I broke the number one rule of parenting yesterday in writing my post: I intimated success, in a public forum. The first thing you learn as a parent is Never Ever Brag. Not even when you’re not really bragging, just celebrating a tiny achievement, like two hours between feeds, or four hours’ sleep, or a day without potty accidents. The Universe repels against the sharing of these moments of triumph and ensures they will never be repeated.
I see it time and again. A poor, tired, defeated mother will proclaim on Facebook, “Hurrah, child number one slept through the night, at last! My sleepless zombie days are over.” And the Universe sounds harruga harruga and, low and behold, their next status update will including twenty-four hour vomiting or the simultaneous arrival of several teeth, until there isn’t enough calpol in the world to stop the screaming.
After experiencing the social media curse myself (telling a friend, or even discussing it with hubbie can have the same disastrous consequences) I refuse even to acknowledge to myself when the children have stayed in their beds all night or gone into nursery without tears.
So, writing a whole self-congratulatory post yesterday about the children playing nicely together was, inevitably, foolish. Today it feels like they’ve been whining since they woke up. It isn’t helped by me staying awake until midnight in an attempt to break my winter jet lag, only to have them wake at 1am (son lost his covers and dummy), 3am (daughter had nightmares and needed a story to calm her), 5.30am (son, wee) and 6.30am (daughter, poo).
Swimming was a challenge, as I feel like I’m hungover without the pleasure of a single G&T. The tantrums, over nothing. The endless demands. The ingratitude. Arrgghh.
We were home by 11am because hubbie has plans for the rest of the day. So I resorted to, “I’m reading, find something to do,” until they took themselves into the playroom and left me to have a nap. It’s still only 1.30pm, I have the week’s ironing to do, the dog to walk and dinner to prepare, and swimming didn’t vaguely wear them out. They’re currently sitting in the dog bed, squabbling, while the dog is slumped at my feet in despair.
Looking forwards to the holidays? Me? I never said that! I must have been halucinating. I hear sleep deprivation will do that.
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:
“Will you two come away from the edge! I am never going to hear the end of it if I send you back to your father with a broken leg. Or in a body bag.”
The wind whipped Claire’s voice away and the boys paid no attention, but continued to scramble around the cliff top like goats.
“Come back here or we will go to the seal sanctuary tomorrow. I’m warning you.” She stood with her hands on her hips, wondering what possessed her to bring the boys up onto the cliffs. It was meant to be the most southerly part of the UK and she’s wanted to take some pictures for the blog. So far she’d been too busy watching her nephews trying to kill themselves to think about photographs.
More fool me thinking they could behave for five minutes. I should have left the tykes at the hostel. Blimey, how do mothers cope with this every day?
Drawing in breath, she tried for one last effort. “Get here now or I’m sending your iPads back to Geneva in the next post.”
Both boys turned to see if she was joking. The expression on her face was obviously stern enough that they took her threat seriously. They loped towards her at full pelt, then chased each other around her as if she were a maypole.
“Cut it out. You are not four years old. Will you act your age please?”
She stalked off back towards the hostel, a thumping pain crushing the front of her skull. Her ears still rang with the noise of the foghorn from Jack’s enthusiastic turn at playing lighthouse keeper earlier. All she wanted was a coffee or maybe a gin and tonic, and some silence.
Claire turned at the sound of the shout; instinct telling her the boys were the cause of the woman’s shriek. Sure enough, they were standing near a young woman, their heads hanging low and their hands in their pockets.
The woman turned towards Claire, her face livid. “Are these your boys? You ought to have better control of them. They nearly knocked me flying. What are they doing running around up here? Someone could get hurt. Call yourself a mother?” She snarled out the last words, before stalking off without waiting for a reply.
Claire’s heart hammered in her chest and her knees quivered. Looking after the woman, the venomous words echoed in her head, throbbing in time with her headache. As she turned back to the boys, fury mounted like a cresting wave.
“What the hell happened? What did you do to her?”
“Nothing, Claire, we promise.” Jack’s face appeared pale in the afternoon sunlight. Claire raised her eyebrows at him in mute disbelief.
The elder boy remained silently staring at the ground.
“Come on, guys, you must have done something.”
“We didn’t. Not really.”
Claire turned back to Jack, hearing the hesitation in his voice. She forced her face to soften. “What happened?” she asked in a lower tone.
“We were mucking about and we jostled her. That’s all, I swear. She acted as if we’d tried to shove her over the cliff but we didn’t. Look, the edge is all the way over there.” He pointed to where the ground fell away, about three metres from where they were standing.
With a deep breath, Claire tried to calm her racing pulse. She’d never been yelled at by a complete stranger before. Well, not when she wasn’t driving, at any rate. Piecing together her nephew’s words, she tried to make sense of the woman’s anger. The edge wasn’t that close, although near enough for her. Without having witnessed the incident, she couldn’t say if the boys were lying or the woman over-reacting.
Is that what being a parent means? That strangers feel at liberty to make judgement on you? How does that work?
With a shaking smile, she beckoned the boys nearer. Hooking an arm through Jack’s, she held out her elbow for Alex to hold on to, not really expecting him to take it. After a startled glance, he tentatively threaded his arm through hers.
“Well, I might not be very good at making you behave, but I do know a café where they sell very good chocolate cake. Sound good?”
She smiled at them both, feeling they’d had enough recrimination from the angry woman for her to add anything further. With her heart still beating a rapid tattoo, Claire led the boys off the cliff, and hoped they wouldn’t bump into the irate woman again.