My house is waiting.
For the silence that descends. Like golden syrup, like the homemade quilted blanket heavy with blue flowers,
the silence of no other people.
For the mythical day when everything is either on a shelf, in a drawer, or nestled in a cupboard.
For the pears to ripen and fall, ripen and fall.
For the cat to complete his rotation of sleeping places: bed upstairs, bed downstairs, sofa, office chair, other office chair, bench in the kitchen, camouflaged against a black coat on the floor.
For someone to either read all of the books, or put all of the books in the goddam charity shop.
For the sun to warm the mossy patches outside the front door:
the ones the sun never reaches.
For two children watching a red moon in their pyjamas, shivering in the dark.
‘Sugar Puffs? Weetabix? Hoops?’
‘Sugar Puffs? Why didn’t you say you wanted them when I asked you?’
‘Go get dressed.’
‘Are you dressed? Why aren’t you dressed?’
‘It’s 8:15 now. Are you dressed?’
‘I’m setting a timer. If you’re not dressed in five minutes, no screen after school.’
‘OK. Stop that. You need to brush your teeth.’
‘Putting a toothbrush in your mouth on a timer is not the same as brushing.’
‘Nooooo, brush all of your teeth, not just the bottom ones on the left hand side.’
‘Do you want your hair up?’
‘OK, you just need your snack and then you’re ready.’
‘You said you didn’t want your hair up!’
‘OK. Yes, I can put it up. No, I need to brush it properly. Well you haven’t, it’s got tangles.’
‘Go. To. School.’
‘No, you CAN’T stay home today.’
I was always good at learning songs and poems off by heart. Mr HB used to refer to it as ‘my super power,’ which made me feel special and precious.
Of course I’m now in my 40s and have two children. My head is so full of dentist appointments, maths homework and what on earth are we going to have for dinner tonight that the lyrics have all fallen out of my brain (science).
What is wonderful about this is that my oldest has inherited ‘the powers.’ They are regularly asked to regale their classmates with screeds of Hamilton, the musical. On the flip side, they are horrified at the draining of my super powers. I try to sing along with Hamilton in the car, and get berated constantly. NO, MUM THAT’S NOT THE RIGHT WORD!
Aaaah, humility. Thanks kids.
We try to keep the living room tidy so we have a room to collapse in with no clutter.
Mr HB did a bit of re-decorating the other day there (I’m not allowed to paint, because I’m no good at it) and the house was upside down for about a week. I walked into the living room one day and the little round table had:
a book, some newspapers, a pile of nerdy-geek cards belonging to the kids, an empty glass, and a bowl with crumbs in the bottom
And I remembered it used to be in the living room of my childhood home, because this is what it looked like – only back then would have been the Radio Times, the yellow space-invaders game, a tea mug, and a crisp packet folded into a triangle by my sister.
My favourite bit of parenting is when the kids are getting along. I am delighted to report that, at the time of writing, and for the last week or so, they have been best pals!
Of course this means no one ever goes to sleep…
‘Carry on time’ is the perfect compromise between ‘your parents need some child-free time in the evenings’ and ‘but we’re not tiiiiiiiired.’ Sometimes it ends in tears (or punches), but it’s only when they’re really quiet I have to go and see what they’re up to.
It is a pleasure, getting to know these little people, watching them getting to know each other. It is even more pleasurable doing this from the sofa, watching Netflix with the cat. It’s not just the convenience, though, honest! Without my input, their relationship has the chance to grow.
Our wee one has been getting himself into huge rages over not very much recently, and doesn’t seem to be able to get himself back out of them easily either.
Being a hippy-mental-health-awareness mum, I’ve been trying to get him to talk about his feelings more. I’m sure you can imagine how impressed he was to hear that anger was a secondary emotion…suffice it to say, that approach did not work well.
C W Wallace wrote ‘to them, everything is the big stuff.’ So we talk about the book he’s reading, or his thoughts on the Lego Movie 2, or how annoying the chapter breaks are in The Magician’s Nephew (for ‘annoying,’ read ‘well-placed’). He’s still easily upset, but I’m hoping that keeping our communication open means he knows I’m there for the little stuff. And the big stuff too.
I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what I let my kids see recently. Do I tell them the truth too often? Should I let them read that book/watch that film?
Then the other night the wee one came downstairs crying.
‘I’m upset about that thing you were talking about earlier.’
‘Which thing?’ I was racking my brains. But he couldn’t tell me – he was too upset.
Then I remembered.
‘It was the Botox!’ He nodded and started to cry again.
The story was about someone who had been given such bad lip fillers that her lips bled every night.
I told him I was sure that person had been all fixed up and was fine now.
So I’ve decided this: you‘ll never know what’s going to upset them.
I’ll just keep doing my best.