It’s been one of those days. A few days, really. Actually, it’s been much longer than that, that I/we (it’s not just me, surely) have had a creeping sense of dread and sadness skulking around the bodily peripheries and sometimes just sitting heavily on my chest. I feel like my eyes are about to prickle and start leaking and that my breath is unnaturally short, my ribcage feeling sour and tender. Anxieties over money and masks and schools and swabs and futures and teenagers and screens and parenting choices and ugly furniture and friendships and too long hair with fried ends are turning me into a humourless old wine-sodden bore. Apologies in advance.
It goes like this:
- Teenagers are hard and mean and they will make fun of you and make you feel stupid and small, they said. Be kind to them and to yourself over these tricky years because they too will pass, they said. Well. This is all fine in the abstract but actually witnessing your kids curl back into themselves, shielding from people and challenges and the outside world, while also being mean and scornful and mocking with exaggerated use of rolled eyes and performative sighing… it REALLY REALLY HURTS. I didn’t know how much. I thought we could all have a laugh and a quick cuddle and we would be back on our way again to how things were but this is my first experience of the Split, the Tear, the Breaking Away from me of my babies who are now becoming young men. I didn’t know that it got personal. That they could chuck well-aimed barbs at you again and again and it would cut you like it does. And now I know. There’s another five sons to come after, but I am hoping it gets easier. That I will get better at absorbing it and taking the hit and loving them hard right back. But the signs, so far, aren’t good.
- I have had a very strange few days of showdowns with the indirect neighbours over what my kid may or may not have said and what my kid may or may not have meant by what he may or may not have said. Then about what the parent said to another parent, depending on which parent you speak to. It escalated out of hand and we had to have a series of words, trying to listen and not get too mad, trying to get our piece across, trying to say the right thing and not to forget to breathe in and out and definitely not to cry. I don’t know quite whether or not we resolved anything and I do not think that tricky little chapter has closed. I await some further outraged WhatsApp messages in the dead of night to kick it all off afresh. What’s a midweek without some sort of community-scale fight after all?
- I am starting a full-time job next Monday. This fills me with wonder and awe and joy and excitement and then a suckerpunch of worry and panic. How will the baby cope? Who will cook dinner? Will I ever have free time again? What about school holidays? Where will I physically work? Will the baby be able to visit me if I lock myself off in a room all day and if I do, will I get rickets from the lack of light? All this remains to be seen and to be obsessively picked over by me in the middle of the night in between furious WhatsApp missives from the indirect neighbours.
- Mark brought home a gaming chair, gifted to him from some very nice wealthy clients of his. He thought OH YES I THINK WE NEED A MASSIVE UGLY GAMING CHAIR and plonked it on the living room floor. I thought it was a seat for the go-cart he and the boys have half-made, and so I didn’t think much about it other than it was a) ugly and b) soon to be hammered onto a piece of wood, rolled down a hill, broken and then put into the bins. It turns out it was always meant to sit on our very nice wool rug in the small space we have in between our oversized couches, taking up a huge amount of space and making me want to weep hot tears of fury and resentment whenever it swims into view which is ALWAYS BECAUSE IT IS MASSIVE AND UGLY. You may recall Mark and I have only just recovered from a weird bout of overbuying at auctions and a result of that was too many chairs in our living room. We worked hard to find the storage places to put them in, then another chair would come via courier and Mark would hope that I would turn a blind eye to its bigness and stealing-of-space-ness but I didn’t and I cooled and sulked and pleaded and strategised to get all of the buggers gone, one by one. ‘No more extra chairs in our already overfilled flat’ was my mantra. But then, like a man who doesn’t know his wife, or like a man that isn’t particularly bothered about what gets on his wife’s tits, he brings home a gaming chair. The chair I hate more than anything else on the planet right now. Last night I was filled with post-argument adrenaline (see 2. above) and I told Mark in a loud, authoritative voice that I was putting my foot down – the hideous chair had to go – but Mark loves nothing more than a challenge. He said HE was putting his foot down and it was staying. Now we have an icy standoff over a faux-leather gaming chair and it kills me. I said it could stay as long as it was never, never in my sight when those boys weren’t using it for their loserish gaming so now they all have to scramble around as soon as the playstation is turned off to find a place to hide it. Which I suspect is in their already overstuffed and messy room, under a pile of discarded school uniforms.
On a lighter note, here we are playing on a frozen pond in Hyde Park in half term. Climbing a tree, complete with obligatory stick:
An attempt to be seductive in my new glasses. The lenses are as thick as old school jam jars. I have a prescription of minus 8 which means that if I lost my glasses and my contact lens stash ran out, I would probably die because I wouldn’t be able to find my way to the fridge. See how small my face and eyes become under those babies?:
In the half term we went mudlarking and *maybe* wrote ‘bum’ on the algae-strewn rocks. There was a fair bit of sifting through the pebbles and we found 17th century pottery, a 1938 three pence coin and a rock which may have been a neolithic flint tool but may also have been a rock:
Righto. I am sorry for the sadness at the beginning. I have since been outside and experienced the early spring sun on my wizened face and had a glass of water and kissed a sweet baby and noticed that Otis spells his second name like this: ‘Wilebee’ and my heavy creeping sadness has slunk away for the afternoon. Good luck to you all in this weird time. I hope we all find ways to feel a little better, even if it just for a little while.