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Departures

Tuesday: my birthday.  A lovely, lovely day.  But also the day before Big Girl and Small Girl went away with their dad for five nights.  Five whole nights.  The first time in four years that I have been without one of my children for that long, if you count womb-time.  Which I do, as it largely consisted of feeling sick and being kicked from the inside.  So it should count for something.

So I spent the day feeling an urgent desire to make the most of every single minute with them, to not waste a single moment that I would later regret.  This lent the day a sense of intensity but also pre-nostalgia, that feeling that I was going to miss them, which permeated my time with them.

Bedtime came, and the knowledge that this could be Small Girl’s last breastfeed, as she might forget how to do it in the time away. (Except, of course, it wasn’t, because she was awake on and off all night, and I ended up trying to sleep in her bed with her while she screamed and kicked at me, and then tried to sleep in my bed with her while she screamed and kicked at me.  Still, I thought, I’m going to miss her when she’s gone…).  Almost the minute they were in bed, I wanted to cry because I missed them so much.

Wednesday: Breakfast, and then getting them dressed, trying to be kind to them (of course, I’m *always* kind.  Of course I am. Extra-kind, then).  Ex-Husband arrived 15 minutes before he said he would.  I wanted to punch him in the head.  As if it isn’t bad enough that he is taking my children away from me for FIVE WHOLE NIGHTS, he steals my last fifteen minutes with them, that time I planned for cuddles and one last story.  Oh, and teeth-cleaning.  Small Girl is happy to see Daddy. Big Girl says she wants to stay with me.  It is so hard.  I know when she comes back from Ex-Husband’s house she sometimes says she wants to stay with him, so I don’t really treat this as some kind of victory in a separated-parents-war.  I explain to her that I will miss her, and that she will have fun with Daddy, and that she will be ok.  She wants me to put her in the car.  I do so, trying not to look inside the car that I once drove around in with Ex-Husband, try not to see any signs of another woman’s presence in it.  I kiss Big Girl.  She clings to me and cries.  I peel her off me, tell her I will wave to her from the door, kiss her one last time.

And then they are gone, and I am alone.  I don’t know what to do.  I feel like I have everything and nothing to do, at the same time, like an engine with a broken drive-belt, turning uselessly.  My house is untidy and I have so much to do, but without two small children chasing me, no motivation and no sense of urgency.  I watch Dr Who (I want a t-shirt which says ‘I saw the Weeping Angels and survived!’) and have a bath.  Baths are lovely.  They should put them on prescription.  It is almost impossible to lie in a bath and not come out feeling more relaxed than you went in.

And then I start to prepare for *my* departure.

I knew, at some point, Ex-Husband would take both children to visit his mum, who lives an extraordinarily long way away, and that this would, of necessity, be for quite a long time.  So I decided that, when this happened, I would have a lovely holiday for myself.  I wanted to go to Prague.  And then it flooded.  And then I remembered that I don’t fly because it’s not really good for the environment.  And I couldn’t find anyone with time and money to go on holiday with me.  So I decided to go to Stratford upon Avon instead.  It’s lovely, it has bookshops and coffee shops, which is really all I need from a holiday, it’s easy to get to.  And I’ve never been there with Ex-Husband.

Here’s what I’ve discovered.  When you’re used to going anywhere with two small children, packing for just yourself is remarkable.  I *could* take less luggage for a two-night holiday for just me than for a quick trip to Ikea with Big Girl and Small Girl.  Obviously, I didn’t.  I had to pack more books than it is possible to read in two days, and a spare set of clothes and the world’s biggest packed lunch and my laptop for watching Dr Who on the train (is there anything nicer than watching TV, uninterrupted, while being whisked through British countryside? I don’t think so).  But even so, I looked at my packing and wondered what I’d forgotten.

And then I was ready to leave…

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Happy birthday to me…

I was up at 5 this morning, watching The Grinch with Small Girl.  My children, obsessed with this film, will probably grow up remembering it as some kind of special family tradition and insist on us watching it every year at Christmas.  I *like* making new traditions; unfortunately I *don’t* like The Grinch (“The Grinch didn’t like it; he didn’t like it a lot”).  Sadly, I am destined to spend the rest of my life not just watching it but reminiscing about it.

The early start was also unfortunate as last night I watched the first Weeping Angels episode of Dr Who.  I’d fervently avoided it because I’m scared of everything, and everyone is scared by it, so it seemed logical.  Except I didn’t like having holes in the storyline, and a couple of people said it wasn’t that scary really, and I realised that nothing so far had really scared me.  And it wasn’t that scary really.  It was tense and their faces are pretty alarming just before they attack, but it was fine.  So it’s just coincidence that I was still awake at 2.30 am, right?

Tomorrow is my birthday.  I’m going to be 34.  I thought I’d look back to my posts from June 2012, as I could remember nothing about becoming 33.  Turns out I should be grateful.

It’s been a funny year.  Some things I expected to change haven’t: I did assume I’d be divorced by now, and my house is still a tip and I still haven’t made a meal plan.  But some things have changed which I didn’t expect: I am happier and leaving some of shittier parts of my life behind, just a little. I’m starting to get attached to going to Quaker meetings.  Small Girl is starting to sleep.  I’m happy being single and don’t really see room in my life for any relationships more significant than the ones I already have. I’m watching Dr Who.  That I would never have expected.

Traditionally, for me, birthdays are a time for setting goals, making plans, thinking about what I want from the next year.  But things have changed so far and so fast, that I’m just going to wait and see.

I’m hoping for less vomiting than last birthday though.

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A bedtime in the life of…

If you were making a film of my life, tonight’s bathtime would be used to illustrate the frustration and social isolation of single mothers.  Wrestling with furious children who do not want to be bathed, Big Girl lying on the floor screaming that she “WANTS TO DO BALLET” rather than get in the bath, and then biting me because I tried to take her dress off, and then engaging in a kicking, thrashing tantrum because I put her in the bath and she “WANTED TO GET IN HERSELF”, which made Small Girl cry because she doesn’t really like being kicked.  Then lifting Big Girl out, at which point she runs away, presumably to DO BALLET, and then comes back and insists on getting in the bath herself, but she’s too furious and exhausted to do it, so I have to help her while we both pretend, precariously, that I’m not helping her at all.  And I wonder if someone is going to report the sound of someone being slapped to social services, and if they’ll believe that I was actually the slappee rather than the slapper.  And then exploring the idea that teeth must be cleaned, but that there are choices about where they might be cleaned (oh, always choices).  Then both girls want carrying, first, into the bedroom, and lie on the floor crying.  So I decide to carry the smallest one first and then go back for the biggest one.  But by the time I’ve got back to Big Girl, Small Girl has run back behind me and is crying furiously.  And juxtaposed with this is the soundtrack, my neighbours’ laughter as they barbecue and drink wine and sit in the warm evening sun, the evening I could be having if I wasn’t a pitiable single parent…

Except it’s not really like that.  We’ve had a lovely day celebrating Small Girl’s second birthday – we’ve been to the park and had a picnic with friends and family and played in the fountains and on the swings and had ice-cream and cake and been on the little train that goes round the park.  And as (I hope) every parent knows, there is a direct correlation between the amount of fun small children have and the amount of tears they produce at the end of the event.  Add into this the fact that it wasn’t Big Girl’s birthday today, so she’s spent the whole day not getting presents, and the heat and excitement, and it was a recipe for a challenging bedtime.  But not because I’m a pitiable single parent.  Just because, well, that’s children…

 

As an addendum, I started writing this at 8.15 pm, when I thought I’d actually done really well.  Small Girl had fed to sleep immediately and Big Girl had had one story and a cuddle and climbed into bed.  About half way through writing the post, I had gone back up to Big Girl demanding a drink, and then she had continued to mess for some time.  Shortly after this Small Girl started crying and refused to go back to sleep, graduating through screaming with rage and into hysterical, unconsolable sobbing.  Two hours later I finally had both children in bed again, and came downstairs to finish my post and drink some cider.  I no longer have any idea if this post makes any sense at all as my brain has been eaten by worms.

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