its nap time. (Not for mummy!)
- The babies are piled back into the pushchair and their exhausted mother takes them for a walk, this is the only way they will go to sleep in the day time. She is hungry, she is broken, but she carries on in the hope that maybe, just maybe she will have the opportunity to drink a hot cup of tea upon her return.
- It worked!! Hot tea and half a sandwich consumed, the little ones awake and it’s time for a quick nappy change before school run number two to collect the biggest child.
- This is followed by arguments, crying, playing and children climbing up her legs as she attempts to cook something that vaguely resembles dinner.
- After dinner and a huge clear up operation it is time for bath times, story times and bed times. Once the children are in bed she clears up some more, sorts laundry, jumps in a lukewarm bath that is full of toys and a disintegrating bar of soap and she finally collapses in a heap with a glass of wine, before crawling up the stairs to bed.
Repeat for several years and then you might have some idea of what stamina truly is!
4. “He looks tired”
Tired! Does he?! The last time I slept was the year before that contestant was born!!
As you can tell, sleep has become a source of great torture and frustration in our house since 2008 and the arrival of our first son (Who, by the way, did not sleep through the night until he was 5!)
I realised the other day that my husband and I do 17 hour days at the moment with nights of broken sleep. And I mean EVERY night, not just occasionally.
We also both work and sometimes I fear for the safety of the public when we are out and about. Neither of us really know what is going on in the world around us, we hardly know what day it is or who we are!
However, we have come to accept that for now (and possibly for at least another 4 years) sleep is not going to be a priority, and so we carry on out merry little lives exhausted and occasionally hallucinating! And it’s not just us, this is the case for millions of parents all over the world. So Ninja Warrior let me tell you, you are NOT tired you are not even close to tired!
To be the Ninja Warrior UK champion the contestant must have great agility and dexterity in order to negotiate the spinning log, swing across the curtain slider and make it to “the wall”. ITV describe it as the “toughest obstacle course”. Pah!
Well I beg to differ, I and millions of mothers like me have to employ these very same skills on a nightly basis in the dark in order to get the sleeping baby from downstairs where he’s had milk time back to his bed.
The first task is for the mother to manoeuvre herself very slowly from the sofa without spilling any remaining milk from the bottle or leaning on the remote control and accidentally turning on the TV!
By the light of her mobile phone next she makes her way across the minefield that is the living room floor, where any number of toys could cause her to trip and random pieces of Lego could cause a swear word to pass her lips, thus waking the baby and leading to an epic failure.
Once safely across the room there is an obstacle in my house that others may not face, there is a door at the bottom of the stairs which has the noisiest door handle have ever heard! Carrying the baby in one arm and holding the phone the door handle must be turned with precision in order to minimise the noise. This is a task that requires great skill and patience.
Through the door and onto the stairs of creaks. The mother must now venture up the stairs remembering where each creaky floor board is and avoiding these at all costs. At the top of the stairs she must climb gracefully over the stairgate without banging the wall or dropping the baby! She must not make a sound in case she wakes the sleeping toddler who will in turn wake the baby and again there is the potential for an epic fail.
She is now almost there, she can see the baby’s bedroom before her. Tiptoeing the last few steps she sneaks into his warm cosy bedroom and gently lays him down before silently backing out of the room and slipping into her own bed!
Wooooooooo! She’s done it!! (Don’t cheer, you’ll wake the baby!) She’s completed the toughest obstacle course known to man. And now to sleep for 10 minutes before someone else decides to wake her up!
So there you have it, these are my five reasons. The mental resolve of mothers (and fathers) to carry on day in and day out, to do all of this and so much more, in my eyes, makes every mum (and dad) tougher than any Ninja Warrior.