1 Kidney (functioning)
1 lump of liver (shows some sign of damage)
Slightly aging body.
1 Soul (slightly tarnished).
1 upright piano (may need tuning)
(NB- Not necessary for payment of medical bills #welovethenhs)
1 Kidney (functioning)
1 lump of liver (shows some sign of damage)
Slightly aging body.
1 Soul (slightly tarnished).
1 upright piano (may need tuning)
(NB- Not necessary for payment of medical bills #welovethenhs)
I wanted to take Rachel on holiday this year. If am honest though, the idea of taking a 2 year old to somewhere we could barely afford, without the comforts of home- entertaining her all day, then sitting on my own all night- really didnt sound that much like a holiday. I considered Butlins- then realised I would rather put pins in my eyelids, although the prospect of perving at Chico could count as a guilty pleasure.
Luckily, 6 of my friends also had very similar ideas- and last week- 6 of us set off, with children in tow- to a very large house in the Cotswolds-with room for all. When I told people I was going on holiday with 6 adults, and 9 children- most under the age of 5- I got some very insincere responses. People saying ‘that will be lovely’- while barely concealed horror contorted their faces. It says something that every single parent I know, thought it was a fabulous idea.
When there are just two people in a house, even if one of them is only two- its intense. You are a tiny family unit, and as such, even though I have no shortage of friends- the relationship is one that is all consuming. You are a family unit so closely bound- that it can become isolating, and even though this little person I share my entire life with-has been speaking for less than a year-80percent of my conversations are with her, and her alone. We plan our days together, and her wishes are taken into account, in a way that they wouldnt be if there was more than one adult, or if she had siblings. When she is in bed, unless someone comes round- that is me- in the house, unable to leave-not even for a quick trip to the shop, or takeaway. There is no lying down, if I feel a bit crap- reading a book cos I feel like it- if she is awake- I am awake, and solely responsible.
The relationship that results is awesome, and amazing, and I get more of my daughter than I ever hoped possible- but it has its issues.
Going on holiday with 6 adults, and 9 kids that young, may seem like a nightmare for those of you who dont have this- but for the 6 of us, it was a godsend. When we arrived, the tightly bound intense relationship we share at home- dissapeared. She thanked me for ‘buying’ her all these children- and legged it into the garden to play on the swings with her new friends.
Our children-(Ophelia aka Monkey Face aged 2, Persephone aged 4, Betsy aged 3, Rachel aged 2, Isla aged 2, Jack aged 3, Brian aged 7, Hannah aged 5, Liam aged 5, and the teeny baby Sam-10 months), have never had so little supervision, and have never been so occupied. For a week, there was always another adult around to talk to, to laugh at the kids with, to keep an eye on your child if you needed a shit(seriously, I value going for a shit by myself – there is nothing quite so offputting, as a two year old, copying your poo face). The kids didnt even want our company- so exciting was it, to have others the same age, to run round the garden, make dens out of beds, play on the swings, squabble with, draw pictures with. And in the evenings, the evenings that can be so crucifyingly dull at home, and which ensure that this blog is updated regularly, and that Facebook is used to its full-those evenings were filled with semi pissed slummy mummys, laughing, and occasionally skinny dipping- all the while- knowing the kids were being looked after.
Feeding time was quite interesting. It was a novelty trying to get a 17 place table set, with enough food to feed all, but to cater to all the allergies and fads- it resulted in industrial food- in great quantities- with vast quantities of cereal, pasta, and milk being consumed. But when all 6 of us were so used to doing everything alone- the assistance of other adults- ensured that there were never squabbles about housework- just 6 women glad they werent doing ALL the jobs.
All in all , this has led me to question, whether living alone with a child, is all that necessary.
Is a romantic relations really the only relationship, upon which one can build a household? In fact, is it that wise to base the life that you and your child have, on the one kind of relationship, which is statistically speaking likely to end? Given the difficulties of reconstituted families, is it even the best relationship to base this on? And is it really the best thing, to reduce your relationship to something that is overwhelmed with trivialities and domestic mundanities-especiallly when by the time you reach your thirties, you are not looking for someone to build a life with- you have a life already.
Now, I am not packing my stuff, and moving to an eco house, come hippy community, complete with yoghurt weaving, and tofu picking, any time soon(although there are several in my hippy town). I am not all of a sudden, developing a desire to grow my own potatoes, or give up my heels.
BUt seriously- surely two or three mothers, pooling their resources- to buy or rent a larger house, in which to raise their children together- is more sensible than us all existing, in our isolated houses, shouldering all the burden-with our children not getting the benefit of the many people, that larger families take for granted.
I could move in with any of the girls I went on holiday with(well maybe not Paula..) but as they are scattered round the country, and I love where I am, its unlikely- but I have to say- I wont be closed to the possibility of sharing a house with someone in future- and I am eyeing up that spare room quite differently now.
My daughter wants to be a princess, indeed her brothers, and certain friends encourage this by calling her a princess. Buying her ghastly clothes, with perky slogans like ‘daddies little princess’ emblazoned on the front. (ALWAYS sent to the charity shop as soon as received, and in the worst cases, chucked straight into the bin, or used as dusters- am not encouraging this in others).
Lets just clarify what a princess is. A princess is the daughter of someone, and in every fairy tale ever written- her entire value is either as that mans daughter, or as the potential wife of someone.
She has started requesting certain princess stories- Rapunzel for instance. I do tell her the story. Its just that in my version, Rapunzel realises waiting for some berk to come and use her hair as a ladder is pointless, and actually chops hair off, to a more manageable style, and makes her own rope ladder- leaving the tower a good 6 months before the prince turns up. I tell her other fairytales with slight adjustments- you dont fall in love from a kiss, and certainly slightly more is required before committing to a relationship with the prince- never mind marriage. In my version of Rumplestiltzkin, the clever woman who guesses the mean midgets name, also gets to leave the mean old King, with the gold, and her child- and manages to live happily ever after on her own. In Cinderella, Cinders gets to keep the dress and the shoes, the Prince is told off for being so arrogant that he just assumes any damsel in the land will accept his hand, and eventually marries an ugly sister, realising that ugly and mean are not the same thing- while Cinderella and the Fairy Godmother set up their own design business. In my version, the eponymous heroines are not meek and mild, they are sharp, witty, and able to help themselves.
There are many theories about the origins of folklore, and certainly when the origins of some of our more well loved fairytales are investigated- they all contain quite disturbing themes of sexual repression, of terrible things happening when the young woman is awakened sexually(note for reader- spindle is ALWAYS symbol for penis-small penis probably, but penis nonetheless).
Yes, I hear you say- but these are just stories. But these are not stories. THese stories are so powerful, that I dont even have to explain the tales I am referring to- they are so deeply ingrained on our collective psyche, that I can safely assume that any reader from the western world, will know exactly what story I am referring to.
There are theories that the folklore and mythology of any give society, are an allegorical reflection of their own psyche, their views, their morals- and IF this is the case- then the cult of the princess needs to be tackled. I suppose if that is true of folklore- then its likely to be true for the modern equivalent of folklore- the media. Our films, our television, our fiction, our art.
I dont want my daughter aspiring to be a helpless virtuous girl- who when faced with trouble, thinks the only solution is that a handsome prince rescues her. The fact that at 2 years old, before she even has the ability to identify what a princess is(she thinks princesses eat sweeties, and have a crown)-this is her first aspiration, bothers me enough, that I will always rewrite these tales- even though by the age of 5, with, or without my influence, she will know the originals off by heart. I am sure that my rewriting these stories will cause a slight bit of friction, when she finds that mummy’s version is different…but who cares.
I predictably swore that I would never do pink. My daughter would not ‘do’ pink. But here we are. Two loads a week. Bright pink, sugar pink, cerise, raspberry pink, peachy pink, pale pink, white with a hint of pink. Even the stuff that isnt pink, has pink fecking sequins, trims, and bindings.
I didn’t swear I wouldn’t ‘do’ pink, because I am a humourless militant feminazi. Although I am. It certainly wasnt because the idea that girls are somehow drawn to this bland, inoffensive, wishy washy colour, by virtue of being born with a uterus, was offensive to me- although it is. It isn’t because thinking of the people who shape our nation, our minds, and our finances, standing up wearing sugar pink is absurd- although it certainly is.
I swore I wouldn’t do pink- because it is a fecking vile colour. It goes with nothing-apart from more fucking pink. The overall effect of a the obligatory pink trim, on anything, so that people are able to identify that my child is female, and is not called George- is horrible. It was a fucking vile colour when it was traditional for boys, and it remained a vile colour when boys realised, and it was shoved off to girls.
Rachel doesnt even suit pink. She looks great in red, blue, even yellow- but not pink. Yet it is almost impossible to buy clothing for a child without a penis, that doesnt have a sliver of pink, sneaked into it- somewhere, somehow.
I wish this post was original. I wish I was saying something that hadnt been said, a million times before, and that my insight into the cult of pink- was some kind of profound statement. But it isnt.
Ah, I hear you ask. You are the person controlling the purse strings- why do you buy pink? Consumer sovereignty and all that.
I try really hard not to. I will go to ridiculous extremes not to buy pink- but when 90 percent of the clothing available for girls is pink, is accented with pink, or has something pink on it- then you are left with little choice-and it slips in. When that is combined with the fact that her extended family and friends are determined to see her as some kind of princess(and am damn sure I will blog about the cult of the princess at some point- but I need to be able to do so without shaking with fury!)- the pink sneaks in. Rachel is told that she loves pink, that she should love pink- and slowly but surely, pink is becoming her favourite colour- as it is with every one of the little girls in her nursery class. I would rant more about this subject, but I have to take a load of washing out of the machine, that looks like someone left a red sock in there.
So the change of pace materialised again.
Walking into nursery, to be greeted by ‘Its my mummy, look, its my mummy!’, by an squealing, excited little girl, desperate to show me her new picture(which is for the wall mummy, but maybe at the top of the wall, cos there are lots of pictures now)- is just about the greatest thing in the world. Walking home, hand in hand, while she tells me I should have brought a coat, cos its a bit chilly, is beaten by nothing.
The chaos of jigsaws thrown about, and the sheer excitement of finding she has a new tea set in her bedroom (where did it come from Mummy, do you think Santa left it…I love it, but Santa is on holiday, you said).
Even the bedtime routine of ‘Mummy, I need to come and get a drink’, ‘Mummy there are spiders in my bed’, and every other desperate attempt to get me to come back up, delaying sleep, by just another minute. All brilliant.
I was wrong. I didnt need to prepare myself to change pace. The reason my life is at the pace it is at, is that it is ruled by a two year old tyrant, with blonde curls, and brown eyes. The minute my child free birthday celebration was over, and I walked into nursery. The pace changed by itself. Very happy I am about it too.
Did I mention the Sunflower has miraculously sprouted a new leaf?
THis year, I almost forgot my birthday was coming up.
Sometimes, its like I hit 21, and someone somewhere hit the fast forward button. Months pass quickly, I suppose I will get to the point where years pass quickly. I am going on holiday next week(nothing outrageous- just a shared house with some friends and their kids in the Cotswolds). This means that actually, I will probably spend my birthday sorting out my washing, and playing with the short one.
This year, its 31. Am supposed to feel sad about that. Its been all over the papers that some presenter has been sacked for being too old- and thats the thing with us girls. Once we hit 25, we are supposed to be concerned about the lines, the wrinkles, our fading usefulness, now we dont fit with this ideal of a perfect looking 21 year old. Youth is all, skin like a fresh apricot, taut stomach, arse you could bounce a penny off. People make jokes, pretend that they think I am older- like its supposed to be a bad thing.
Strangest thing though. Possibly not surprising for those who know me, but actually its no bad thing. In fact, I quite like it.
I have lived on my own since I was just shy of my 16th birthday. I always looked much younger than I was. I had 13 year old stepsons at 23, and long before I was this person getting to grips with parenting Rachel, I was parenting boys who were 10 years my junior. I had this life, this great life, but this life that felt a bit pretending. Like I was pretending to be a grown up. Its cliche for our generation, that we all think we are faking adulthood, and that someone will come along, and take away the mortgage, the house, the career(have been lucky enough to have two), and send us back to double maths.
We arent faking it. I wasnt faking despairing cos Daniel had left it till the last minute to tell me he needed cooking ingredients. I certainly wasnt faking going to work in situations where the decisions I made had consequences that could last a lifetime for others. Any more than I was faking the nights out with my friends, where the sun coming up didnt really indicate that the night was over. What made me feel like I was faking it, wasnt that when I looked in the mirror, I saw a girl who barely looked 20. What made it feel like I was faking it, was that other people couldnt see past that girls face.
Up until my daughter was born, I looked like a child. I had the skin of a child, enviable I was told. Same with my body- absolutely the ideal apparently. Tiny, fat free- like a little diet yoghurt-sample size- which meant buying designer bargains was much easier.
I was once carrying out a consultancy for Leeds City Council. I was about 23, and it was quite an impressive consultancy. Designing, delivering, and evaluating a series of training events, to be delivered across the service, designed to improve performance…blah blah blah. The head of their training team came to meet with me, and I went downstairs with the guy who did my admin. When we got there, the Leeds City Council guy, shook the admin guys hand, and asked me for a cup of coffee.
That kind of thing happened a lot. In the supermarket with the boys, I got ID’d for a bottle of vodka, even though I had a shopping trolley with what was clearly not the shopping of a young girl trying to score booze. (Seriously, if I had tried to score booze at 15, which I frequently did, I wouldnt have been buying a shopping trolley which included 12 toilet rolls, and enough food to satisfy a swarm of locusts, which by the way is the nearest comparison to having twin adolescent boys in your house-food wise).
When the things that I was supposed to prize started to fade. No longer could you bounce a penny of the arse, the breasts slightly out of kilter after going from a 34a to a 38c and back down again, after feeding Rachel for 15 months. The stomach still flattish, but no longer taut. Skin that could probably do with makeup more often than I can be bothered, and no longer fresh faced and able to fake life, after a weekends activities that apparently it is ‘sad’ that I still enjoy. My ovaries are apparently committing genocide on the eggs contained within, – and the sound of a biological clock should be deafening. All these things that indicate deteriorating usefulness, have actually signalled the start of something else. Something else entirely.
I dont get called sweetheart any more. People dont confuse me with the tea girl any more. I dont get people looking at me, like I really should be shunted back to double chemistry. And the incongruence between a fresh face, and the life I live, is no longer apparent.
I dont get people astounded that a the blonde girl in heels, with the baby face, actually has a working knowledge of economics, or middle eastern politics, or can grasp philosophical concepts. The dismissal of who I am, because I happened to be a girl who fit in with conventional norms of what a pretty girl is supposed to be, has stopped. Not altogether, but enough for there to be a noticeable difference in my life.
Without those dismissals, I have changed. I dont feel the need to justify my existence. I know who I am, and when I say something, I know that that view is worth as much, and is considered as the view of the person I am addressing. There is no confusion for the person I am addressing, no incongruence between what they see before them, and what they hear coming out of my mouth. My idealism has been tempered slowly over the years by pragmatism, but the principles remain unchanged.
The imperfections that age is slowly bringing(and lets face it, at 31 the ‘deterioration’ is only just starting) havent even made me look worse.
The fact that I am not constantly aware of my appearance, or how it might be perceived= no longer worried about the dissonance between the appearance and the reality- has led to a comfort in my own skin, which shows itself when I carry myself, in the way I dress, and in the expression that I hold. No longer the ideal of a pretty girl, I now look like the grown woman that I am.
Unap0logetic. And I have to say, if this is what being in your thirties does. If losing what society appears to prize in women above all else, means being allowed to be who I am- then long may it continue. May the arse sag, the crows land round my eyes, and the waist spread. May the skin wrinkle- because each of those changes, I will earn. They are a sign, that I am no longer 21 and pretending to be a grown up. Each line and sag, is another sign that not only am I learning to live in the world, but that I HAVE lived in the world. If you dont mind, now that the neurosis of early youth are fading, I am not sure I want to swap them with a new bunch of fears, that god forbid, I might age.
And the security that comes with that, which I have barely tasted- seems a whole lot more fun, than constantly worrying about how others perceive me, about whether I will be taken seriously, whether I fit the ideal.
So Happy 31st Birthday to me, and I hope that the feelings that my thirties brought continue- because quite honestly- if this is 31, then 41, 51, 61, can only be fucking amazing. If each of the lines that my face shows, is a little more wisdom, and a little more knowledge, and a little bit of my contribution to the world- then I want a face like an A=Z of Britain. The understanding of the world, that is only just beginning, allows me to enjoy the world, in a way that looking 21 never did.
(Sorry in advance- this is probably a moan).
The day starts innocently enough. Radio4, tea, Rachel squishing cereal she has no intention of eating. We discuss our plans. She thinks we should go to a toy shop, on a boat, and to the park. I agree the park, but think we should probably clean up and pop in to see my friend. Slight disagreement-is over quickly.
Then the tax credits notice arrives. I read the letter. The 4 page letter. Then the neighbour brings one that has accidentally been delivered to her house. Another four sheets of incomprehensible jargon, providing two seperate breakdowns of payments that I dont understand. The warning at the bottom suggests that I might find myself in prison being flogged by a torturer left over from Thatcherite days, and that I will have sell Rachel into slavery, if I have not notified them of any important errors.
It isnt that I am stupid- although I am nowhere near as smart as I think I am. These letters are just not even english, and follow distorted logic, that has never found it into my old philosophy books. THe payment is awarded on the basis of what I might earn, even though, as my other posts on this blog have shown- my ‘earnings’ are slightly unpredictable. It is broken down into different forms of tax credits- and the actual award isnt decided until next tax year begins. Any overpayment will be recovered swiftly- and without consideration of my selfish need to eat.
I figure it might be like parents evenings, where they cant say what they need in the school report, and maybe I need a person to explain it to dumb old me. So I ring the ‘help’ line. I listen to the menus, which each take minutes, only to find that I am a miscellaneous enquiry, which does not fit into these menus. I press 5, and it tells me they are very busy, and cuts me off. Now pardon me, but I am also very busy- and I bet they dont have a two year old demanding to put a pull up on the cat, cos he has just pooed at the bottom of the stairs.
The smell of cat poo wafts in, and Rachel starts to bore of my preoccupation with the telephone. She asks if I am on the phone to the ‘naughty lady’(she means the woman at British Gas, who I may or not have shouted at so loudly, taht even though it was 6 months ago, it is imprinted on Rachels developing consciousness). I am on hold. Then I am cut off. I redial. I go through the menus. I get through to a person, after repeating this several times. I explain that I need to discuss my award for the year, and she asks if I need to appeal. I explain I dont know, because I cant make head nor tail of it. She tells me that they won a prize for ‘plain english’- I suppress the urge to wet myself laughing. Mainly because Rachel has been upstairs for a few minutes, and is being suspiciously quiet. Partly because I am guessing that this person has been dealing with people like me all morning, and would quite like to be at home watching Saturday morning television.
My award explained- it is very simple. I will receive x amount for the next 52 weeks, on the basis of what I have told them.
I feel relieved, I go to get dressed. There are puddles on the floor and the sound of dripping water. This is clearly not good.
I go upstairs, and the bath is overflowing. I have a bath designed for two people. So it has been a while- testament to the efficiency of the tax credits helpline. Rachel has adopted a face of innocence, and explains she was helping me, by running herself a bath. I wade into the bathroom, turn off the water. I plaster a smile on my face. I go downstairs, I sit on the step, and I light a cigarette. I smoke it.
Rachel is clearly aware that there is something wrong- but I cant shout at her. because shouting only works(if ever) if its quite calmly done. If I had shouted, I think I may possibly have sounded like one of those awful parents in precints, effing and jeffing at their frightened looking children, while dragging them along by the arm. I may not be perfect but I know enough to know, that when I am truly angry- letting rip at my daughter is not nice- especially as she barely has the cognitive development to control her own bowels. However in the absence of anyone else to get angry at, and a responsibility not to let my anger show- I am left without even the option of just sitting there seething, and so I pretend I am not.
I survey the damage. I think it will dry out. My house is now covered in every towel I own, which will need to be washed. And there will need to be considerable mopping. Rachel will have to be occupied while this happens, and we still need to go and do the jobs we already had to do. She will be upset if we dont go to the park like we promised, so that will also have to be done. My Saturday night will be defined not by glamour and excess, but mopping, washing, and cleaning. I dont get to sit and whinge, or shout. I am the adult- and there isnt another adult here, who is sufficiently mature enough to process my whinging- and if I whinge at Rachel she will think its her fault. This is the problem with being a parent. Occasionally, you have to grit your teeth, and actually make the choice to be the grown up- when you would much rather sit and stamp your feet, and shout about how unfair it is.
And I havent even tackled the cat poo. Rachel has passed out on the couch, its tiring being two.
So I got this message. Which, in my technophobic state, I accidentally deleted. Anyway, the message asked why I didnt blog about men and relationships. I am not sure what the answer to that is really- I think they just dont puzzle me as much as other things, and quite honestly, romantic love is not the most important thing in my life. I happen to be very lucky with the men I have had in my life, and have in my life- but unlike trying to parent Rachel, or sort my career out, or get by financially..or buy shoes…they just dont puzzle me enough that I would write constantly about them. And thats what this blog is, its me venting and rambling, about the things I am figuring out.
Sure, I have read chick lit. Where the female protagonist is in search of Mr.Right- and in order to be fulfilled- that, above all else has to be sorted- but it has never spoke to anything in me, with anything that is truthful. I watched a film called ‘He’s not that into you’ the other day.(Not even under duress, I may add!), and by the time the film had gone half way through, I had decided that unless it turned into a massacre movie at some point soon, I was switching it off. By half way through the required massacre had not appeared, and I watched Torchwood instead.
In this film were a group of arguably, the worlds most beautiful women. Jennifer Connelly(who I am sorry to say, will always be known as ‘ass to ass’ girl from Requiem for a Dream), the girl from Friends with the dark blonde hair, who used to be married to Brad Pitt, and a few others. In this film, these great beautiful women, with great careers, with great friends, were obsessed with one true love, and marriage.
The film showed a dating game that left me cold. A world of analysing texts, and waiting for someone who has treated you like shit, to call. A film where men say what they mean, and women are too stupid to take that word on face value, and where fidelity is the be all and end all= cos doncha know we all have a soul mate- and even if that guy treats you like crap- the fact that you love him, is enough to make it worth working at.
This film, and the seven gzillion films and books like it, were not about love. Not about two adults, finding a way to make each other happy, through their relationship. This was about something else entirely.
Its not that I am anti-love. I certainly am, and have, been lucky enough to experience loving people, who loved me in a way that has made certain aspects of my life infinitely richer and happier. But the idea of one man for eternity, and if I have that sorted, I will be happy, leaves me cold to be honest.
If you treat love, as what one person whose name I dont remember called ‘an inescapable virus that should be allowed to ride roughshod over every rational instinct of self preservation and reason we posess’(and I may be paraphrasing..from god knows where) then you are asking for trouble.
I am a member of a group- its just a group of women, with similar responsibilities- namely children. None of us are alike- but a more fiery group of intelligent, bolshy, kind, remarkable women, you will never come across. We clash, and we talk, but when the shit hits the fan- we are absolutely there(Ta for helping me buy the shoes yesterday Rach!! And to those who were on the end of the phone when Rachel was ill-you have my eternal gratitude).
We were talking about relationships- more specifically monogamy. I am aware that my views on monogamy are not shared- and that for many people- the idea that actually, there just isnt one person for everyone, and attraction to someone else isnt a dealbreaker, doesnt appeal. The thing that shocks me though, are the things that people wont treat as a dealbreaker.
When a bloke is literally leaving you to run his life, exhausted, and still refusing to do a thing as trivial as housework-even though him helping is the difference between you being able to function, and you living life on a wheel of exhausting perpetual domestic motion. When a guy is so fiscally irresponsible, that he will put your home and your childrens home, in jeapordy. Behaviour which verges on the physically, and emotionally abusive. Why is that not seen as the dealbreaker= yet either of you being attracted to someone else, is?
Divorce laws give adultery as a sole ground for seperation-yet until my lifetime you could rape or beat your wife with impunity(and lets just pretend that the law is workable, and you cant actually do those things and get away with them…..).
I dont blog about men and relationships, in the way that I suppose others do- because if I was to blog about men and relationships-these arent the things I would blog about. I dont care about 16 rules to understand a man, or make him like you. Or how to interpret things they say ‘with what they really mean’.
I care that the person I am with treats me with respect, makes my life better, that I make theirs better. If I am not with someone, its not particularly a big deal- because at the end of the day even without them I am not alone, I have a life, a child, good friends, a purpose. If I want to know if someone I am with loves me, or respects me, I ask them. If they treat me in a way that hurts me, my child, or makes me feel shit, I tell them-and if that negative effect on my life outweighs any positive benefit they bring- then they arent in my life anymore- or their place in my life, and their capacity to do that changes.
I think I do probably blog about men and relationships really- you just cant see it. Because relationships are not supposed to be dramatic love stories, that cause anxiety and turmoil- they are part of the thread that holds our lives together. They just arent the only thread- and I certainly dont think that thread is so singularly important, that if it comes loose I should allow it to bring my life crashing down around my ears.
I do care about how to live, so that I, and the people around me, dont inadvertently hurt each other- but that wouldnt be as interesting as a glib article with ’10 signs that he loves you’- or dramatic stories about how this woman who is trying to keep her life together- really shouldnt worry about the important stuff, cos if true love is there, it will all be ok. I am a romantic- but my idea of romance is relationships that are fulfilling, and work on their own terms, without adhering to ideas where you can be treated with little respect, and watch the lives of you and your children go down the toilet, but its worth it, because its ‘true love’.
(Realised who was quoting-thanks to Marielle Frostrup-http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/jul/12/mariella-frostrup)
I knew we were in trouble yesterday, when a trip to the local swimming pool resulted in a very upset little girl, who just wanted to stand in the shower with her armbands- and not get into the pool, or go and get something to eat. I did find it quite amusing when she commented that the lady in the communal shower had hairy knickers on…and tried desperately hard not to look at the hanging tangle of grey pubic hair, that was hanging down from said womans swimming costume.
But I digress. By teatime, Rachel was burning up, and sleepy.
Now thismay seem like a minor concern- but when you have a little un with a high temperature- scare stories of febrile convulsions and dehydration run side by side, with nightmares about having to physically have your child restrained while you adminster a syringe full of foul tasting calpol/nurofen syrup, and media scare stories about Swine Flu, which you know shouldnt cause panic, but do.
But these concerns about your childs possible welfare, pale in comparison to the knowledge that you will spend the next 12 hours finding more and more inventive ways of adminstering medicine, and that the the chance of sleep for the next 24 hours is slim to none, and slim just left town.
It would help if I hadnt been a food nazi, obsessed with dental hygeine- and Rachel didnt think that fruit juice, pop, and flavoured milks, were the work of the devil. THese sugary nutritionally inadequate solutions, allow you to hide medicine in the guise of a treat and remove any necessity of brute force, instead of a distraught child, shocked at the tactics their parents employ- I assume you get a grateful child, who thinks being ill is a marvellous excuse for sweets.
By the time we got to 9pm, and Rachel was running a temp of 39(verging on A+E time). Any attempts at getting this ghastly syrup down her were met with the kind of distress which resulted in bedclothes covered in sticky syrup, and her temperature further rising, due to the outright anguish at the thought of mummy trying to get her to take this stuff.
I had tried putting the medicine into grapes, and stitching them up, a la John Carter in ER. I had made an ice cube tray filled with jelly, with a spoonful of nurofen in with it…I had mixed it with milk, water, and tried holding her down, and forcing it into the side of her mouth. The problem with brute force, is that you actually need two people- one to restrain the child and the other to shoot the medicine into the side and back of the mouth- to prevent rejection. I had tried outright bribery, cajoling, and tried to pull on the early sense of peer pressure, by saying that her friend Finn LOVED medicine. I had offered her some rather dubious mint flavoured childrens paracetamol donated by a neighbour.
Problem with Rachel, is that she is smart. She was slightly perturbed by the fact that the jelly was in ice cube form, and immediately realised that red jelly was not supposed to taste of orange nurofen- and refused. The grape was half bitten and shot across the room immediately. And getting an octopus into a pillow case would have been easier than holding her down.
So we were left with the old staples of a cool flannel sponging her down. When I am ill, and am running a temperature, I pretty much always have the chills- the same applies to Rachel. Attempts at opening windows(highly ineffective in July), using thinner covers, and wiping her down- were met with cries that she was cold.
By midnight she thought she had been in bed for days, and that it was clearly time to get up. And so we set into the pattern for the rest of the night. I dont often complain about living on my own. I love it generally, I love having my own house, I like not being accountable to anyone else. The nights when your child is ill, however, are a different matter.
The nights stretch long, and by the time Rachel was sleeping in 20 minute bursts- common sense told me that getting some sleep was also a very good idea. The problem is that you lie there waiting for her to wake up, and as soon as you begin to drift off, she wakes again. What the baby books dont tell you, is that by the time this has been repeated six or seven times, you begin to get tired and snappy. As someone who has suffered insomnia, I know that the surest fire way of getting tired, is to be told you cant go to sleep.
When you are married- regardless of what kind of cretin you are married to, there is an adult in the house who you can be snappy to. Because the temptation is to get tired and snappy at Rachel, and it really doesnt matter how you look at it- snapping at a two year old for being poorly, is really not on. I think this is where the image of the serene, calm, Florence Nightingale figure comes in- because by 5am- this is the facade that you are adopting- to cover the fact that your entire body just wants to go to sleep, and actually the crying is beginning to grate, and you have that kind of tiredness where you can almost feel yourself sinking into your bed, even though it is a floor away.
Rachel and I both settled by 5ish, and here is where the ultimate irony of childrens illness comes in. RAchel woke at 6.30, feeling fine, although still hot- and not understanding why I didnt want to play. She now morally objects to the insinuation that she may be ill, and this may be a good reason not to go to the park, and the library. She has assured me that if she was ill, she would take medicine, and as she is not having medicine, she is clearly not ill…
On the upside, we get to doss around the house in our pyjamas, eating sandwiches, and nibbling fruit, while Charlie and Lola plays on a loop. And Rachel gets to adminster her own medical treatment to the line up of dolls and teddies, who being poked and prodded, and forced to take her own version of medicine. Judging by her bedside manner- she should be really grateful that my impression of Florence Nightingale is slightly more compassionate and less gruesome than hers.