I have been officially crap today. I can’t even blame the new novel as I haven’t really got my teeth in it yet. Some days I just can’t focus. Lack of sleep (Aaron was awake every two hours last night and pretty much every night for a fortnight) is the main culprit. (I hope)
Then I bury myself in a downward spiral of rubbish parenting. I check my email (not helped by having a two-day email conversation with my sister who lives in the US) and Twitter and that irritates the kids, so they get whiny and annoying. So I withdraw further and spend more time doing chores or checking things on the computer, so they get more irritating and thus it continues.
What to do though?
I’m not someone who naturally sits still. Even when I’m writing I get up every hour and put the washing machine on or walk the dog. When the children want me to sit and watch them playing in the paddling pool I manage about five minutes and then I have to move. Today I had to keep moving or fall asleep. We went to Rhyme Time, visited the Methodist drop-in so Amber could play with her friends, got new books at the library and had the paddling pool up all afternoon. But still I sit here at bedtime feeling like I was a terrible parent today because I wasn’t ‘present’. Aaron even told me to ‘Listen!’ this morning (I say that to him all the time. His command had more effect on me than the other way around.)
Anyway, I don’t feel bad as such. There are good days and bad days and mostly the kids had fun today. It’s just I get frustrated at my inability to give the kids my attention. My sister and I have spent our two-day email conversation discussing schooling options. She took her family to America partly to enable her children to attend a free school called Sudbury Valley. We talked in our emails about homeschooling or unschooling, both options I couldn’t imagine undertaking.
I have huge respect for anyone who home schools their child. It’s definitely an area I feel (for me) is best left to professionals, not least because I have the attention span of a gnat.Too much time spent with me and my kids won’t be able to focus on anything. They’ll learn (probably have already learned) that normal behaviour is flitting from one chore to another and saying ‘just a minute’ a lot and checking emails when meant to be fetching sun cream or hats or milk or any of the other hundred demands I get in a day.
I know you don’t get to choose, but I really hope they remember the craft and the cake baking, the story reading and the trips to the zoo, rather than the let down of Mummy’s scattered attention and constant tiredness. Fingers crossed.
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
“Come on, Sky, let’s go get some fresh air.” Besides, ten defeats in a row at Connect 4 are more than I can stand. I’m going to have to win at some point and then there will be tears.
“But it’s still raining, Auntie Claire.”
“We won’t melt. You can wear the waterproofs I bought you. I’ve been looking online – apparently there’s a miniature railway that runs from here to a place called Walsingham –”
“Walsingham? The place with the Shrine?” Sky’s face lit with interest. “We learned about that in school. Yes, can we go? I’d like to see the shrine and say a prayer for Mummy.”
Bloody hell, where did that come from? Claire couldn’t have been more shocked if Sky had asked to strip naked and run through the streets. Actually, given her niece’s willingness to run around the hostel room naked, even that wouldn’t have shocked her as much. Ruth isn’t religious, as far as I know? Certainly Mum and Dad aren’t. She thought back to the homework Sky had shown her. I guess hers is a Church of England school.
“Of course we can go, darling. I don’t know much about it but I’m sure there will be guide books. Do you want to go on the train? We can drive there otherwise.”
Sky’s forehead furrowed in thought. “If we go on the train it will give you something for your blog, won’t it?”
Claire felt her niece’s kindness like a hammer blow. Maybe my niece isn’t a spoiled brat after all. Guilt at her previously unfounded views of the girl flushed her cheeks red. In an attempt to hide her reaction she reached over and pulled Sky into a hug. “That’s very thoughtful, sweetheart. Yes, I can write about the train ride on my blog.” Although Carl won’t think it exciting enough unless you fall out the carriage and under the wheels. I don’t suppose there’ll be much drama at a shrine either.
“Look Auntie Claire, there’s the train! I can see steam. I didn’t know it was a steam train.” She clapped her hands and stood on tiptoe to get a better look. All along the platform bedraggled parents stood waiting with bouncing children in a rainbow of overalls and waterproofs. I could do a good trade in coffee right now. Or gin.
As the train slid to a standstill next to the platform, Claire stifled a groan. Oh my god, look at it. It’s tiny. We could walk to Walsingham quicker than that thing. She shoved the thought away and took some snaps with her phone. At least it’s something visual for the blog. I wonder if Ruth would mind if I posted some pictures of Sky? Maybe I can attract a new Mummy audience? She cast another glance along the line of waiting parents. They look like they could use a laugh.
The rain drizzled to a halt as they left the station and within minutes they were bathed in midday sunshine. Claire turned her face to the window and let the rays bathe her face while Sky sat opposite her, face pressed close to the glass taking in the scenery. Every time they went under a bridge – which seemed to be quite often – she whooped in a way that Claire thought only children in TV programmes did.
She found her niece’s delight in the little things endearing. When did I last get that excited? Even a pay increase raised little more than a smile and a feeling of ‘about time too’. When do we lose that pleasure in the mundane? A strange grief for her own lost childhood swamped Claire. Maybe that’s why people have kids: so you can see the world through their eyes and enjoy it again.
Tiredness dragged at her shoulders and eyelids and the remaining days of the Easter Holidays stretched out relentless in mind. Not sure that would be enough for me. You see the evils in the world too, I bet. Worries and fears that didn’t exist before. Sod that. Settling back into her seat, Claire closed her eyes and tried to grab some rest before Sky began asking questions.