Project Awesome

Making my life more awesome

Two nights’ sleep to enable me to take on the world. And win.

Last night Big Girl and Small Girl stayed at Ex-Husband’s house. I went to the pub with people from Sanctus1. We went to a pub which was snotty about its beer and had no blackcurrant – none at all – so I couldn’t have cider and black. If you like beer, it would be a great pub. If you like to drink alcohol without tasting it, not so much.

I have ambitions to drink a cheeky vimto, the blue-WKD-and-port drink popularised by Charlotte Church.  I feel embarrassed at the thought of asking for it but I also think it would taste amazing. It’s a dilemma.  Sadly, last night my aspirations were unmet.  We did however go on to Bakerie, a wine bar which serves quite expensive cocktails and incredibly cheap, freshly baked bread – probably the best bar snack ever. And we talked. It’s long enough since I’ve been to the pub with friends for an evening of eclectic conversation that it felt like a luxury moment, a memory to savour.

Tonight Big Girl and Small Girl are staying at Ex-Husband’s house again.  This is not ok. Today is the first day since she has existed that I will not see Small Girl. I think she will be ok with it. To me it feels like a prison sentence. I’m at work during the day but tonight I will come home to an empty (and very messy) house and an evening that stretches out with no children, no bathtime, no juggling two different sets of needs, no food on the floor, no night feeds. One night without children is, while I miss them, an opportunity. Two nights without children is a burden, something to get through, something to survive. But I have to get used to is – at the end of the month we are moving to two-night weekends.

So my plan is to use the time to do all those things I tell myself I would do if I didn’t have the children, that I imagine I wish for a couple of hours free to do.  But then, amazingly, always have something better to do when I do have spare time. I’m going to put away the last of the packing from Greenbelt. I’m going to tidy the messy area under the kitchen table which has been there for months, fortunately hidden by the table.  I’m going to wash up.  And I’m going to go to bed and sleep all night.  With two nights’ sleep behind me (admittedly one night broken by anxiously waking up trying to work out where the hell my children were) I think I can probably do anything.

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Greenbelt 2012 – a dream involving mud, queue-jumpers and toddlers

I did, eventually, pack. And we went to Greenbelt. And then we came home again. It’s hard to know what to say about it – it feels a bit like trying to explain a strange dream to someone and it slips away as you try to talk about it. So I’ll tell you what it wasn’t.

It wasn’t a riot of talks and bands and endless culture. I saw ten minutes of a harpist, thirty minutes of The Proclaimers and had to run out of a seminar half way through with both my screaming children and without my pram. I’m not sure why I thought a seminar on atheism at a liberal Christian festival wouldn’t be packed to the rafters, or how I thought my children would be quiet for an hour, or why I tried to take my pram in, but it has given me an idea for a series at Sanctus1, my church. And watching my two children dancing together to The Proclaimers was one of the best moments of the weekend.

It wasn’t easy. Everything took momentous planning. It took until 11.30 am to leave the tent on Saturday morning because I couldn’t face the logistical planning required to avoid having to walk all the way back to the tent in case I needed anything. And there were challenges around naps and food and transporting two toddlers around a massive site and getting them to bed. Rachel and Chris were amazingly helpful, but they were still my children to look after. Which I did.

It wasn’t Greenbelt, not as I know it. I’ve almost always been as a steward and the years I haven’t been as a steward, I have just wanted to be a steward. I wasn’t really sure how to be a festival-goer, and even if I had been able to, the two small children with me would have scuppered that. I spent quite a lot of the time having conflicts going on inside my head about why I was even there, whether I wanted to try to come in the future without my children and enjoy the festival, whether I wanted to try to learn to enjoy the festival with them. I eventually came up with a cunning plan which involved my sister coming with my next year to look after my children and put them to bed and look after them from 6 pm til 3 am each night while I steward, and then until I get up the next day and, surprisingly, she agreed to it. Awesome.

However, on Sunday the sun came out. And there were some beautiful moments. There was the Proclaimers gig, which I loved my children loving, and I loved seeing the crowds. There was the first time I saw the sign, just before reaching the massively-flooded campsite, saying ‘Learn to Dive’.

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There were the most blatant queue-jumpers who pushed in front of me in the queue for Frank Skinner in that very polite, drifting middle-class way, who when I explained that they weren’t at the end of the queue, said there wasn’t an ‘end of the queue sign’ and, when I said “the end of the queue is over there,” said “oh, well, I don’t really know what we can do about that”. Really? REALLY? You really can’t think of one thing you could do about the fact that you’ve just pushed into a queue for one of the headline performers at the festival?

And there was the beautiful, beautiful moment of freedom – my children went to sleep, Rachel and Chris agreed to babysit, I finally managed to leave the tent at 11 pm. My friend who I was hoping to meet for a drink had almost certainly gone to bed, so I met up with some other friends for a quick not-drink before they went to something and then… Well… I did some stewarding…

Fat Roland sums up how I feel about Greenbelt. For me it’s not the freedom from homophobia, but it is the broadness and wideness of the festival – Anglicans, Goths, Peter Tatchell, L’Arche, justice campaigners, buskers, and lots and lots of ideas. There’s space to think, space to consider new ideas, space to explore who you are.

This post doesn’t tell you anything I really think about my weekend, except that it was like a dream. One with toddlers in it.

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I don’t like packing, so I’m just not doing it

I’m getting ready to go to Greenbelt.

Actually, I’m doing everything I can to avoid getting ready to go to Greenbelt.  I am having serious anxiety.  It’s an arts festival at Cheltenham Racecourse. There will be bands. There will be art. There will be all manner of children’s things including, I think, a farm and a performance of ‘The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark’. It’s Christian but I don’t like to mention that because I then want to say “but not like you think”, and who knows what you think? It’s broad and liberal and inclusive and lovely and has been a massive part of my faith journey towards not believing in God.

Oh, and it involves four nights in a tent with Big Girl and Small Girl.  What could possibly go wrong?

It’s not as bad as I think. I’m camping with Rachel and Chris, friends from uni, and their baby, in their tent that is possibly bigger than my house. They are lovely and helpful. I’m going on the train so I can go home if I really don’t like it. I’m just anxious.

While I’m there I’m planning on trying out Twitter.  I’ve never really worked out how to make it work for me, what to use it for. I’ve been thinking for a while that I might like to use it to post all those random thoughts which can’t justify a blog post but I’d still like to say.  Things like “Big Girl has just thrown my book in the toilet”. Or “when your toddler wees on a cushion that says ‘sponge clean only’, would you put it in the washing machine?”. Greenbelt seems like the ideal place to try it out. Please follow me, comment and RT @ProjectAwesomes (damn those people, everywhere, who have taken ‘ProjectAwesome’ and never really used it).

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My bowel looks like an inside-out worm

Being a parent means dealing with shit. Single parents, generally, deal with more shit, literally and metaphorically.  Literally, because there’s no-one to share nappy changes with (although also no-one to have tedious arguments about whose turn it is to change the nappy while trying to pretend you’re not that bothered, and no simmering resentment about the fact that you are definitely changing more nappies.  Or towards the baby who always saves the poo for your turn to change the nappy.  Although of course you don’t feel resentful towards your baby. Of course you don’t).

And metaphorically, because you’re also dealing with the fallout from whatever lead to you becoming a single parent, and either you’re dealing with bringing up a child entirely single-handedly, or you’re negotiating sharing care of children with someone else, someone who once liked you enough to get you pregnant and is now either a worthless arse who doesn’t bother with their children, or insists on taking your much-loved children away from you when you don’t want them to, and you have to live with the constant fear that one day your children may decide they would rather live with their other parent.

Whatever.  This post is about the literal kind of shit.  It’s probably going to be pretty grim.  If you like STFU Parents or dislike Facebook posts about potty-training, you might want to not read it. If you don’t want to hear about pooincidents during nappy changes, don’t read it. If you don’t want to hear about what the inside of my bowel looks like, don’t read it.  I’m serious.  I’m not even sure I want to read it.

If you don’t want to read it but you want to look like you have, comments like “I hope she’s better soon” or “I’m glad it all went well and you’re ok” would be appropriate.  Or the ubiquitous “((((hugs))))” from parenting forums would work.  But be aware that I’ll probably be as grimly graphic in my replies to comments as I am about to be in the post.  You can’t say you haven’t been warned.  Although you can stop speaking to me, obviously.

 

 

Actually, I decided not to. I think it’s enough to say that I ended up covered in poo this week.  I also had to go into hospital for a bowel investigation.  It wasn’t pleasant but it’s good to know that the inside of my bowel is healthy, and I got to see it on a tv screen.  It looks like a worm turned inside-out.  I had gas and air, which is less fun when not in labour.  That was the biggest disappointment of the day.

Being a day case felt surreal.  I got a bus to the hospital, put on a gown, had the poking around done, passed out on gas and air, came round, had a cup of tea and got back on a bus to go home again. And one thing I realised was just how nice it was to be looked after by the nurses.  I have lots of people who help me with lots of things, particularly my children.  And when I’ve been poorly, people have come and helped – notably my dad, who came and looked after Big Girl and Small Girl when I was ill on my birthday. But he was mainly looking after my children so I could get on with being ill unhindered.  And that’s enough for anyone.  But that luxury of just being looked after, with no children to worry about, by professional caring people, of there only being me to worry about – I had forgotten about that.  I think the last time I experienced that, really, was probably when I was in labour with Small Girl.

I’m not complaining. It’s part of being a parent – along with the shit. It was strange going to the hospital and coming home by myself – I had people I knew would come and pick me up if I needed them. It was strange going through something major without Ex-Husband to look after me. But it’s liberating to know that I can. It’s entirely possible that there’s nothing I can’t do. Almost.

 

As an aside, I’d like to thank everyone for their comments on my last post – both here, on my facebook page and by text. It’s been incredibly helpful to me, helping me to realise that actually, no-one’s life is exactly what it could be, what they might hope for, and that even if Ex-Husband had stayed, that still wouldn’t have been the best life I could have had.  That this ‘best life’ is an unachievable ideal.  And I felt humbled to hear words of wisdom from people who I know have also had some massive challenges to face and responded to me so graciously.  You’ve made a real difference to how I’m thinking about my life.  Thank you.

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Oh wise ones, how do I stop feeling that I’m living a second-rate life?

So. Here’s my question.

It’s ten months since Ex-Husband left. I’m kind of happy. But how do I stop feeling like I’m living a second-best life?

I didn’t expect him to leave.  I didn’t want him to leave.  I didn’t choose this.  I wanted us to be married, bring up our children together, and be old together.  I was happy.

Of course, looking back, I can see faults, things I didn’t like, things which could have been better. Of course I can.  But at the time, I was happy enough.  And I don’t want him back now, as he is, with everything he’s done. But if I could go back to before he left, and make things ok, I would.  In a heartbeat.

So I’m happy because I’m choosing to be.  I’m choosing to be happy without Ex-Husband because the alternative is being unhappy without Ex-Husband. It just feels fake, a little forced.  I have enough times where I’m really happy.  Days with friends.  Crossing the road in the sunshine and realising I just feel happy.  Doing something really well at work.  Laughing at my own jokes.  But in the long term, as far as I can tell, the best thing would always have been to stay with Ex-Husband and be a family together.

So how do I get to a point where I don’t feel I’m living a second-rate life? I don’t want to have to find someone else for it to be ok. I don’t want my future happiness to depend on finding another relationship.  I might not.  It’s true that I’m funny and intelligent and anyone would be lucky to call me their girlfriend.  But still…

Share your wisdom with me.  What do I need to do, inside my head, to believe that this life, the one I didn’t want and haven’t chosen, is actually the best life I could have?

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Come back Big Girl – all is forgiven!

Big Girl is back tomorrow evening.  I have missed her desperately.  Well, kind of.  The world is not right because she isn’t here.  But actually, it’s a lot easier.  It’s kind of nice just having one child.  Except for those moments where I’m going to bed and I think about checking on her before she’s asleep (my nightly ritual – it’s not just about making sure she’s warm. It’s about seeing that she’s still there, and feeling like I am an actual parent rather than someone who has accidentally been left with some children to look after) and then realise I don’t need to. Or when I see something I want to show her and she’s not here to see it.

I’m not really expecting it to be a completely joyful reunion. I hope she’ll be pleased to see me but I think she’ll just cry for Daddy and Grandma. And she’ll test the boundaries and I’ll have to be really firm, so she remembers how home works. And she’ll ask for things she has with Daddy and it will make me sad because I don’t really enjoy being reminded that she has another life that I’m not in.  And really, really, I’ll have forgotten how to make things work with two children.

And I think Small Girl will be pleased to see her, and I’m sure she will be pleased to see Small Girl, and all her toys.  Yes, all those toys that Small Girl now thinks are hers – there is going to be some trouble ahead.  Big Girl has a special handbag which she loves and carries round all the time.  Small Girl has been enjoying wearing the handbag for the past week while also pushing the toy buggy which is Big Girl’s.  I have a small toddler who doesn’t understand about sharing at all, and a big toddler who doesn’t understand that the small one doesn’t understand. It’s a fun age.

But it’s worth it, for that moment, just before bedtime, when I’ll look at my two beautiful sleeping children.  They’ll both be asleep and the world will be, once again, as it should.

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Excuse me, I need instructions for a stasis booth, please

So, Big Girl is away.  While it frequently feels that the whole universe is just wrong, and nothing may ever be right again, at least not until Saturday, there are some things which I like.  I’m enjoying spending more time with Little Girl.  It’s amazingly easy to go places.  This morning I woke up at 7am and had Small Girl at nursery and 7.40.  Yes, in her pyjamas and without changing her nappy (at breakfast time she smears weetabix all over herself and then does a poo.  I’m just saving time for everyone) but still, it’s impressive.

And tonight… Well, she was asleep at 7.05pm.  This is UNPRECEDENTED.  This may be the first time in my whole life that I have had a child asleep in bed this early (and yes, she did wake up 45 minutes later.  I’m guessing she thought she’d just let me have one episode of West Wing. Fooled you! I was tidying the kitchen! Oh wait…).    So what I’m thinking is that I need some sort of stasis booth.  Each night I can put one of them in it for the night and deal with the other one.  Big Girl is much easier to get to sleep once she’s in bed but can have running tantrums until she gets there, on a bad night.  Small Girl, just by virtue of being small and not a 2-year-old, is much easier to get into bed but requires any amount of coaxing to get her to sleep. And still wakes up two or three times most nights.

I appreciate that, while in stasis they wouldn’t actually age, so this would stretch their childhoods out by approximately an extra quarter, and would cause difficulties as they wouldn’t age in line with school years.  But that’s a price I’m prepared to pay for easier evenings.  Now I just need to find some instructions…

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One child? What are you complaining about?

I’d like to start by mentioning that I spent a lot of the first few months with one baby sitting by the changing mat crying or climbing the walls with boredom and was incapable of doing anything other than looking after the baby, and barely capable of doing that quite a lot of the time.  With that disclaimer in place, let’s move on.

So, it turns out that looking after just one child is easy.  Easy-peasy, in fact.  But boring.  I miss adult company and conversation. Now, it turns out, I miss two-year-old conversation.  I said Small Girl was starting to talk.  Not really. She does giggle though.  It’s a pleasure to spend time with such a delightful baby.

I am enjoying my time on my own with Small Girl.  We’ve been doing some playing.  She’s discovered Big Girl’s handbag and wears it constantly.  I think there will be trouble when Big Girl comes back next weekend.  Some things are not meant to be shared.  She’s also taken control of the toy buggy.  It’s a lot easier to do anything with just one child to watch, or get ready.  I wish I’d known, when I had only one child, how much easier it was than having two (although for half of Big Girl’s life pre-Small girl I was pregnant with Small Girl. Pregnancy and a toddler is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy).

But, although I’m not entirely missing that background sound of “Small Girl pinching me!”, “Small Girl snatching!”, “Small Girl trying to get me!”, and the accompanying sound of Small Girl crying, followed by the pattering of feet and “I didn’t push her” when I go to see why, I think we are both missing Big Girl.  She left with her father yesterday just after 10.  Small Girl has been a bit miserable and wanting more comfort today.  And I was fine until I read something in the newspaper about Wojdan Shaherkani, Saudi Arabia’s first female Olympic competitor, and cried for 5 minutes.  I care about gender equality, but probably not that much.

Only six days to go.

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So this is what it’s like for people who are not outnumbered by their children

Tomorrow, Big Girl is going on holiday with her dad, for a week.  This will be the longest I’ve ever been apart from her and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to like it.  She is very excited – she’s going on holiday, she’s going with Daddy, she’s going to visit Grandma. I like seeing her so happy.  But already I’m getting teary at the thought of her being away.  I miss her when I’m at work for three days and I see her in the evenings.  I see other people with toddlers throwing tantrums and I feel envy.  Yes, and that relief that it’s not my tantrum to deal with. Obviously.

And I worry.  Her dad is a good driver but they’re going a long way along some narrow, winding roads where people overtake on blind bends at high speeds.  They could drive off a cliff or into a loch.  It is unnatural for her to be so far away from me.  If anything happens to her, I won’t be there. Again, there is something significantly wrong with the universe.  Where is Dr Sam Beckett when you need him?

So… I have some plans.  I’m going to a 2nd birthday party.  I’m having a minor surgical procedure.  I’m going to stay with my parents to recover (and they’ve promised to have Small Girl in their room for one night, so I get all the benefits of a full night’s sleep with none of the being apart that normally goes with it). I’m thinking about taking Small Girl to look at tortoises, as if she’ll care.

Actually, I’m thinking that it will be really nice to have some time on my own with Small Girl.  She’s just started walking.  She’s making noises that sound like words as long as you know exactly what she’s looking at and what sound she makes to represent that item.  She’s started playing ‘chase’.  She’s at a lovely age and I don’t get enough time to appreciate it.  So I’m going to make the most of this opportunity which has been forced upon me.

Oh, and the opportunity afforded to me by the naps which she still takes, unlike her big sister, to finally tidy my kitchen.

Two hours an afternoon.  I can feel the jealousy emanating from all of you.

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