The school run home was miserable yesterday; the town snarled with traffic. A chat with mums at the school gate had me worried about what I’m meant to be doing for a dozen things, and my son sat through out his entire fencing class, refusing to join in, even though it was paid for. I broke. Again.
Anyway, I wrote this, while walking the dog. I wasn’t going to post it, as I feel I’ve written enough ‘raging against being a housewife’ posts recently. But I hate letting powerful words go to waste, however snivelling they might be in retrospect (and, of course, as a writer it’s all good stuff for future reference). So, this is what I wrote:
“Is it terrible that I want to say to my daughter, Don’t have kids. Or if you want them, don’t have a life first. Don’t go to university and get those degrees, don’t live on your own for a decade. Have your children young, while you still have the energy and the sense of humour, before you realise what you’re giving up. Before you reach a point when you’re out walking the dog and you don’t want to go home.
Before you work out that seven years of marriage means you’ve cooked dinner more or less every night over 2500 times without respite. That your loving husband will want to make it better, as your stare down the barrel of another twenty years of school run and homework and worry, and you’ll have to tell him there is no way to make it better. That you’re starting to wonder if it was all a big mistake and whether being lonely was as bad as you thought it was back then.
I want to tell my daughter, You have my genes, child, and you were raised by me. You won’t know how to nurture, you won’t know how to be a loving mother. You will spend all day trying to smile and be nice and gentle when inside you’re screaming. You’ll feel trapped by love and there will be days when you hate it and everyone it encompasses.
And then the guilt will drive you crazy until you’re walking in the dark, sobbing, with no where to go except home, where dinner isn’t cooked and the homework hasn’t been done and the dog needs feeding and the dishwasher emptying and you know hubbie will be playing on the iPad while the kids watch more TV. And you know they all love you and that just makes you the most selfish, ungrateful person on earth. That’s what I want to say.”
And then, when I told hubbie all this, he told me it was okay, cleaned the kitchen and offered to take responsibility for cooking. I told you he’d try to fix things. I settled for him doing dinner one night a week, because we have to be realistic! Then we just need to survive Christmas, come up with a plan for dealing with school communications and the school run, and everything will be fine. For now.
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:
Claire considered the boy trailing ten paces behind, hands still buried deep in his pockets, and chewed out a curse.
Claire looked over at Conor, who was watching Jack pretending to sink imaginary ships through a gap in the wall.
“What am I going to do with the moody teenager? A fortnight of that and I’ll go bonkers.”
“Do you want me to have a chat with him?” Conor said quietly, all brashness gone from his voice.
“And say what? He’s no more likely to open up to you than me, is he?”
“Well, I am at least a bloke.”
“Really, I hadn’t noticed?” She smiled, her cheeks tight with tension, before her face dropped back into the frown it had worn all morning.
“I didn’t think you had,” Conor said. Before she could respond he walked on to answer a question from Jack.
Claire watched as Conor leant over to hear Jack’s words. The answer he gave was animated; his hands waving in explanation. Conor had been the proverbial uncle since they’d entered the castle grounds; playing with the boys, listening to the audio tour and sharing the interesting parts, complete with actions. It was obvious – watching him – that he was used to being around children.
As she approached, Conor gave her a slight nod before walking past her back to where Alex stood leaning against the castle wall, surreptitiously tapping into his phone.
“I like your friend, Auntie Claire,” Jack said, after Conor had left. “He’s funny. Did you know he has four brothers and a sister, all younger than him! He says he has loads of nephews and nieces, but they all live in Ireland. Have you been to Ireland? It sounds great. They all live near each other and play at each other’s houses and stuff, and they go to school down the road.”
He stopped suddenly and his cheeks flushed, as if embarrassed by his candour. Claire’s heart went out to this young boy who wanted nothing more than to be with his family and have a proper home.
Maybe that’s what going to a Boarding school does to you. Maybe you spend your life trying to find the home you never had.
She thought about her own schooling. Her parents hadn’t made them board, but they might as well have done. The school ran from 8am to 6pm with extra activities at the weekend. Between hockey and homework Claire thought she’d probably only seen her parents a couple of hours a week from the age of eleven onwards.
The sound of laughter floated across on the wind whistling around the castle walls, and Claire turned in surprise. It sounded like Alex.
It was. He and Conor were walking slowly towards them and, for the first time, Alex’s hands weren’t in his pockets, but rather were waving around in front of him as he chatted animatedly with her boss.
How the hell did he do that? What did he find to talk about to make Alex laugh like that?
She remembered some of their phone conversation the previous night and rather felt she didn’t want to know.
Who cares? If he can turn Alex into a human being, if only for a day or so, I don’t really care if he’s reciting the Miller’s Tale to him.
Alex approached almost shyly, looking up at Conor for confirmation. Conor nodded in encouragement, before suggesting to Jack that they go hunt for the canons.
“Conor said I should talk to you.”
Alex’s face had lost its humour, but he kept his head raised, even if he didn’t make eye contact.
“I’m sorry I’ve been a pain. Conor says he’ll tell you to send us home, if I make life difficult for you when you’re working. I didn’t mean to be an arse.” He flushed at the word and quickly amended it, “a git, I meant. Sorry.” He paused, staring out over the wall at the ocean beyond, as if he could see all the way back to Geneva.
“I don’t want to be here. Father didn’t even ask, he just told us. And, well, I have friends. And stuff.” His voice trailed off and he looked down at his trainers, scuffing at the stone as if he’d like to run away.
Claire wanted to interject that they were only staying with her for a fortnight, but something made her hold her tongue. She watched Alex as he struggled with his words, trying to maintain an air of supportive concern.
“Conor said I needed to man up and stop giving you a hard time. He said it wasn’t your fault that Father’s a…” He stopped again, and a faint blush put colour in his pale cheeks. He looked up then, his eyes wary.
Claire wanted to pull the boy into a hug, but she kept her distance. “It’s okay,” she said, instead, “I know what my brother can be like. I hadn’t realised quite what a pompous arse he’d become,” – Alex grinned at her choice of word – “and I don’t blame you for being grumpy at him shipping you boys over here without warning. It’s only two weeks. That probably seems like a lifetime to you, but it will fly by, I promise.” There was so much more she wanted to say, but she could see already that Alex wanted to escape. So she held out her hand and tried to catch his eye.
Alex gave her hand a shake and gave a quick nod. Then he hurried off towards Conor and Jack.