I’ve been trying to do some home -learning with the girls, and I don’t know how teachers do it. I only have three children and I can’t manage to keep them all the table at the same time, let alone get them to do anything. I start out like Mary Poppins and within five minutes I turn into Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.
Even taking them on a dog walk to admire nature ends up involving blood and the middle one being head-butted by a horse. Obviously, the other two found this funny, hence the blood. Oh, and the dog ate something nasty and spent the evening being sick.
According to the planner I made, today we are supposed to be weeding the garden, learning about grass snakes and making cheese straws. They are watching a film called ‘Zombies’ on the Disney Channel and I am tip-toeing round so I don’t disturb them. When it’s finished, I’ll put it back to the beginning and they can watch it again.
Four weeks into the summer holidays, I’m learning that love for your child is unconditional, but ‘like’ is less so. Sometimes my middle daughter is such hard work I think ‘I wouldn’t want to hang out with you if I was 8.’ Then I feel awful and give her some crisps to appease my guilt and teach her that she will be rewarded if she keeps persisting when told no. Great parenting all round.
When I was a kid, my dad only had to look at me a certain way and I’d shiver in my timbers. When I try the same glare at my kids they laugh at me, right into my wide-eyed, vein-pulsing-forehead, mouth- open-in-anguish-face.
‘Are you going to hit the fecking roof mummy?’ They implore me. ‘Go on, do it, I bet you can’t even reach.’
The husband is lucky. He gets to go to work. I don’t care if he is crammed like a sardine in a hot train, under a curry-smelling armpit with someone’s briefcase in his cheek, an umbrella poking him up the bum and three people standing on his left foot. He’s not being asked to explain how long ‘soon’ is to a kid that refuses to learn how to tell the time, but is obsessed with how long things take.
He’s not breaking up a fight over who gets the wear the pants with seahorses on them, or which child used all the milk, or why the bird is flying round the house with the cat chasing it. His trouser leg is not being used as a napkin. He gets to eat his own sandwich.
I could handle his business meetings easy-peasy. Adults, who are paid to attend, and won’t all demand they need the toilet every five seconds or remove all their clothes, how hard can it be?
Obviously this is all in theory. I could never actually go to work in an office again. I’ve spent too long round children that have no filter. I’d blurt out things like ‘boooooring’, ‘your teeth are all yellow’, ‘it wasn’t me’ and ‘No, don’t want to’. When tasked with something I didn’t want to do, I’d staple myself to the desk or pretend I needed a poo.
I’ve become conditioned to my environment, like Peter-the-wild- boy, or maybe Ericka-the-uncouth. I did this to myself (well the husband helped a bit, I suppose). When the children grow up, the only place that would employ me is a zoo.
Until then it’s once more unto the breach. I’ve got two and a half weeks left of this summer ‘holiday’. According to the dictionary; a ‘holiday ‘means ‘an extended period of leisure and recreation’. Interestingly, ‘Purgatory’ means ‘a place or state of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners’. I did have my first child out of wedlock. Maybe summer holidays are my punishment?
I know, I know, all you people tutting at me. I’m very lucky and I need to treasure every second because once they are grown up you can’t get them back. I need to enjoy them sleeping on top of me and accompanying me to the toilet and answer the never ending questions.
I do treasure them, when they are asleep. I spend ages with them then, marveling at their beauty and innocence, kissing soft folds. I think how the veins in their hands look like stars. I stroke the curve of their blocky little feet, wondering what lands they will conquer. I feel no envy their arrival halted my own travels. I whisper to them, very quietly ‘every place where you set your foot will be yours’. I compare them to a summer’s day and find them far more lovely and temperate. They walk in beauty, like the night – when they are asleep.