18 Summers

18 years since I glimpsed you for the first time
18 years since you made me a mum
18 years of grappling with my own mortality
18 summers since I’ve loved you until I’m numb
I weep as I write this to you
Remembering the tension of that day
Hearing the doctor muttering about oxygen
Before they whisked you away
I’d no clue what was normal
Reality, momentarily on pause
I just absorbed the oddness
And lay there in my silent bubble of noise
You were returned to me, eventually
And I recall wondering, how I should know you were mine
Our eyes met and I loved you
So began the rest of time
The rest of time has been a rollercoaster
You’re a challenging old soul
I wouldn’t change a hair on your head my darling
I just want you to survive through the cold
The cold that has often enveloped you
Though your radiant warmth pulls you through
My pain is that I can’t do it for you
Still I shadow your every move
I love your kindness
That you notice intolerance.
That fairness matters to you
That you are true
I love your courage
In the face of your difference
Though I see your pain in solitude.
I wish it could be easier for you
18 summers since I first met you
18 years of showing you my way
The stage is yours now my angel
Lead me forward to your next day.

Endless Love

I was in the middle of researching my ‘five sure signs you’re dating a Sociopath’ blog when my daughter rang from France. I haven’t heard from her for a week. Packed her off with phone (and masses of credit), charger, iPad & charger, spare chargers and forced her to memorise all my telephone numbers and email addresses.
That was last Saturday. Since then, I’ve heard nothing. Her wonderful hosts have provided elegant and lengthy description of the group’s idyllic travels through Brittany. Safe in the knowledge that she is very much alive, my ‘thoughts’ have ranged between (fake) ‘she’s obviously having a wonderful time, I’m so happy she’s embracing the freedom of her independence.’ and ‘ungrateful piece of adolescent spoilt ******* brattishness……etc etc expletive etc’.
Resisting the urge to drive 750 kms for an argument, yesterday evening (after work), was ‘tough’. I was forced to make friends with a bottle of white wine (thats all I had) since no one was around to hide the car keys from me.
Turns out my princess had tried a ton of different message paths to me, but all of her sweet nothings were returned ‘unsent’. She was in a worse state of anxiety than me and now I owe her a new leotard for greeting her call with a tirade of expletives and accusations. Luckily she doesn’t know I’d have agreed to buy her ten! She’s alive and well and I love her so much.


Siblings without rivalry

The bank said yes. I was a quarter hoping they’d say no. My selfish quarter. The bit of me who’d like the weight of all this to be removed by a faceless third party. The other three quarters of me are very grateful that we can now start to make plans as a family. Get behind number one and help him to rise to this new challenge and hope that we can all somehow find the courage to enjoy my expanding portfolio of delicious ‘rice meals on a budget’ for the next twelve months…..
The whole thing terrifies me. Twenty years ago, I’d not have given the consequences of borrowing beyond my means two hoots. Now, with maturity and dependants working against me, I’ve been totting up ‘unnecessary monthly expenditure’ in my sleep. All mine, by the way: Wine; cigarettes; haircuts; and top of the range age-defying beauty products that don’t work. Frighteningly, the tot-up total isn’t far off the monthly loan repayment. But I still need to squeeze the family finances a little more.
So, I thought, as I sat my three babes down for the ‘sacrifices we all have to make’ chat, if I’m to become a long-haired, wrinkly, alcohol and tobacco free zone for the sake of my son’s education (I’m not quite ready to consider potential health benefits as an ancillary plus of any kind…..I’m sure that will come, once I’ve cracked my addictions and entered into the delirious phase) its surely not unreasonable to ask them to:
1. ALWAYS turn off lights, unless you are actually in the room AND need light;
2. NEVER throw clean clothes on the floor or in the washing basket because you can’t be bothered to hang that wrong choice back up;
3. WEAR deodorant as this will not only make you more appealing to others around you, but also means that you MAY be able to wear jumpers twice before they need washing;
4. LEARN to hate seafood, steak, duck and all (disgustingly unhealthy anyway) take-aways as these treats are now off the menu, apart from the occasional ‘Mardi Malin’ at PizzaHut and any luxuries that I can fight for in the M&S evening price-slash;
5. GRACIOUSLY accept ‘no’ if I tell you there is no money for you to go to the cinema EVER.
6. GET yourself a part-time job if you are over sixteen and DO NOT complain when I expect you to actually spend your own money (as an aside – Please also CONSIDER buying other people presents. You may even find this rewarding….); and
7. ACCEPT that mum is going to be a little bit tired and a lot miserable for a (considerably long) while. DO NOT fault her for this. DO NOT even think frustration. Mum has already sacrificed the delights of a social life for your benefit and will now be eliminating (most) indoor treats from her life too. Mum hates rice but is determined to embrace it in all forms for the next twelve months. This is a bigger sacrifice than any of you are being asked to make….
The chat went well. Unpredictably well. We managed five minutes without anyone checking a screen or fake burping. I was just about to launch into a re-hash of what I’d already said, when my daughter looked up and said ‘C’est bon mummy. C’est notre grand frère’.
And that was that. I was catapulted back to reading them this bedtime story, ‘Mon Grand Frère’ by Pauline Martin. They all used to find it hilarious. My daughter, because she felt it was written for her, with the little sister in the book narrating her thoughts and my boys because they associated with the big boy character. His long hair and penchant for actively ignoring his little sister and eating her share of dinner if she looked the other way. They seemed to miss the subliminal stuff that children’s stories often carry. But two pages would always grab me and make me smile: when the little girl observes that big brothers sometimes get sad and cry and then the final page, when the little sister says (after the latest indignity of being hunted by her big bro with a toy gun) that you can’t just change a big brother like that. You have to make do with the one you’ve got.
It seems the subliminal has become the conscious. There is no need to understand why your big brother is sad, nor should we try to change him. We love and support him, just as he is and thats all that counts.


Boys & Men

I have two boymen (‘BM’). I can’t show you any pictures of them, because they won’t let me take any. But they’re gorgeous. Not that they think they are. Sure they’re lazy and totally uninterested in homework and housework. But they are tall and slim and handsome. They are bright and charming. Much more importantly, they are tolerant and sensitive and kind. But they truly believe themselves to be too skinny and worth not a lot. Or maybe they don’t? I’m having one of those days when I really wonder about the mars -v- venus thing. Am I so foolish that I can’t see that even my own sons come from a different planet?
Its difficult to play both mum and dad. I’m not pretending to be dad of course.  I can’t. But I listen to my male friends’ advice about how to best console when an important football match is lost (don’t ever allude to doing better next time, just nod and make non-specific but firm sounding noises) and I try not to get disappointed that they dont (ever) want to go for a coffee with me or for a walk, unless there is a defined end-point, that cannot be reached by car.
I do the discipline thing when required (which is not very often anymore). But I do it in my way, of course, which involves lots of discussion and reflection. Not very masculine, in the traditional sense, but its me and I’ve always worked on the principle that violence, including aggressive talk, just attracts the same back and doesn’t often help in getting your point across.
But here I am, on leave, with a house full of BM who are polite and charming but do bugger all. I may have drafted the CVs but I haven’t gone out and found them a summer job. Ergo its my fault that they aren’t earning and therefore I should take them sales shopping….this hasn’t actually been said, but would be if I raised the point….They’re delightful to spend time with, fun even. But I still have to ask them to take their dishes into the kitchen (the kitchen is actually in the lounge….which is also the dining room….so not exactly a long way from the table….).
 I reflect that the men in my life (employing artistic license here to boost numbers and thereby effect) are similarly charming and caring, whilst avoiding initiative and responsibility. So I ask you, dear (perhaps more objective – its late and I’ve had a glass of wine) reader., is this really the difference between mars men and venus women? Am I barking at dead wood, or is there hope that my BM will one day (soon) develop the joy of honest accountability that I cherish and try to instill? Or should I just go and have a cocktail and forget about all that 🙂 ?

Where to now?

I’m bloody fed up of everyone I meet asking how the kids did in their exams, then suddenly remembering some fake appointment when I answer honestly. Or rambling on about their idyllic plans for the next two months – everyone has passed their exams, no one doesn’t want to join in and there are unlimited funds to combine a heady mix of ‘Club Med’ style luxury relaxation and cultural extravaganza.

Not wishing to depress anyone…but I’m at the end of my bloody tether. I just want one summer living the dream that it seems everyone around me is living. I mean, schools out, planning the holiday, all the kids want to join me, we drive off to sunny climes and have a ball together, building sweet memories of tapas and giggles, wearing strappy dresses (the gals) and drinking in the Mediterranean ambiance.
I’m bloody fed up of everyone I meet asking how the kids did in their exams, then suddenly remembering some fake appointment when I answer honestly. Or rambling on about their idyllic plans for the next two months – everyone has passed their exams, no one doesn’t want to join in and there are unlimited funds to combine a heady mix of ‘Club Med’ style luxury relaxation and cultural extravaganza.
Its June 30th. End of school in Belgium. I’m on leave for the next two weeks. But instead of planning the drive down to Marseille, Im looking forward to wall to wall begging sessions tomorrow, starting at 8.30am. “I know he failed all his exams, but he’s actually brilliant. So much so that school has simply bored him this year. Its all his teachers’ faults. None of them liked him. In fact they’ve tortured him all year (true). I mean is it reasonable to expect my (almost) 17 year old middle son to blindly memorise a load of stuff he isn’t interested in without ever asking questions or challenging ridiculous punishments (copying out 10 pages of a textbook, confiscating his phone for 5 months!!!) for crimes such as – borrowing a classmate’s book cos he’d forgotten his own or taking his phone on a school trip so that I could call and tell him where I would be on his return -? I mean really??” Hmmm….that won’t work. How about “Actually, he split with his girlfriend midway through the year and retired from life (excluding playstation) thereafter. She got with some other guy in the same school and he had to watch their relationship grow as he sank further into himself. I’m a single mum. I work full time and have two other kids, one of whom has serious educational difficulties and the other a competitive gymnast with a hugely challenging schedule. I just couldn’t cut myself into enough pieces to help him enough …….” That would be true, but it won’t work either. Hmmm….Perhaps not the truth then. I’ve got eleven and a half hours to come up with a plan. Wine seems like the best idea now. Thats my 8.30am sorted. Then I’ve a 12 o’clock with my eldest son. So, he has actually been kicked out of school and we’re off to chat the shit at a private school that I can’t afford, but which really could be the answer. A system I had no idea about before yesterday, aimed at helping people who just haven’t found their way in the classic system. A personalised approach that would make allowances for his ADHD and dyslexia and assorted other difficulties (including colour blindness !! why not?). But it costs almost 15k for the year. Hmm….why is everything helpful so prohibitively expensive? I’m going along anyway. We’ve tried everything and now I’m hoping for a miracle. Perhaps I’ll finally win the lottery tomorrow and then we can book that Club Med family dream-time on the way back from registering him at this new school. I know what I’ll be dreaming about tonight. Just one summer without the hellish pain of feeling my beautiful, sensitive and NORMAL kids having the curiosity of their young years smashed out of them by a system that judges success only against exam results. I guess there’s always next year…..