So, I am alone and a *tiny* bit lonely. Husband and fourth kid (easiest kid: sunniest disposition, holds my hand, draws nice pictures, good face symmetry, smells a bit biscuity still) have flown home to New Zealand for a mental health break. For my husband mostly, but also for me because when there are five in the flat and not seven, things are a lot quieter. Calmer, more female-centric. There are no shit man-movies being snuck on in a darkened bedroom on an otherwise nice and sunny Sunday, nor is the breakfast tv turned on ‘for the news’ only to be shouted over by bickering half-dressed kids and ignored by the husband who isn’t actually watching it (instead obsessively reading consecutive bad fantasy trilogies on his Kindle) but not reading them so intently that he doesn’t erupt with rage every so often at the noisy disruption of the news and then everyone gets sulky and meaner and louder and we are all in DESPAIR and it isn’t even 7am yet. No arguments about what to do on the weekend, no cheese toast machine being left out for days with congealed cheesy fat in the grooves, no dirty socks balled up under the couch.
The flat seems cleaner and smells better, the domestic chores slighter and more manageable, and the evenings- oh! The evenings! They are like PARTAY TIME for me – there’s dinner done early (mostly eggy concoctions like Israeli sabiche) and then wine and/or tea, then we all pile onto the bed to read and the kids get sent off to their bunks one by one and then finally at 9pm I rise like a queenly phoenix shaking off the mother-ness to reclaim the best sofa and the TV remote like a BOSS. Two episodes of Judd Apatow’s Love a night (getting alternately depressed or laughing at Mickey and Gus and that Australian flatmate), followed by reading in my bed until, like WHENEVER!* (*maybe 10:30pm – I’m not a maniac). And if I run in the morning, I don’t have to creep around banging into electric guitars/keyboards/archery sets or one of the two (TWO) office chairs that are usually rolled directly in front of the bathroom door. OH NO it’s lights a’blazin’ and loud running gear application all round.
It got a tiny bit tricky today though – surprisingly or not, there are issues with being a single parent to four kids and a dog with no one to help.
Otis woke yesterday and said he could no longer walk. He crawled everywhere and said his leg needed stretching out and he cried and slumped to the floor when I told him calmly that yes, he could indeed walk, and that I needed him to go to nursery so I could Do Some Work. He kept it up all morning and I really didn’t know if it was a growing pains/leg cramp situation or, like, bone cancer. I underplayed the whole thing when I dropped him off at nursery, wiping his tears as he collapsed onto the ground, and ran off hoping for the best. Apparently, you (and Social Services) will be pleased to know that the crawling soon became limping and then proper normal walking and all was fine again. But really, I could have done with another grownup to panic privately with.
I had a midday Skype interview with an artist in New York and I really needed Otis to stay in the living room and watch Wallace & Grommit quietly for an hour while I talked to her and taped the conversation. When he got home from nursery I tried to set things up a little – I kept the telly off for as long as I could so he wouldn’t peak too soon, I fed him endurance foodstuffs in the form of boiled eggs, watered him, made the sofa very comfortable with Baby Dolly and his Flanket and was kind, encouraging, all tiny nice voices and promises of a good afternoon once I had Done My Work.
She called in, I ran off to my bedroom and cranked up Skype, warning her that I might be staging an actual Prof. Kelly kid-swaggering-in-type-situation. It was minutes, mere minutes before we could both hear Otis bellowing out for me and then yes, pretty soon he sauntered down and found me in the room, trying very hard to both listen and contribute to a conversation about monumental objects and processes of immateriality. Otis was having none of it, and so after trying to talk to her and singing a bit, he turned to me and demanded Masha & The Bear and popcorn. It was kind of funny, except it wasn’t. I apologised and raced him back to his comfy little TV nest, sorted out the tv and gave him the first of many packets of popcorn and a Kinder Surprise and told him not to come back in. He came in three more times, emboldened by the sugar and the way I gave in to his requests, and after playing the keyboard really loudly and shredding some paper, finally he just sat on my lap, obscuring the screen, going through Daddy’s Stuff on the desk and asking loudly and repeatedly for me to make him a babyccino. He could smell my desperation and embarrassment, and I could only do my very best to keep following the conversation and hoping the tape could pick out her voice over the sounds of Otis scraping bits of metal over the office desk. I could have done with some help.
I decided it was time the kids saw the Baz Luhrmann oeuvre while I was in charge of the family viewing, and we started with Moulin Rouge on Sunday. Oh, the joy of watching Moulin Rouge with your kids! It was practically spiritual. The songs all came back to me and I sang with all the passion of a Parisian bohemian not yet disillusioned by love, and I cried and I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. The kids were also transfixed – even Otis, although at various points Casper howled and caterwauled and screeched and I got mad, because he was interrupting the Greatest Love Story Ever Told, and he said that he was just singing along like me, and why couldn’t he make bad sounds too? And I thought if your father were here, I would chuck you both out – you don’t DESERVE Baz! But he wasn’t there to take him away and so I just sunk further down into my sofa blanket and sang along quietly, spirit crushed, chastened by a nine year old whose greatest joy is making me feel a bit stink.
And so last night I thought over the past week – the small triumphs and the despairs, the pre-teen flare ups I handled alone, the morning that Noah tipped Otis out of the buggy onto the road on the way to school, the joys of playing Madonna’s Immaculate Collection loudly over dinner, the pointlessness of opening a bottle of wine to pour one glass for yourself, the irritations of having to fix work problems but not having Mark to help out because he is AWOL hunting deer somewhere, the sadness of watching the kids feel left out while their brother gets time with cousins and grandparents on the other side of the world, and the general concern that Mark will come home and be unsatisfied by our lives here. That we, and this, isn’t enough.
And I thought that the joys of this temporary single life are quite commensurate with the pains of this temporary single life. Do I want them back? Not yet, but I can see that two more weeks of this might turn me.
Here’s some urban shots of us in this dirty lovely city, no deer in sight (only dead rats) and a very disgusted Otis: