I don’t know where to put this all.
International Women’s Day. My girls have just arrived home from school, five beautiful long haired teenage girls, and a twelve year old. And one of them is shaving her head for charity, and it just so happens to be my daughter.
It’s the big day.
I’ve not long arrived home from my therapeutic gardening session. It was snowing in the morning, I could so easily have bottled it, cancelled the session. Too much snow, bad weather, danger…
But I presented (had too, really) and it was wonderful. The sun came out, the skies cleared, four wonderful power women came out for their lunch break and super powered a 4 hour session into one power hour.
It was great, I am exhausted, this recent flu has wiped me out and I am shattered. I have fifteen minutes before the teenagers arrive in their budding glory.
They disappear upstairs and start plaiting my oldest’s hair in preparation for her big cut. It is lovely, beautiful, cherished, a gaggle of girls, a string of support, and a wonder of wonders.
It is beautiful, I am loving being a part, but I want to leave them to it.
It’s a fine line.
We should go.
I am panicking what if the lovely French barber is closed?
We identified a wonderful venue. A barber as she needs a number two. Our main road has a proliferation of ladies hair salons, so many choices, but we have identified the one. It’s a bright, modern looking barber and the hairdresser looks kind, and he sports an Afro, which clearly is important0 .
My oldest is terrified, ‘But I’m a girl, what if girls aren’t allowed?’
Gentle hairdresser. French accent. Blokey bloke clientele, five girls draped on the counters looking relaxed and unthreatened. A good indicator.
I am so proud. My daughter, on her own volition, has ‘braved the shave’ for Macmillan’s Charity, in honour of her dad who died of an undiagnosed cancer. He had dreadlocks down to his knees and had planned to cut them for a charity, she is carrying his banner.
She has raised nearly £950.
Her goal was £250.
She’s only thirteen years old.
Friday 13th April.
Today it’s all fallen apart.
Well, to be clear, I’ve fallen apart, but I’ve just noticed that it’s Friday the thirteenth.
Can I ascribe the disaster start to this traditional day of superstition?
My role at this time seems to be a cushion.
My status is cushion; perhaps I can make loads of money inventing a cushion emoji.
Cushion status – to be constantly blamed – for everything, to be criticised, held responsible and sat upon.
Well that’s what it feels like.
This morning I had a personal outburst, I knocked my head, quite badly, against an obtrusion on a door. There was head spinning, blood and excruciating pain.
I called for help, coldness, ice; my daughter opened the fridge and said, ‘where from?’
We had a shouting match through my pain and potential concussion.
I stumble outside; to get away from her, things aren’t going well.
Apparently they say, outbursts help, ‘Better out than in.’
I refuse to walk her to the bus stop, the first time ever.
She is fuming; I am fuming, dizzy, in pain.
I march upstairs, clutching my head, my eldest is late, again, it’s time to leave for school and she hasn’t even come downstairs for breakfast.
Through my tears and desperation I implore, shout, cry, berate her slovenly behaviour.
She has been tidying her room all year, for years, her whole life, and it’s never tidy.
She spends hours painstakingly tidying her stationery drawer but can’t sort the bigger picture. She’s struggling at school and I know her chaos impacts on her capacity for study. I am gentle with her, I don’t like to punish her, she is a good, kind, sensitive, responsible child. Sometimes I try to punish her, but it doesn’t really work, she gets upset, but nothing changes in her room-cleanliness status.
And, she has lost her dad…
As for my youngest, I make endless excuses for her, but she is now officially on the ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder.
We have the paperwork.
It helped for a bit, but on days like today, when I am tired, overwhelmed and need some support, it just all erupts, boils over and spills out; and it is messy.
It’s the selfishness that gets to me. I know it is primarily the anxiety, insecurity and self-preservation that can come across as selfish, she orchestrates everything to support her delicate and determined, desperate grip on reality. The seven alarms of a morning, the methodical, self-involved obsessive processes to ready and prepare herself for the onslaught of school.
And it is an onslaught!
It is like preparing for battle on a daily basis so that she is armed for every unexpected variation that can assail her and potentially rock her world. And her explosive or introverted behaviour at home is her way of coping. But to an outsider she can appear rude (to me), cocky (to me), extremely selfish with absolutely no concern for her family.
Today it was my turn for an outburst. In my indignant and excruciating pain and ultimately, desperate cry for help, I called her all sorts of names relating to the aforementioned behaviour. But she was equally fierce, accused me of all of the same, and more, and as a result walked to the bus stop on her own, feeling confused and hard done by.
Was I wrong? Should I have placated her? Soothed and assured her through my pain?
Things build up; we lash out at those we love. It’s not okay, but is it not worse to suppress it? It is my belief that it only finds another way to fester and erupt. For me, I am not comfortable with it, but I shall try not to digress into self-guilt. It is an indicator of my personal state and our family health.
So what am I going to do about it?
What can I do about it?
My children demand, (one more than the other), and I give.
My work demands, I give.
The people around me demand, and I give.
I don’t know who’s giving to me and possibly, perhaps… I don’t know how to receive?
We went to France to visit Kevin’s dad, my children’s granddad. I admit I was dreading it, in every way. Kevin had struggled with him during his life and seeing him upset made me angry. Kevin used to say that I was the only person he’d known that had managed to shut his dad up, leave him speechless, with a look, a comment and my usual honest remark.
Needless to say, we made the trip. We were dropped off at the airport by my lover/ex lover/ friend and we were picked up on the other side by Granddad. These simple acts on their own lifted my mood, burden and load and made me quite joyous. I felt loved, supported and was ecstatic with the release of unrelenting responsibility (am I sad?)
He’d prepared dinner and we shifted down quite a few gears to his relaxed and uncomplicated way of life. A day, a week, in rural France with Granddad.
We eat, we sleep, we awake, we walk the dog, we eat, he snoozes, we relax, we prepare meals, we eat meals, we clear up, we walk the dog, he snoozes, we relax.
That was pretty much all we did, I was exhausted, tiredness hit me like a ton of falling bricks but I’d tear myself away for a jog in the gorgeous countryside, the only way I know to allocate ‘me time’.
Even though it was relaxing, to have another caring and responsible adult, I still found myself cooking and cleaning for Granddad. He lost his wife, Kevin’s mother, five years ago and he lives alone with his very insecure dog. I know what this is like and the kindest thing we could do was to give him a break from cooking and cleaning and making efforts to feed himself. So we created gourmet meals for him on a nightly basis and it was lovely, for him and for us.
But I was still fending, protecting, encouraging, supporting, risk assessing and guiding my girls, circumventing Granddad’s grumpy moments and building family bonds.
Do Mother’s ever get a break? Sometimes I think a half break can just be a tease.
Deep down, in my soul, I am shattered, exhausted to my bone marrow.