…oh the joy and feeling judged
Throwing stones onto an icy canal is tremendous fun. The stone bounces and skids and makes a very satisfying elastic sound. Naoise throws another and another and another stone.He is also fascinated with the ice in the puddles, this ice is thicker than yesterdays and it will not crack or break however hard or high he jumps onto it.
We are perpetually late. It takes me a while to wake him, even at the breakfast table fully dressed he is still asleep. By the time you are late, you might as well be really late. The canal was so great for playing that I gave up hurrying him along. The school timetable can wait.
The teaching assistants have a guardsman, golden greeter approach to school. Each morning Naoise class assistant stands with her back to the entrance of the school door. She never greets me in the eye or with her words, just Naoise, I might as well not be there, but I am, he holds my hand and I am here. Her eyes meet his Late Naoise she retorts . I feel her eyes of judgement, and her face screw up upon mine as I reply the canal ice was just so lovely to play with, he was intrigued, and fascinated by the ice.
We are the last to arrive in the classroom, but its ok, it is, its ok. Perhaps I am paranoid, but this woman, this teaching assistant makes me feel so judged, looked down upon. School is a place of both freedom and confinement. School is a place where phonetics rule and the playground calls P-L-A-Y.
It was easy to walk out on the paths and the fields on the tops as all the mud was frozen solid. There is less snow, more ice, reeds and branches, and fish trying to breath under ice. Footprints frozen.
In the night I woke. I could not settle my head back to sleep. I posted an article from the guardian on Facebook so that I can return to read it closely come the morning. Its an article about the ten best books written about mother and daughter relationships. It is always surprisingly comforting to find other friends awake in the middle of the night. My friend sends me a message, her father has died, her mother is very poorly. I tell her why I am awake, I send my condolences and wish her to sleep and some rest. It must be my age, being in my mid forties, more and more friends are being orphaned, they all tell the same shocking story, nothing prepared me for this, I feel alone, I feel orphaned. I feel their sadness. It makes me strive to appreciate my parents more.
I speak to mum on the phone, I am distant and distracted. She tells me that the cold is lingering, that she thinks she has caught Syd’s cold. Mum’s trips to Scotland seem constantly sabotaged, if not by wind wreaking havoc than by illness. It was mum’s birthday last week, dads at the end of this. They are both in their seventies. I treasure them so. I am distant and distracted because I have found the CD containing all the images from The Five Naked Ladies exhibition. I have been asked to find some good quality images for a novelist who wants to include a picture within her book. I am staring at the light permeating through each image, and it’s taking me back to the day that the drawings were made. I keep hearing my friends voice .She has been gone now for three years or maybe four, Ive lost count. I keep hearing the conversations that we had that day, just snippets, and recalling the basket of pastries and the coffee, lots of it, and the cold of the gallery.
I watched a tacky wildlife programme with Naoise called Animals in Love. I was struck by one story about a man who helped to calm a renegade tribe of elephants who had become violent towards humans. They had become violent after a massacre of members of the tribe by hunters. They were suffering from post traumatic stress syndrome. The kindly man rehabilitated the tribe over a number of months. He became very close to them. He won their trust and love.
The man lived on the same reserve as the elephants, after they were re-released into the wild, they would walk to visit him at his home. They would stand and wait for him to come out into his garden and greet them. They noticed if he was ever away. One day he tagically died and on this day by chance all the elephants turned up from out of the savanna to greet their friend. But he had gone. Now every year, on the anniversary of his death, they make a pilgrimage to their friends home, stand and wait in his garden to be greeted. It is as if they are paying their respects. They are grieving. I was aware that elephants grieve for other elephants. When they come across the bones of another elephant they pick up the bones with their trunks and sniff and caress each with loving knowingness. I was moved to tears by the love of this tribe of elephants for one man who had won their trust.
I wait in the playground to collect Naoise. I talk to a grannie friend of mine, she is a wise woman. I tell her about being late this morning, how guilty the teaching assistant made me feel. She empathises with me, she understands the importance of my lateness, my laissez-faire attitude to life. The preciousness of a moment, being in the moment. There are sometimes few joys in parenthood. Skimming stones across the surface of the canal on the way to school was a magic moment and it was worth being late for.
The biannual trip to the dentist was very stressful. Naoise was distressed and kept throwing himself at the door, desperate to leave NOW. I’m going, I’m going to walk out the door, he proudly states. I had just stopped the children from killing each other by placing each on seats at far ends of the waiting room, and now I am battling with Naoise to take his hands off the handle of the door. I ask, I sweetly request, I demand. Still he clings on with stubbornness. I ask him if he is scared, and does he want to talk about it. All he wants is to get out !
He hated the fluoride paste that the dentist coated his teeth with on his last visit. He clearly remembers it. He cried and cried after the last visit, he was so irritated with the coating. Perhaps he was allergic to it, who knows. The dental receptionist is staring at me. Glaring in disapproval, as is the oversight pink faced man. Syd tells me to calm down mum. His demands for calmness do the exact opposite, and I snap at him. I am completely stressed out, Naoise is being very challenging. I accidentally scratch his fingers as I physically remove each from the grip of the handle. He is now howling with pain. Howling, and the receptionist is scowling and grimacing at me. Perhaps I am paranoid, but again I feel judged. I feel like telling the receptionist and the man to Fuck Off, instead I stare back at them.
I collect Patrick from work, its a very cold day, we call by the supermarket to buy tea on the way home. Naoise helps me carry the basket around the store. He is being good. He is being very good, but this doesn’t last long. He has another tantrum in the car and gets out of his carseat, and refuses to get back in, he is mortified, enraged, after I gave Syd have one of his chicken samosas. He is now having a standoff with every member of his family. He sits on the floor of the car and refuses to get back into his seat unless I buy him another samosa to replace the one that Syd has eaten.
I pick him off the floor and start walking home with him on my shoulders. I cannot stand being trapped by his behaviour in the car any longer. Half way home, Patrick pulls over to offer us a lift, and he agrees to sit back in the car. It is icy cold. I now feel like running away. Running far away. I cannot stand being a mum sometimes.
The evening has started badly and continues so. Everyone is stressed and tired and fed up.
Motherhood is one exhausting negotiation. Ironing out disagreements. Preventing frustration boiling over into anger. Calming testosterone, cooking dinner, cleaning, cuddling, running baths. Trying not to shout at a teenagers bad attitude, failing and shouting shut up. Then apologising for my mean behaviour. Progressing through a routine of things that have to be done for the next day. The evening is a tumbling domino of disappointment. There is little joy.
I find a letter in Syd’s bag. I often have to fish around in its depths to find school correspondence, it is rarely offered up. A boy in year ten from his school has tragically died overnight. I speak to Syd, he knew him a little, he was in the year above him at primary school, I check he is ok. He says he is. I am shocked. I am shocked, I think about his parents and family, his friends. I think about the suddenness of his death, the closeness in age to Syd. Far too young to die, far too young.
I give up on the day. I feel brittle and broken and exhausted. I tuck Syd in bed, with an extra duvet and blanket, he is listening to the football transfer news on his radio. I apologise for my neglecting him, and for shouting, he says his sorry’s too. I take a bunch of books and read to Naoise in bed, and fall early to sleep.