You may recall, how back in November I put up a post about spending half term with the children. It was Halloween and since LSB was off running 26 miles for the craic, and later lying around in an incapacitated state, I did it mostly solo. I was in high spirits, ebullient even, because our time together had been enjoyable, edifying, almost relaxing. This parenting lark, I remember thinking; I have it nailed. One simply needs to plan pleasant activities and adopt a positive mind-set. How happy was my heart, and how at peace my soul. And how short-lived was my euphoria (not to mention my naiveté). Fast forward two months and my positivity has shrivelled to vinegary ire. ‘WHAT DO YOU WANT NOW? CLEAR AWAY OFF!’ I am more likely to be heard telling my kids, as opposed to ‘Sit down beside me here and tell me about your colouring-in.’
These past few days, with the exception of some hours ‘out on parole’ with my friends, have been the longest of my life. I have, on two occasions, actually hidden in our spare bedroom to salvage the few remaining shards of my sanity. My children have been like a pair of springer spaniels on acid. It is hard to avoid cliché because they have, literally, been bouncing off the walls. I have not managed an uninterrupted shower, or, for that matter, a bowel movement, for the best part of a fortnight.
I ring my mother to have a good old yap.
MOTHER: It’s this weather. Desperate altogether. They can’t get out you see, to run off the energy.
ME: You are wrong there. They DO get out. They have puddle suits, and Ormeau Park may as well be an extension of our garden. And we did park run in Wallace on Christmas Day. They are ALWAYS out.
MOTHER: CHRISTMAS DAY? That was a monsoon. Well then, it’s no wonder then that they’re in poor form. They probably have bad colds, from being subjected to the elements.
ME: I don’t think so. I think they are just overindulged.
MOTHER: (Ignores previous comment as my children can do no wrong.) You have no sense. Pleurisy: that’ll be the next of it. Taking children out and it bucketing on them. There will be a day of reckoning, you’ll see.
ME: Deep sigh and wishing to God that it was February so that I could have a drink.
Back to my rant. There have been play dates and swimming and trips out. Baking, stories, even a little bit of schoolwork. Santa brought the older one a kids’ digital camera that excited her beyond measure. The cat is less enthused, for never has there been a more photographed feline. The more I think about the activities and time spent together, the more virtuous I feel. And FYI, I’m not one of those infernal ‘helicopter parents’ who breathes down their children’s necks all day. Hell no. They are free to watch TV and play and draw and off I fuck with a cup of tea and leave them to it. But without the daily routine of school they are anchorless and agitated. If I have the audacity to set my arse upon a seat they develop an acute need for something and cease not to shout until I attend them. Tidying has been an anathema to them, and rows have ensued at its very mention. I fear that my aching back and hips may be less to do with the gruelling 9 (mostly up-hill) run which constituted the Castlewellan Christmas Cracker and more to do with the ‘bend, lift, straighten and repeat’ which has been my occupation in the house, picking up toys and laundry.
LSB has admitted that he may well emerge with PTSD following this holiday, and that a trigger point may be any rendition of ‘Away in a Manger.’ It is the newest song in their repertoire and they sing or hum it CONTSTANTLY. As if to prove my point the older one has just wandered past, singing it away to herself. I found LSB slumped over the breakfast bar the other morning staring hollow-eyed into his coffee. ‘Who’s died?’ I asked him, passing with an armful of laundry. ‘No one yet but someone will soon if they don’t stop singing that FUCKING song.’ he replied. Now anyone who knows my husband can testify that he’s a civil sort of a fellow and this is most unlike him. Alas, these holidays have tested us all.
On Christmas Eve we were on the Ormeau and they were belting out their favourite carol as two auld dolls went past. ‘Lovely’ they said. Aren’t they just lovely?’ I smiled, in a watery sort of way, not wishing to disabuse them of the notion. Three seconds later and the small one was substituting every fourth word for a burp. I’m telling you, they are pernicious little menaces.
I have subjected myself to intense self-scrutiny. The phrase ‘Why am I so shit at this?’ whirls around in my head. The noise, the clutter, the ceaseless clambering over me like some sort of possessed puppies, is relentless. I am trying to make decisions about life and career and in this state of flux I can find no answers. It is comforting to know that it is not just me either, because I have caught the eye of other parents and they too have the shell-shocked look of those who have plumbed the depth of the trenches these last two weeks. But at least there is hope, for tomorrow they are back to school and I shall exhale. And a week in and LSB and I are still OFF THE DRINK.
Seven days without the quare stuff
and with circumstance so grim
taking tea instead of craft beer
and tonic minus gin.