I was going to call this post, A Day in The Life Of… but I’m not always sure this IS a life. At least not one that resembles the one I remember anyway. So, it’s simply a day.
The day begins. Oh Arse.
I get up reluctantly even though this bed is so uncomfortable I would probably feel better if I slept outside on the terracotta tiles of the patio. Upside down.
Bear hurtles in, jumps all over my arthritic feeling bones and cheerily demands ‘Bekfuss’ and also ‘Boobies?’ Ha! Nice try, buddy.
Michael jumps in the shower as I try to distract Bear with songs beginning, ‘I like the flowers. I like the daffodils,’ as he punctuates each line with the appropriate action and Beanie punctuates both of us with girded steel elbows to tender parts. Good Morning World.
After finally convincing my children into their respective car seats, (a feat worthy of the Nobel Peace price in my opinion), I drop Beanie off at school with strict instructions to find and bring home her many lost ‘things’. AS soon as Beanie is out of the car, Bear asks his trademark, “Where Lily gorn, Mamma?” And I explain, as I do every day, that she has gone to school as he could plainly see as he was sitting in the car as we dropped her off. Sorry, but it’s only cute the first 150 times you hear it. In. A. Day.
We go shopping. Bear is still in his PJ’s (what a terrible mother). As soon as we enter the supermarket, Bear asks for a banana. I give him a fresh, organic banana and continue to shop. We turn the first aisle and the tantrums begin. During the entire shopping experience, he screams and cries because I won’t let him have the assortment of sugary temptations he has set his heart on, and keep suggesting he continue to eat the half eaten organic banana he had begun only minutes earlier. Apparently, everyone else has enjoyed a surfeit of his particular brand of insouciance because a friendly, if slightly strained looking supermarket employee whizzes over with the offer of a ‘toy’. It is small, plastic and likely to choke him. I suspect that is the point. I decline graciously and explain that we are merely setting limits. The checkout chick looks at me with suspicion and asks, ‘Is he tired?” “No, just complaining.” I respond with a mild look. (If you knew me and my stress levels, you would be applauding my calmness about now.) And then, because I feel I have to. I explain the banana story – has banana, doesn’t want banana wants sugary treats or chips, mamma says no because he is not hungry merely testing boundaries and wanting sugar. She still eyes me warily. I buy two boxes of wine on the way back to my car.
When I get home from the supermarket, Bear is sound asleep in his car seat. I empty car, put groceries away and then try to extricate my boy from his seat. He sleepily flops onto my shoulder and I have that moment of sweet surrender that every mother loves. When the child is completely relaxed, trusting and heavy and you are full of love and pain all at the same time because you know that this time in their lives, when they are completely yours, will soon be gone and you try to savour it as you squelch to the house through the six inches of mud where your carport used to be. As soon as his heavy little bonce touches his pillow, he springs awake with an indignant “Not sleepy!” I sigh.
I administer snacks/lunch. He eats mine. I am too tired to make myself anything else. I play jigsaws with him until I have to put in what feels like the 13th load of washing since Friday and then get out the hoover. “Why don’t you go and play outside for a little while? Mamma will be out soon.” I promise with a somewhat tight smile. I HATE hoovering. No. That’s not precise enough. I don’t just hate hoovering. I want to smash its face in and then bury it in lime in a very, very deep grave. Hoovering is one on a long list of pointless tasks to which I am expected to daily subject myself. If it gets done once a fortnight, the carpets feel lucky. However, lest my house get up and walk away by itself in disgust, I persevere. I hoover the carpets, being careful to monitor the barometric air pressure for each and every tiny variation, lest the carpet cleaning part of the hoover decide to have a hissy fit and stop working. Again. My son comes in with his car and muddy boots. I turn him gently around and point out that his car (and boots) are for outside only, not inside on mummy’s freshly hoovered carpets. Not if he wishes to see his third birthday. I continue to hoover as fast as I can. He comes back in.I send him back out. He comes back in. I send him back out. He bangs on the glass with a badmington racquet. I remove racquet and send him back out. He comes back in. I state very calmly that if he is coming inside he must take off his boots and not go outside again. He agrees. I am amazed.
I look at the clock in mild alarm. It is nearly 2pm. WAY past his usual naptime of 11.30/12. I didn’t try to put him down at his usual time because of the earlier nap in the car. Now I am late. In one hour I have to pack him into the car to collect his sister from school. I haven’t even thought about dinner and unless he goes to sleep right NOW, he will not even have an hour and will most likely be feral when I wake him to take him to the car. I try anyway. I read him two stories, kiss, cuddle, sing his favourite lullaby and attempt to extricate his fingers from his nose, oh say, 30 times? Then I leave the room promising to check on him again shortly. I fold laundry in the bedroom and put it away. I hear him climbing out of his cot. I go in, resettle and tell him not to climb out of his cot. I repeat this exact sequence of events four more time before I concede defeat. It’s nearly time to collect Beanie anyway. Dinner is a far off dream of efficiency I once had and, like Lindsay Lohan giving up partying, it ain’t happening.
I load us both into the car and drive to the school. I park in a small lake surrounded by mud. Bear begins shouting indecipherable gibberish at the top of his lungs. I calmly ask him to use his quiet voice and attempt to decipher this thing he is apparently enraged about. I fail. Beanie arrives arms full of school projects and various items of clothing. Some of it is hers.
I administer the 100% fruit bars hidden in my bag and, when I turn around to dole them out, find that Bear has taken his arms out of the straps of his car seat again. He gives me that chin up, pouty lipped stern look that says he’s not going to put them back in until he absotively posolutely HAS to. I remain calm. I insist that he puts his arms back in or we will be sitting here, outside the school, where there is no food, or playdough, or dinosaurs, for quite some time. He puts his arms back in. I ask Beanie what she did at school today and get the heavily edited, “I can’t remember.”
By the time I get the kids home and out of the car, I have to shift into dinner prep mode. I insist that Beanie changes out of her school uniform before dinner, which is met with huge heartfelt sighs of displeasure. I explain that it’s better to do it now than to cover her skirt in dinner. Better for me that is. I scroll through my menu options to find something new and tasty to tempt my fussy eaters with. I am met with cries of “What’s for dinner, mum?” and “Me hungy toooo!” so I tell them. My chosen menu is met with a suspicious look from my daughter and stony silence from both. I press on regardless.
They begin what passes for playing in this house. Beanie starts to help Bear build a farm house. Bear, gets involved only to throw something solid at Beanie’s head and/or knock it all down a minute or two later, as Beanie shrieks a bloodcurdling, “Noooooo Finn!!!” only to concede half a second later that’s its ‘Ok’ to knock it down and then they both stand on the debris. Then they hit each other with dinosaurs until someone starts to cry. Usually it’s me.
I am deep into dinner prep as the kids begin to rev up. I hear the theme tune from Jaws in my head. I have chicken under the grill, a sauce bubbling on the stove and pasta about to boil over when the glass shattering, ear piercing, brain melting screaming begins. Wee Bear – absolutely past it, over-tired and hungry, has had some precious artifact removed from his hot little hands, none too gently by his boisterous, hungry and desperate for attention Big Sister. He opens his mouth and molten fire, in the form of prehistoric sounds, spews forth. Beanie looks to me for what? Guidance? Admonishment? I don’t honestly know. All I know is that for someone on the 25th percentile for everything else in his life, Bear hits the 105th percentile for screams that make me want to shoot him into outer space. He combines this with throwing of random things, stomping and finally, throwing himself down onto the kitchen floor with a desperate heartbroken flourish last demonstrated by Bette Davis in All About Eve. He lies there and continues to howl. I have managed, I know not how, to remain calm and collected until this point. Because just as I am about to deal with small person number 2, small person number 1 kicks off. I then have dinner boiling over, burning and thickening into some snot like goo of cosmic proportions plus two demented evil dwarves, pretending to be my children, boiling over also. I snap. I have promised myself that today I will not shout. That, in fact, I will never shout at my kids again. I break my promise.
Just as I’m trying to explain, through gritted teeth, that whatever just happened, should not have happened in the way that it happened – Beanie shouts something unintelligible at me and bursts into tears. I want to help her. I want to help Bear. I want to stop that frustrated, throat tightening anger that is threatening to wash over the sides of my heavily fortified ‘good mummy’ walls but I just can’t. I have tried SO FUCKING HARD today to keep it all together and now, at dinner time, as has happened so often in the demented days of my life, I lose it. I shout. I am as frazzled as it’s about possible to be, trying to get dinner into hungry tummies, my own included as I realise I have eaten exactly one third of a sausage roll all day, and needing to deal with two wee people in full on meltdown. And I can’t.
And this is the story of my life. Every. Damn. Day.
As I stare at another plate of nutricious, delicious food that has barely been given the evil eye by my offspring, as I pick up another pile of small cars, dinosaurs or jigsaw pieces which have been ground into the carpet along with hardened pieces of ham and cheese and random crusts of bread, as I dig into my paltry reserves of energy to slap a smile on my face and greet my small child’s demands for yet more ‘milk’ or ‘ham’ or ‘cocalek’ (chocolate) – I wonder how the hell I got here and when I can go home again.
Then I realise that I AM home. Or at least, someone is. I just don’t recognise her at the moment. She doesn’t sound like me, or smile like I did, or even go at life like I used to. She weeps on a daily basis, she fails at everything even remotely connected to parenting, she barely has the energy to get out of bed in the morning and she runs on coffee and hope. She can’t be me. Surely.
I’m sure that many people think that the life of a stay at home mum is all daytime TV and bonbons. Well, we don’t have TV and I’m not allowed to eat bonbons, so that pretty much explodes that idea. If only. Some days I find myself looking longingly at the clock to see if it is a ‘reasonable’ hour to hoe into the wine or the gin. Some days the clock says 10am. So that’s a ‘No.’ then. Yes, no reason to add alcoholic to the already long list of parental crimes I am guilty of.
Anyway, before I go foetal I will simply go. I just wanted to get down an average day on paper. And I didn’t even get to the eating of dinner, the throwing of dinner, the cleaning up after dinner, the bathing of small people, the dressing of small people, the small people that pee on the carpet of the room that they share with their siblings, like a tom cat marking its territory. I also didn’t get to the part of the night where, worn to an absolute frazzle, and having apologised to my kids for yelling at them, I enjoy another round of earsplitting screams as my cortisol flooded Bear lets me know in no uncertain terms that he is not tired. Nor the part where, as he finally drifts off into a snot coated sleep, his big sister opens the door and stares down my whispered wrath with the dreaded sentence, ‘I just needed to…’ which ALWAYS ends badly. Luckily for her, and for my desire to stay out of prison, he is simply too exhausted to wake. She gets a lecture, I take a shower and then we finally snuggle into bed to read ‘Boris’s Big Bogie’ and I sneak a well deserved (in my opinion at least) cuddle. Lily shows me her bogies and then goes to sleep with mamma whispering to her how much she loves her, and demonstrating how she used to cover her Beanie’s little face in lightning quick kisses when she was little. Actually, I still do. I just miss the big cheeks.
Here endeth the Gin, the Lesson and the (bloody long) Day.