Naoise wakes up he wants a shower. I help him undress, turn on the water, lift him into the bath. He stands and talks to me. He is confused about which day it is, he thinks its Sunday. I was working on Saturday so I can understand his confusion. He is sad. The realisation of Monday brings Monday illness on.
Naoise: I don’t feel well mummy, I have a headache mummy. I need to stay at home.
Its very sweet that he wants to spend a day with me, but I am not going to give in. School is a blessing. Education a privilege. School is a blessing for him and for me. We need time apart. I need to rest and work. He needs to learn and play.
I ignore his protestations and jolly him along to school. Get him dry. Get him dressed. Make his porridge. Raspberry porridge, a bowl of deliciousness.
Me: “Lets turn the radio on to see whats going on in the world”
Naoise: ” Thats not what you have to do mummy, you just open the door and go outside.”
After breakfast, I snatch him up quick. Out the door before he remembers his refusal for school. He is annoyed. He is standing holding onto the door handle, placing his hand over the key hole. He is so clever. He is so stubborn. He will not give in on the fight.
I hope for some help, a passer by, a neighbour. We are stuck on the step. We are stuck. Bribery isn’t working. Empathy isn’t working. Firmness isn’t working. At times like these I feel like a failed parent. I am determined to stop feeling this sense of failure.
I know I am not really a failed parent. I know that. I know that his stubbornness of character will fair him well in life. I know this, but when you are in these moments. These challenging moments that are far from joy, its hard to see. To see really what your child sees. To jolly along, to be positive, to use powers of persuasion, to take care with language, to be clear, to help, to love and to be kind.
My neighbour comes out of her front door. I call to her. I call her name. She can see I am struggling. Just the presence of her makes Naoise behave. She doesn’t even have to cross the road to intervene. Naoise doesn’t want to go to school in her car. He wants go to school on my shoulders walk along the canal path as I suggested.
We walk on him on my shoulders. Naoise suggests that we walk in the opposite direction along the canal path away from the school. He does not give in. He fights his corner till the last. He is wilful. Wilful is good.
We walk in the right direction towards school. Its raining hard, its cold, feels more autumnal than spring. Its grey. Puddles on the canal. We see a goose sheltering her goslings under her wing. Naoise is delighted. We stand and watch, occasionally a gosling pokes its head from her feathers. Naoise laughs and laughs at the sight. So sweet. So tender. A goose and her nurturing wing. A gooses and her wing as arm of love and arm of shelter. A goose whose body is her goslings home. Snug warm under her downy wing. Safe, protected, wing of home and love.
Naoise is not the only one struggling with Monday-itis. I see his friend hiding behind his mums legs, reluctant to go into the school. I am not surprised the children don’t want to go to school on Monday. On Mondays I want to shoot the hold day down. Yet this Monday, this Monday is different, I am glad of school, I am glad of it for the rest it will give me today.
The rest to be able to work. Work>Rest.
What is work? What is work? Care work? Work that is paid? Work that is voluntary? Looking after children work?
Art work. Love work. Family work. Studio work. Admin work. Domestic work. Well being work. Writing work What is work and what is not work. When is it that we don’t work. When is it that parents don’t work ?
In our sleep? Is that then the work of the unconscious?
Go to the studio. Care not to switch on computer. Care to make art. Care not to write. Care to create visual work. Mono printing. The delicious smell of oil based ink, sliding from roller to plastic with a lovely swishing sticky sound. The satisfaction of line and bleed of line on paper, of repeating the same lines again and again Lines that trace the body till the flow of the line captures the thought that is in your head. Filling pregnant bellies with memories, and Naoise drawings of babies, and trying to come up with some new ideas. Ideas that are not words.
The words have failed me.
Later I collect Syd and Naoise from school . I first drop Syd back at home then go to get Naoise. He is reluctant to go home. He was reluctant to come to school and now he doesnt want to leave it. He has found a woodlouse. He is playing with the woodlouse in the dirt. Covering it with dirt, watching it crawl back out. He balances on stones. He brings the woodlouse to me on a stick. We watch it as he holds the stick upside down. The woodlouse seems unaware of right side up and upside down. It has many many legs. Too many little legs to count. When I hod the woodlouse in my hand, I cannot even feel its legs moving.
The best conversations are had sat on benches waiting for children, or watching children play. I exercise patience rather than bullying Naoise home in a hurry. Its sunny, he is playing with a woodlouse, balancing on some rocks, enjoying being outside. Why rush home to a messy disorganised, disfunctional house and home. An anxious mind inside when out here life makes sense. Out here sitting on this bench talking to this lovely woman about mothering, about culture, art and theatre and London and education and hormones and growing up and culture and diversity and the lack of gardens behind houses in Todmorden.
Back home. Back home I get the children’s tea, warm up the Lasagne Patrick made for the family at the weekend. Good when its your own fast food meals. I make my dinner, rice, with spinach and potatoe curry from a plastic bag. Its delicious especially with a blob of hot mango chutney that I bought in Rusholme yesterday.
I drop Syd off at cricket. Cricket practice makes him happy. I am pleased to see him happy.
Patrick gets home and I go for a walk.
I leave him to bath Naoise to read his school book, to collect Syd from cricket. Patrick’s dinner is on the stove. I am not totally neglectful.
I need some air, some space on the hills. I don’t hurry I take my time. I worry that the lambs will all be gone from the hillside. They are not. I see apple blossom. I smell it. I see the peach and white of apple blossom against the green of the grass and the blue haze of the bluebells beneath. The pink. The blue. The green. I see new leaves unfolded. Fresh. Clean. Vibrant.
I see lambs jumping, skipping, feeding from their mothers. The hills are alive with bleating and ba ba ba ing. The lambs are getting fat and strong. Some are just born. I see two twin lambs fresh from their mothers womb. Red with it. Unsure on their feet. Asking for milk. Asking for comfort and reassurance.
I see two lambs legs. These legs I see must be from lambs who have died during birth or lambs who have been killed by fox or badger or dog or weasel. The sight of the fluffy legs detached from body fills me with horror. Decomposing legs. Death amidst so much play and new life. I cannot bare to think about the fate of the lambs. I just watch and enjoy them. I enjoy their play. I love it when you can get really close. When they stand still and stare you in the eye before fleeing. I hate to disturb their sleep when they are tucked in hollows. They always flee. I am always a threat however gentle I tread, however quietly, however carefully.
I see rabbits. I see two owls take off. I know they are owls. Their flight is lighter than other birds. Their wing span much bigger. They are shy. Their flight almost silent. I wish I had been just a little closer to see. I think they were tawny owls. I think. Its just a guess.
I imagine that I might see the family of weasels on the way home but I do not, just more ewes and lambs. Its getting dark.
When I get home I still have Naoise to hug to sleep and Syd to settle down. Syd is wired. All Syd wants to do is watch TV. I watch a little with him. He misbehaves. I ignore him. I ignore him and later I find him asleep in bed with Naoise, so I sleep in his bottom bunk. Thats ok, its been a while since I had a sleep alone. I pull the Doctor Who duvet up around me. I will sleep well.