Now We Are Four

Hello, everybody! You may have noticed that Awesome Parenting Is Not What I Do has been unusually quiet this week. Well, we have been going through some rather dramatic and unexpected changes.

I’m not going to hash out the gory details, but I am now a single mother to Big Girl, Little Girl and Squeak. Their father has left our home, to live with another woman.

This was something I could never have predicted. Less than a week ago, I was making plans for our future, and slogging through our daily routine with a smile on my face. I did not ignore the warnings because there weren’t any. So you can understand that I am in shock. As are my poor children.

I know that some of you will be shocked as well, because you know all of us. All I can say is, sorry! If I’d known I woulda clued you in.

But this post is not about him, so I’m not going to go on about that bit. It is about me, and my wonderful daughters.

Before this week, I would have said that there was no way that I would be able to cope as a single mother. I needed the support of a partner to survive. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how I would juggle all of their needs and safeguard their emotional wellbeing.

As usual, I was full of shit.

Because I am being fucking awesome at it. The girls are fed, clean and attending school on time. They are still smiling and playing, and have gone to bed without a peep since he left. My house is tidy, the washing is done. I have begun to apply for all of the money that I am entitled to, as much as it irks me that I have to.

I am not saying that everything is fine. Everything is far from fine. My entire world has been ripped apart, and I feel like I’ve been hit with a brick. If I was alone, I can guarantee that I would have fallen apart by now. I would be collapsed on the couch in three-day-old clothes, weeping my heart out and listening to some blubby love songs from Cher, or some shit.

Thankfully, I can’t do that. And more importantly, I don’t want to. Because I am surrounded by three needy, funny, odd, intense children.

And by surrounded, I mean like a team of fucking snipers. Duck!

I cannot press pause on my life. They need to eat, and bathe, and be read to. Homework has to be done and lunchboxes filled. And that’s just the practical shit. On top of that, I have to deal with all of the emotional fallout from them. The tears, the questions, the insecurities.

That is hard. Fucking hard. I would never do anything to hurt them and yet here I am, bolstering their self-esteem and showing them how much I love them.

There’s a good bit though. Children are really resilient, and even when faced with an enormous change they can still find it within them to be fun, to play and to laugh. And I get to see all of that. It is a warm bath for my poor broken heart when they say something funny, or do a funny walk, or throw their little arms around my neck and squeeze.

I’m talking about hugs, dude. They’re not trying to kill me!

This time.

You’ll be happy to know, I still have some funny shit to talk about. Even in the middle of a disaster, stuff happens that makes me laugh my ass off! For example, the story of the first triple child bath.

I haven’t run the bath in my house for fucking ages. Mark used to shower the big girls and I would bath Squeak in the kitchen sink, as it was easier. And by easier, I mean there was less chance of discarded food showering my carpet as I legged it to the bathroom.

Just so ya know.

But it’s not that hard, right?

  1. Turn on taps to correct temperature
  2. Put in plug
  3. Wait until water fills to correct depth
  4. Switch taps off

I fucked up at around about point 3. I just forgot babies were so goddamn short! When I put her in, the water reached almost up to her armpits. Probably at this point, I should have poured some water out before continuing. But do you know what? I’m just a bit bloody laissez-faire, I guess, and I figured it was only going to be for a few minutes.

And it was totally fine, for the few minutes. It all unravelled when I decided to wash her hair.

Squeak is at that blissful stage which is only a few steps up from completely bald. Her hair is thin, wispy and grows straight upwards in the middle of her head. But it means that all I have to do is dump a few handfuls of water on top of her head and it is clean.

So, that is what I did.

But you know when you do that, and they duck their heads when the water trickles onto their faces? Yeah, that happened.

Unfortunately for Squeak, rather than ducking into a pocket of air, she sploshed her face directly into the water.

Oops.

She recoiled from the water with a porcine grunt. Then repeated it as the water trickled on her face. I swear to God, she did it about five times before I called it quits on the whole hair thing. Snort, recoil, snort, recoil, snort, recoil. Over and over again.

Fucking hilarious.

Um, I mean, totally not gonna do that again!

And let’s not even mention that yesterday Squeak insisted on bringing a fart machine on the school run with her. Flatulent echoes battered my eardrums as I prayed that she would fall asleep before we reached the school gates. She did, thank fuck!

So, here I am. My old identity is gone. I am not who I thought I was last week. And that is going to take a fair bit of getting used to. But I am going to carve a brand new identity for myself, right here in my safe haven with my beloved daughters. This week has shown me that I am strong, strong beyond measure. Strong enough to shoulder their pain and mine, without crumbling. Strong enough to push on when I feel like crawling under my duvet and hiding for a while.

And through the tears which I shed at random throughout the day, I am smiling. Because I have some really good shit going here. I have my daughters around me, who adore me and keep me going when the day seems dark. I am making new plans, and dreaming of a new future. One where I will feel less vulnerable and hurt and confused.

I am a strong woman, surrounded by strong women (and a few strong men as well!). Never in my life have I had greater support from my friends and family. I am not alone. I know that every step I take, someone is behind me urging me on, with arms waiting to catch me if I fall. Together we can laugh, and cry, and rage. And somehow, I will get through this.

I feel like Awesome Parenting Is Not What I Do may take a slightly different turn from now on. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still going to write the funny shit you guys all love. In fact, I have one such post currently swirling around in my mind tubes, waiting to be created when I sit down for long enough!

But also, I will be talking about my life, and what is happening, and how I am feeling. Because this blog is my life. And sometimes life just isn’t fucking funny. I am hoping, though, that it’ll help me to pick out the funny bits. To laugh and enjoy the small achievements and hilarities.

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That’s what life is about, isn’t it?

The Leaky Tap

It is said that parenthood is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. It is full of highs and lows, victories and epic failures.

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If anyone knows that, it’s me.

One of the effects I have noticed the most is that I have become irritatingly emotional. Now, even pre-children I was the kind of person that cried easily. I cried when I was happy, I cried when I was sad. Oh, and I cried when I had a migraine so bad that I felt my head was about to explode.

All perfectly justifiable, in my opinion.

Not any more. Now, it feels like I cry just because my eyes are a bit dehydrated.

I actually find it annoying a lot of the time. It is quite embarrassing to start whinging your head off at the drop of a hat. Especially in public. My voice cracks, my throat aches, and if I’m mid-sentence I have to break off while I get my shit together.

I wouldn’t mind, but most of the time I’m crying for no good reason. Or if there is a reason, then I’d be able to deal with it a lot better if I wasn’t blinking three times a second to try and clear the blurry film of tears from my eyes.

This is a (non-exhaustive, naturally) list of examples.

1.The book ‘Dogger’ – Have you ever read this book? It was one of my sister’s favourites as a child, and I have many happy memories of listening to my dad reading it to us. So of course, I was delighted when it was passed on to me. I looked forward to sharing it with my own children.

Sorry, what did you say? How many times have I read it to them?

Erm.

Once. And it was a fucking travesty.

I don’t think I got through even one page before the tears started. It’s just so freaking sad. The little boy lose his stuffed dog, his most beloved toy. He sobs and sobs. Then he finds it again, then it’s gone again and oh God I just can’t cope!

Bravely, I soldiered on. My voice wavered and at times went all high and squeaky. Big Girl started to suspect something was up when I had to keep pausing to wipe my eyes and clear my throat. At first, she only threw me a few judgemental looks. But as I snivelled my way through this seemingly endless book, she soon started to laugh at me.

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I did make it to the end. By that point my throat had nearly closed over.

Shameful.

Soon after, I hid it. So well that even I can’t remember where it is.

And I am never going to read it again.

2. Slow Motion Video With Inspirational Music – This one is just ridiculous. In fact, I’m >< this close to taking it out. Because some of the people reading this actually know me in real life. I’m never going to be able to look them in the eye again.

Ah, sod it. I’m doing a public service here. The next time you do something hideously embarrassing and your face feels like it’s about to combust, remember me.

You’re welcome.

Anyway, allow me to elaborate. I’m going to pick X Factor to use as an example here, because that show does this more than any I’ve ever watched. I don’t even watch it anymore because I can’t take the emotional upheaval.

Right, you know when someone does an audition on X Factor. It happens the most when it’s someone who has triumphed over adversity, or is a child, or looks a bit different from the norm. Man, that show is so formulaic.

They’ve finished their audition and been voted through. The crowd stands and cheers, and they dash backstage to the loving arms of family and friends.

Blah.

Suddenly, they start to move in sloooooow mooooootion. The music builds.

And that is all it takes.

Floods of tears. It’s not just X Factor, either. Every time those two elements meet up, I’m reaching for the tissues. Like an advert for Cillit Bang. Or Crufts.

3. Accidentally Hurting My Kids – I’m redeeming myself slightly with this one, because it actually makes sense.

Obviously I don’t go round deliberately injuring my kids. What do you think I am, some kind of animal? But sometimes, accidents happen. Especially when you’re rushing, which I almost always am. I’m changing Squeak’s nappy and I catch her skin with my nail. Or one of them sneaks up behind me, and I turn around and knock her flying.

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Actually, I’m not taking the blame for that one.

Of course, she sobs as if she’s broken every bone in her body. I feel awful. I wrap her up in my arms and cuddle the pain away. And yes, there may be a bit of eye stinging going on.

4. When I’m Tired – exhaustion comes with the territory of being a parent. Broken nights with baby, comforting a child who has had a nightmare, dragging myself out of bed to get them ready for school. And also the racing round all day to get everything done.

I. Am. Tired.

And when I’m tired, I do annoying things. Like drop something and pick it up again three times in a row. Or drop my toast on the kitchen floor. Butter-side down, naturally.

At any other time, this is nothing more than a minor irritation. I may sigh and swear under my breath but then I just get on with it.

But not when I’m tired.

Then, it is more like an utter disaster. Maybe there is a fictitious being who is deliberately doing these things to mess with me.

Excessive, mayhap. And I’ll admit that weeping as I remake the toast is a bit of an over reaction.

Cut me some slack. I haven’t slept for years!

5. Singing Children – This one I know is silly. But, as the season of Christmas plays and concerts approaches, it is at the forefront of my mind.

You would be mistaken for thinking that I did this because I am so proud of my kids. That would be fine, right? It isn’t, though.

I think it’s the sound that does it. Little, tuneless voices singing “Twinkle Twinkle” or “When Santa Got Stuck Up The Chimney.” It gets me every time.

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I forgot the tissues last year. Not making that mistake again. The tail of my sling was sodden by the end. And of course I was sitting near the quietest parents. Not the boisterous toddlers, or the chatty people.

Every sniff and choked sob felt like it echoed round the room. It didn’t. But it felt like it.

6. The song ‘Proud’ by Heather Small – I love this song. Heather Small is such an amazing singer, plus it reminds me of being a kid.

I like to play music while I eat with the children. They have a bit of a dance once they’ve finished, and as a bonus I get to start indoctrinating them to like my stuff. Heh heh.

I sing along between mouthfuls as well. But for some reason, every time ‘Proud’ gets to about halfway through, I choke. The actual song doesn’t make me feel sad, so I can’t understand it.

It totally ruins my jam as well.

7. The Kids Being Upset – This doesn’t happen all the time. Which is lucky, because with three kids at least one of them is crying at any one time.

Despite appearances, this is her sad face. According to her, anyway.

Despite appearances, this is her sad face. According to her, anyway.

It’s just the big stuff. When Big Girl is upset because someone has been really unkind at school, for example. Or when Squeak is crying for the 45th time in an hour.

That’s when I engage my secret crying reflex. I don’t want them to see me crying, because then they’ll be even more upset. So somehow I manage to cry completely silently, and with no shedding of tears.

Surely that’s an impressive skill.

8. Other People’s Kids Being Upset – This one is just daft. What you have to remember, when you’re thinking I’m a loon right now, is that I don’t choose to do this. It just happens!

You know when a little kid trips right in front of you? They skid along the pavement, scraping their palms and knees. A huge howl explodes forth, and the parent runs to scoop them up.

That’s the moment. The awful sound of their screams and the very unfairness of it all. One minute they’re wreathed in smiles, and the next they’re covered in blood.

It’s not cool.

9. When I’m Ill – The problem with having young kids in school is that they bring home every bug in the world. And as you snuggle them on the couch as they fight off another cold, or wipe their face with a cool cloth after they’ve been sick, they’re passing it straight on to you.

I don’t think I’ve actually been well since September. It’s been cold after cold after sore throat after cough. For three goddamn months.

I hate colds. They’re bad enough to make you feel like utter crap, but not bad enough for you to take to your bed. Your head is pounding and your joints are aching. Your nose is raw and all you want to do is sleep. But no, you have to keep on doing all the usual stuff. Maybe with a couple of ibuprofen if you’re feeling particularly fragile.

I just can’t hack it. I’ve always been that way. I can drag my way through with all manner of illnesses. I’m not one to swoon and do nothing. But at the same time, I can’t stop the weeping.

The trigger is when I’m standing, cooking dinner or cleaning up. I feel so weak that I’m surprised my legs don’t collapse underneath me. And it’s ages until bedtime.

Whimper.

Thankfully, there is a beneficial side effect to this. I laugh really easily as well. I can take great joy from funny things the children say. I love a beautiful view. And Larry David is truly hilarious.

But seriously, I’m running out of tissues here.

Just call me The Leaky Tap.

Ha! You have literally no idea how chuffed I was to find this picture.

Ha! You have literally no idea how chuffed I was to find this picture.