Gnattish Attention Span: 2013 365 Challenge #114

Afternoon craft

Afternoon craft

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?

Summer's Here!

Summer’s Here!

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.

One of Many Tantrums

One of Many Tantrums Today

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.


6 thoughts on “Gnattish Attention Span: 2013 365 Challenge #114

  1. Another Mummy and a writer here. I can relate to tantrums as I have a one year old and a two year old. I write about them in blog, general parenting/women’s issues as well as my battle with depression. My fiction writing is stagnating lately, so I may need a writing challenge like you have embarked on. Looking forward to reading more.

    • Phew, been there with a one and two year old and it’s tough. Keep smiling! I have also struggled on and off with depression so you have my sympathy. Writing can be a good release and also something that drags you down if you are prone to esteem problems. A new fiction challenge might be just what you need – one of the Nano camps or blogging challenges or maybe a competition. I’m trying to write a new novel for a Children’s Novel competition. I may not finish it but it’s a target. The daily blog is sometimes hard but I am impressed that I’ve made it this far. Glad you’re enjoying it, that always helps!

  2. The fact that you are aware of your non presentness or should that be unpresentness or presentlessness (? LOL)…. anyway, the fact that you see it and want to do better is enough. Don’t beat yourself up. It’s just wasted thinking space you could be using to think lovingly. Your kids are very lucky to have a mother who is so aware and that loves them so dearly.
    Thanks for sharing, you’re an inspiration and I love your Claire novel so far 🙂

    • Thank you! I do see how self-aware my children are (my 2yo says things like ‘I’m sad because you’re not listening to me’) and think at least I have given them that gift. Self awareness can be a curse but I think it’s essential for a fulfilling life. It makes me very happy that you’re enjoying Claire – makes the late nights and lack of ideas pain all worth while! Think volume 4 might be a bit shorter than the others as it seems to have been a busy month. We’ll see! 🙂

  3. I too have good days and bad days. But the bad days inspire me to have more good days!

    I really have to catch up with Clair. I’ve read the first two ‘books’, and must get the third one as soon as I’ve finished the book I’m reading. Then I can keep up day by day.

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