It’s Wednesday. That bit is pretty regular. I’m a mum. That’s something I’ve been for 19 years. I guess that bit is pretty regular too. I’ve written about this so many times before, but it feels like it still keeps being this thing that somehow I have to make something other than how it keeps being. I am not writing this for parenting advice. I am not writing this so someone will tell me I’m a good Mum or I’m doing well or OK. I’m writing it so somehow I can unpack all the parts it’s made of and find a way to make it different or better or not like how it is.
This morning started with Miss 6 sneaking into my room about 6.30am with her adorable new haircut, talking about how the fairies had come (they write letters to the moon and the sun fairy and the fairies write back sometimes) and had written letters but had forgotten to take the letters she wrote and would I mind giving them to her (she totally knows it’s me). Miss 4 came not long after and even though they wrestled and poked me with cold toes and generally annoyed me, we had cuddles and I contemplated never getting out of bed. Miss 11 made me a cup of tea and brought it in with a big, fuzzy cushion for my back. It was pretty ace.
Then I realised it was about 7.35am and we were in Sunday mode and it was Wednesday so I invented a “getting-dressed race” with a surprise for the winner and they got dressed so quick even I was impressed. They all won. The surprise was $1 each because I was surprised they even fell for that and didn’t actually have a surprise prize ready. They got dressed to shoes. And that’s when it all went nuts.
I realise this a long story, but humour me, because it’s my (long, so fricking long) story. So yesterday was Tuesday and I finished with my last client at 4.45pm. We had been having this amazing conversation about change and her interest in how people change and adapt their belief systems (amongst everything else). I walked her out and my two youngest saw me and asked if they could come and sit quietly on the couch in my office while I finished off. I said no. Because this is what they do when they “sit quietly” in my office.
I asked for 15 minutes to quickly finish up without interruption and then said I’d be straight out. They both came in to kiss and adore me and linger three beats too long and then went out to play immediately outside the office door. Then Miss 4 knocked and had to tell me she’d snapped a branch of the frangipani tree when she was climbing in it. I made sure she was all right (I think), and then asked her to just put the branch out of the driveway. So they decided (Miss 4 and Miss 6) to plant it in the garden bed just outside my office, which has been recently filled with dark red soil. They knocked again to check this was OK, and then again to see if I could help them. When I came out they had done a pretty awesome job of planting the broken branch (which is a big as a tree on its own) in the red soil, wearing their school uniforms and school shoes, which were covered (like them) in red mud. I said I would run a bath, and by the time I came back outside to grab them they were “washing” their shoes in the dog water bucket and would not stop!!
See we have this shoe problem, which I think is common to parents with children (unlike those other parents who only have pets). There are JUST NOT ENOUGH SHOES. They lose them (only one though, they only lose one), they leave them places, they grow out of them, they make me buy them and then they don’t like them. AND the only school shoes those two own are the ones covered in red mud and SOAKING wet with dog water. There was some screeching (me) and some jumping in puddles (them) and finally I got them in the shower (they didn’t want a bath) and put their shoes in the washing machine and then underneath the potbelly fire to dry overnight.
So on Wednesday (today), when they were dressed to shoes, Miss 6 realised her shoes were still wet and combined with an intense sock sensitivity (the feeling of lumps or strings in her socks make her fall to the ground and writhe (yes WRITHE) and screech (yes SCREECH)) this was WORLD WAR SHOES. It went on for about 40 minutes. Writhing. Throwing shoes. Throwing socks. All her. Me swearing (yes I am the WORST mum). Me carrying her to her room (while she screams that I am choking her so everyone else in the neighbourhood thinks I am choking my child. I was not choking her but felt like it). Her yelling at me to stop. Me yelling at her to stop. No-one stopping. And she is 6 and I am 40 and so I know that it is not possible for her to stop while I am not stopping, but I am so mad that we are fighting about shoes in the morning and I cannot for the life of me figure out why it is like this. And how it can go from adorable haircuts and fairies to crazy people and how Miss 11 and Miss 4 can just eat their breakfast and put on their (wet) shoes and not complain.
I have felt guilty for a long time (read forever) that I am not the kind of patient mother who can deal with this and make it OK. When we finally stopped (we both stopped, me first and then her) I found another pair of perfectly fine pink, lace up shoes she could wear to school. Which neither of us even remembered existing when she was throwing shoes and I was swearing. A perfectly good and functional pair of dry school shoes were RIGHT THERE in the shoebox where all the shoes go (including the ones that don’t fit or they don’t like or are only one shoe).
So here’s the thing (I don’t even now why I wrote that because after I re-read this there is still no thing. And I am really searching for a thing for this make sense to me), she went off to school with an adorable new haircut and puffy eyes from crying and a hoarse throat from yelling and I sat for 3 beats too long on the couch, drinking my cold cup of tea that got forgotten in the war wondering how on earth we haven’t worked this out yet. Or more rightly why I haven’t worked this out yet, and feeling like a pretty shit parent. Since then our au pair (the closest I-was-not-choking-my-child witness) has been to the shops to buy plain white socks. The morning job list is going back on the wall. The shoebox has been cleaned out. There will be some shoe shopping I suspect. But none of those things are the thing that unwinds why, for me, my children are not my greatest motivators for change, and I feel like it would be right if they were. And I know some people try so hard to have children and can’t (and I just didn’t try hard enough not to and I do not regret that for one second and I trust that they are meant to be here with me, but there was no amount of trying or yearning for a long time to have them or even a life-plan that was about many children) and they grow up so fast (I have a 19 year old and I know how that is, but I love the grown up she is). Maybe I am just better with grown ups? My mum said the other day that I have too many of my father’s genes (in relation to how I am as a mother, because I was making some off-hand comment about not being caring enough in a kind-of jokey way and she hit me with that one and I suspect I do parent more like my Dad than my mum, however I’m still not sure how much I liked hearing that).
And it’s Mother’s Day on Sunday and they adore me, and I adore them. We have this amazingly, incredibly blessed, busy, full life. I have to be honest though and say it is the hardest and most frustrating gig of all the gigs for me. I suspect it is the same for some people. I suspect that that’s OK. And I don’t doubt it is teaching me so many things, but when people write that parenting taught them to be selfless I have not found a way for it to teach me that yet. Perhaps I am too selfish? Or perhaps they are? And which would be OK? I’m not sure I aspire to selflessness anyway, I think it’s something is the middle that works, but I don’t know what that is. In the middle between selfish and selfless. That place. I think that place would work.
I’m not sure I got anywhere. I just never want to fight about shoes again.