Thursday, May 28, 2009

Adventures Of An Incurable Optimist...not

Most of my life just feels so wrong right now.

Although I have lived in Chicago for nearly 10 years, I still don't feel at home. Being here - so far away from my nearest and dearest - is fundamentally wrong. Being a single parent also feels, understandably, wrong.

I like to perceive myself as a 'glass half full' person, but obviously I'm just kidding myself. When I consider my life as it stands I can only see that I will be happy in the future...happy when I am back at home near my family, happy when I get my working life together and am more productive professionally, happy when I am in a relationship again. But all those things are some way off in time. And the key to happiness, if you read all the books on the subject, is just making the decision to be happy NOW.

If only it was that easy. Or rather, if only I found it that easy. But like so many other things in life, it just presents itself as a little bit fallacy and a whole lot chore. I understand the theory, but trying to put it into practice makes me feel an even greater failure. 'Life is just a game' 'Life is what you make of it' 'Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change'. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. And I'm not deeply UNhappy - it just all feels sublimely wrong.

The boys were with their father for the first five nights of the half-term break. They had a lovely time. I didn't. I have come to realise that the pleasure of sleeping in is only truly appreciated when a) you are sharing the experience with someone else or b) it is at someone else's expense. Just being able to sleep in for the sake of it is not half as gratifying. I didn't have much to do for those five days - and ended up doing much less. I am sure a prisoner in solitary confinement could have been more productive.

I spent most of the five days in some variation of a supine position, just switching locations to add a little interest to my day. I got up and managed to relocate my sluggish body to the sofa, where I would watch TV and read Kate Atkinson, before succumbing to a nap. The only point I was relatively horizontal was when I sat glued for hours watching YouTube clips of Britain's Got Talent, sucking out the creme filling of a pack of double stuff Oreos. I did manage to leave the house on one occasion to go and eat my body weight in ribs at a friend's barbeque (although quite how I have lived here nine years and have never quite registered the national requirement of grilling food outside to commemorate Memorial Day is a little perturbing).

Of course, with the advantage of Skype, I did get to 'see' the boys on a daily basis, having a whale of a time in their dad's place. And that's just great. How wonderful that they are having such a happy, relaxing time. Just what I want. Only it just feels plain wrong to witness all that vibrant chirpiness in a location just over a mile away, with the man that I loved for years pottering about in the background. How has this happened to our family? How did we reach this point where we are now so totally dismantled? How is it that there is one adult in this situation taking everything in their stride...and that adult isn't me?

The boys came home yesterday and it was fantastic to have all that life and energy back in the house. For the first hour. After that I felt the need to self-medicate with a gin and tonic in order to observe all the bouncing off the walls without throwing a hissy fit. All I have wanted in my life over the past few years has been a little balance. But at the present time it is either an all or nothing scenario. I am either in sole charge of both boys and am totally exhausted by the non-stop nature of all this testosterone in action. Or I am alone. Both scenarios feel utterly unfulfilling.

What I would give to add another adult (okay, let's be greedy here for a minute...maybe two) to the mix. Preferably one not accompanied by errant children of their own. My parents, my sister or my brother would be good candidates - someone who delights in my children's company, takes great joy in sitting elbow deep in playdoh for an hour, plays hide and seek till the cows come home and, most importantly, continues to see the inherent goodness in them even when they are being the vilest of tykes. And maybe once in a while I will get a proper hug from someone that I deeply care about and be reassured that I really AM doing a good job.

Anyway, as there isn't another adult in the vicinity, last night saw me sitting on my arse as soon as the kids were in bed, in preparation for hours of trash TV viewing. The gloss is also starting to wear off being in sole charge of the remote control. In my previous life I would be forced on a regular basis to companionably observe shows that required the viewer to have more than half a brain cell to comprehend. That is no longer the case. So now I watch back-to-back episodes of all the dross that I could never get away with before. The Real Housewives of New Jersey is the current favourite. Most of my more cerebral favourites (Mistresses, Ashes to Ashes, Millionaire Matchmaker, Desperate Housewives) have all recently come to the end of a season and now TRHONJ is pretty much all I am left with.

However, I was up-to-date on all the shenanigans in NJ. So in a bit of a grump and with a cynical sigh I opted to watch a documentary by Michael J Fox called Adventures of an Incurable Optimist. Oh here we go. Someone with all the answers. Someone with an incurable degenerative disease with all the answers. This is really going to make me feel good about myself.

Well...the programme itself was entertaining and informative and certainly provoked a lot of thought. Did you know that Bhutan measures GNH as a greater measure of the country's success than GDP? That's Gross National Happiness. They even have a Commissioner for it and a political manifesto - they take it very, very seriously (but always with a smile and sometimes with an impish wink).

The key findings of the programme were that there are two key factors generally governing optimism.

1. Genetics - you are either born predisposed to optimism. Or you're not. (oh fart, I am so screwed)

2. Your social environment - feeling part of a family and community. Being surrounded by people that you care about and that care about you. (Oh double fart, with follow-through.)

Actually, it did raise my optimism a little. It was nice to have confirmed that my feelings of everything being off kilter is not just me going a wee bit mad-in-the-nappa. That, despite the dodgy inherent genetics which cause me to dwell on the worst case scenario, my current situation is lacking in the essential ingredients that create happiness and quench your soul.

So not mad then. Or really depressed. Just a bit blah. Just a bit lost.

Just a bit wrong.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Prayers of Gratitude

Both boys are at that irritating stage where their whole world seems to be dominated by Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! and Want! Want! Want!

They always have some new piece of plastic tat in their sights and their lack of appreciation for the abundance of toys that have overtaken the house (that I like to call home although when viewed through objective adult eyes it appears I now live in an overstocked warehouse for the Plastic Tat Emporium) regularly has me grinding my teeth down to stubs and furtively shredding sticker charts and scattering the remnants on the deck whilst my angelic cherubs are sleeping.

In an effort to curb this constant full- on assault of materialistic desire I decided that it would be a good idea to try to raise the level of appreciation in the household. To at least one notch above totally ungrateful spoilt brats. So now every night, after stories and before the eagerly awaited Fiery Ferguson epic tale, we all take time to say prayers of gratitude - just a short moment to reflect on all the blessings in our life and say thank you to God.

Mum: Okay boys, that's the last of the stories for tonight. Time for our prayers! Who wants to go first?

(Cue simultaneous shouting and bouncing on the beds.)

Boys: ME! ME! ME! ME! ME!

Mum: Alright. Settle down. Johnny Drama, if I've asked you once I've asked you a thousand times, please stop attempting to scale the wall by climbing on your headboard and get back under the covers. No - you don't need to be as high as you can for God to hear you, he will hear you perfectly fine when you are lying down in bed, I promise. That's better. All snuggly? Great. Okay then JD, it's your turn to go first tonight.

JD (head now under covers): mumble... mumble... mumble... mumble... mumble... whisper... mumble... giggle... snort

Mum: Okay Captain Underpants, your turn for prayers sweetheart

JD: I'M. NOT. EVEN. FINISHED. MUMMY! I will tell you when I am finished - I will say AMEN.

Mum: Sorry JD - finish your prayer then.

(Cue more mumbling and rustling under the covers. JD is only 3 but he is already adept at being given an inch and taking the proverbial mile. I am beginning to realise that he has readily adopted the tactic of prayers as yet another effective strategy in his overall nightly objective of delaying the process of bedtime as long as humanly possible. If I'm not careful the Captain and I could be sitting here listening to his inaudible little murmurings till dawn...)


JD: Amen!

Phew. Now for Captain Underpants.

CU: Dear God, thank you for the sunshine. And the rain. Thank you for my mummy and my daddy. And my brother. And my school. Er... And thank you for my bed. And my cuddly toys. Um... And all my other toys. And my books. (Big pause - eyes search the ceiling for divine inspiration I'm guessing. None found apparently) Amen!

Mum: Lovely prayer gorjus - my turn now

(in a furtive whisper): Can I get a sticker for that prayer Mummy?

Mum (blatantly ignoring sticker request and with eyes closed in a pose of deep spiritual connection): Dear God, thank you for my wonderful day. Thank you for my two incredible boys. I love them both so much. I am so lucky to be their Mummy and I am thankful for them every second of the day (the 'every second' is stretching it a little but I figure God will forgive me this little white lie - he's all seeing and knows exactly what I have to put up with). Thank you for all the beautiful flowers that are blooming and all the pretty green leaves on the trees. Thank you for my wonderful family and all my amazing friends...

This audible ramble continues for a few minutes. And it is true. These are some of the many things that I am truly and deeply grateful for. However, there is always a voice in my head adding to the external monologue, expressing a silent and reverent appreciation for the true highlight of my day.


Dear God, the deepest and heartfelt thank you for the divine angel I encountered in the bra fitting section of Victoria Secret today. I'm not quite sure if she was spiritually elevated or just high on drugs but I was certainly witnessing miracles when she waved away my pitiful selection of 36Bs and told me in no uncertain terms that my correct size is in fact a 34C.

Did you hear that?

A 34C!

I have waited a long and torturous 42 years for this moment. How gratifying to know that all good things really do come to those that wait.

This has to count as one of the happiest days of my whole life. I know you didn't see fit to bless me with a God given cleavage but apparently Victoria's little Secret is, with the aid of underwear constructed from some form of reinforced steel and more air than your average Zeppelin - and by manually stretching and securing the fat from under my armpits into the cups - I can create one of my very own.

I was inspired to kiss this angel in gratitude, but to my experienced eye she appeared to be wearing at least half a tube of Maybelline's finest - and I didn't think the prospect of getting lip locked to a half naked and highly excitable customer for the remainder of the afternoon was going to be top of her agenda. So instead I spent the majority of the grocery money on 4 new bras and 9 matching pairs of knickers and made sure she got the commission recognition at the check out. I may be surviving the next couple of weeks on a nutritional combination of cat food and crumbs eeked from the back of the sofa cushions but it was certainly a cheaper alternative to the surgery I had been considering (and, anyway, I could do with losing a few pounds now that summer is finally upon us).

And to demonstrate the depth of my appreciation I promise that me and my newly inflated bosum will put heart and soul into the creation of all Fiery Ferguson tales for the next week.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Puppetry Of The Penis

Captain Underpants has many talents. The voluntary modelling of 3-d objects using his male body part does not appear to be one of them right now.

The same cannot be said for Johnny Drama.

Johnny Drama found his penis when he was 2 months old and hasn't let go since. It is like living with a pint sized person who is constantly perfecting his balloon modelling skills...without having any balloons in the vicinity.

When he was safely encased in Pampers, this wasn't so much of an issue. Since potty training himself at the age of 2 his preferred mode of dress has been naked from the waist down, allowing for maximum ventilation and undeterred access. At first he unconsciously practiced the simple protective cupping manoeuvre occasionally interrupted by a gentle tweak or flick with his fingers. It all seemed a natural and innocent comforting gesture and I never gave much thought to it.

Little did I know that 18 months later I would be visually assaulted on a daily basis by a three and a half year old performing a repertoire of penile contortions that would make most grown men's eyes water.

In the midst of getting dressed in the morning there's the quick practice of the last chicken at Sainsbury's, followed by the greyhound then the wristwatch and a restorative helicopter or two. Whilst watching 30 minutes of allotted Tom and Jerry before bath time there's the slightly more complex Eiffel Tower, morphing into a miniature elephant, finishing with a flourish in a hamburger that any Happy Meal could be proud of.

If I didn't know any better I would assume I have birthed a child with tackle fashioned out of the material that they used to create Stretch Armstrong in the 70's. Surely it shouldn't be possible to stretch an appendage in your mid-section that is currently two inches in length (tops) to tickle your own ear lobe? I still wouldn't believe it unless I had borne witness to it with my very own eyes. And with more regularity than is surely good for my health.

Since he was a baby, Johnny Drama has exhibited a personality that seemed destined for the stage. It had just never crossed my mind that he might garner fame and fortune with the ancient art of genital origami.

Until now.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Language Timothy!

It's always a proud rite of passage when you overhear your child using their first swear word, isn't it? Such a reflection of the quality of parenting you are providing.

Captain Underpants was three and in the midst of the I'll-do-things-my-way-and-in-my-own-time phase, which is, oh, such a pleasure to experience. HE wanted to play on his train table. I was quite happy for him to play quietly at his train table...AFTER he had bought his breakfast plate and cup to the kitchen. Even with the greatest will in the world, my patience for repeating simple requests ad infinitum is bordering on negligible. I can usually manage one with a pleasant tone and polite verbiage before free falling into authoritative and commanding, landing with a bump into threats and consequences.

I was just at the point of confiscating Thomas, Gordon and the whole of the Island of Sodor when Captain Underpants looked at me very solemnly and said, "I promise I will in a minute Mummy, I just can't right this minute because I'm not feeling too well."

"Oh really? What's the matter? If you're not well then you need to stop playing trains, I'll get you some medicine and you can go to bed."

"No, I'm okay. I'm not THAT ill. I've just got this bloody headache."

I am stunned into speechlessness and quickly stuff my head into a kitchen cupboard to stifle the silent mirth that tackles me out of nowhere. The delivery was so perfect. The tone so calm and nonchalant. It completely threw me and without another word I helplessly wiped the tears from my eyes and retrieved his cup and plate myself. I wasn't sure whether to talk to him about his use of a swear word, but I didn't want to draw too much attention to it, for fear he would add it to his how-to-embarrass-mummy arsenal that he frequently resorted to in public situations. I decided to leave it - and have a word with husband later about not swearing in front of the kids.

A couple of months later my sister came to visit and we were 'enjoying' the process of bath time. That is, a bath had been run and two naked boys were racing up and down the hall way littering every surface with dirty clothes and shrieking at the top of their lungs. My sister was slightly horrified by their behaviour, particularly their blatant disregard for both Mummy and Auntie's clear instructions to "stop running around like lunatics right now and Get. Into. The. Bath." Being a novice, Auntie was trying to coral them into the bathroom, but of course this was purely interpreted as the greatest game of chase every invented and only served to increase the mayhem a thousandfold.

Being slightly more experienced in these matters I shepherded a ragged and breathless sister into the bathroom and we sat on the edge of the bath and waited for the boys to run out of steam.

At which point a naked two year old paused in the doorway long enough to shout with utter glee, "IT'S BLOODY CHAOS IN 'ERE!" before sprinting out of sight.

Auntie collapses into convulsive laughter and I slam the bathroom door shut quick, trying to find the I-don't-know-where-they-are-getting-this-from expression but-it-certainly-isn't-me. I can't fake it though. My Potty Mouth has been officially outed in front of family and there was nowhere to hide.

I am not sure when I morphed into Chicago's answer to Jo Brand. I certainly wasn't following the examples of my own parents, who never swore in front of us and kept a bar of soap to hand in case my sister and I were ever tempted to enter the world of profanity in their presence. If I heard the words Bloomin' Nora or Sugar! spoken with conviction that was the cue to take a quick assessment of the situation at hand and slink noiselessly into another room out of their sight.

I remember being 14 years old and falling off a horse, violently cracking the only part of my head not protected by a helmet on an upright concrete post whilst on the swift journey to the ground. My dad runs towards me, a look of horrified concern on his face. I reached up to rub the spot where skin had connected with inanimate object and stared in disbelief at a hand covered in blood. "Oh shit" I utter. In an instant my dad slaps me around the other side of my head, which up until that point had escaped injury, stating clearly, "this is no time for swearing young lady".

My parent's belief was that there are millions of expressive words in the English language - so to resort to swearing is unnecessary and downright lazy verging on ignorant. The fact that my speech is now regularly littered with Bloody Hell! Fuck! Shitting Shit Shit and What a hardly a testament to the parenting I received as a child.

I know I need to get a grip and set a better example - find some acceptable alternative expressions to litter my speech with - so the boys have a remote chance of expressing themselves intelligently over the years rather than sounding like a couple of oiks. Luckily for me, so far they may have mimicked the odd swear word but don't seem to have retained them in their daily vocabulary for repetitive use. Only yesterday my reactive verbal nature got the better of me when I spilt a bottle of water into my lap whilst driving. "SOD IT!" I shouted before I could stop myself. And for the next hour Johnny Drama explained, "Sud It!" every time we drove over a pot hole or he accidentally dropped a piece of his Pirate's Booty snack out of reach. (Note to self: time to forage out the muck in Johnny Drama's ears. On second thoughts...maybe not.)

Mind you, this is nothing compared to an incident that occurred over the winter. (I naturally have a very open and honest nature, however, I will never divulge this incident to ex for fear of him using it as evidence in court to substantiate my lack of parenting skills.) The weather was dire - 40 degrees below zero and the car was frozen solid. It had taken so much time stuffing the boys into appropriate layers, zipping snowsuits, grappling with snow boots and sourcing hats and gloves that we were late for school. The roads were like a skating rink and by the time we reached the drop off garage for Captain Underpant's school my knuckles were white with tension and my shoulders were locked up by my ear lobes. Just as I was attempting to skid my way into the garage an attendant placed a bollard in my path, preventing our entrance. He then tapped his wrist to indicate that it was now 8.30am and the garage was shut. I checked the clock in the car - 8.26am. I tried to wind the passenger window down but it was frozen shut. "Hey", I shouted, gesturing wildly to my own wrist, "it's not 8.30 yet!" I have a voice resembling a foghorn at the best of times, but as I was securely sealed by an impenetrable layer of ice inside the car it was obvious that my vocal complaint wasn't successful at reaching the person that it was aimed at.

"HEY! HEY! IT'S NOT 8.30! IT'S NOT 8.30!" I continued to scream. When it became clear that the rabid mother in the 4x4 was being ignored I totally lost the plot. I lent on my horn as hard as I could and shouted in rage, "Aaargh! They've shut the fucking garage early! I don't bloody believe it? What bastards!"

As soon as I heard my words ricochet around the interior of the car I paused and managed to catch my breath. Maybe the boys hadn't heard me? I breathed in deeply and started to drive around the block to try to find parking. As I negotiated my way through snow mounds and ice patches I said, slowly and calmly, "sorry for shouting boys - I'm just going to drive round the block and find somewhere to park. OK?"

Johnny Drama turned with concern to Captain Underpants (the font of all knowledge in his world). "Where are we going? Why are we driving away from your school?"

At which point Captain Underpants exclaimed loudly and with vehemence, "Cos the bastards have shut the Fucking garage, that's why! Ugh. WHY did they shut the fucking garage Mama? It's not even 8.30!"

I think this ranks as definitely my finest parenting moment to date. Oh the pride. Were IS my Mother of the Year Award medal? And I am just so relieved and thankful that this explanation wasn't repeated to his teacher upon the innocent question, "hello Captain Underpants, why are you late for school this morning?"

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Thwarted By A Five Year Old Being Too Damn Adorable

Picture the scene. Class of twenty 5 year olds, all sitting nicely on pint sized chairs in a semi circle, waiting to delight their mums with a mini performance of sorts.

Cue the singing of "You are my sunshine" whilst waving big yellow painted suns in an arc above their head from right to left. Aaah. So cute.

Cue the presentation of the suns to each individual mum. "You are my sunshine mum". Oh bless. They are so earnest and intent and adorable.

Oh hang about. This is a new format - each child solemnly stands up in turn and explains why they love their mummy so much.

"I love my mummy and she is special because she is pretty." (And she is. Stunning in fact. And newly divorced. Going out on the town with her is akin to Miss Universe going for dinner for drinks with Waynetta Slob. She gets a lot of attention. I slouch in the corner feeling like the dog's dinner and obviously appearing just as appetizing as far as all the men are concerned.)

"I love my mummy and she is special because she takes me to the park."

Ooh - wait for it. Captain Underpants stands and fixes his big baby blues on mine.

"I love my mummy and she is special because she does the best bedtime stories."

And that's why he loves me. Not because I am pretty. Not because of the hours I spend at the park. Not for all the nutritious food I force him to eat or the endless cuddles and kisses I force him to endure. I tell a good story. I guess it could be worse.

After the final song is sung and the glittery Mother's Day cards are handed over with great aplomb and pride Captain Underpants whispers in my ear.

"I said you did the best bedtime stories Mama."

"I know you did sweetheart. That was lovely. I am so happy you like them."

"I was talking about Fiery Ferguson Mama. But I didn't want to say his name because he is our secret isn't he? And NO-ONE in my class has a bedtime story as special as Fiery Ferguson. So it is our secret. Okay?"

Okay. Nice timing Universe. It couldn't have been more pertinent.

Guess I am stuck with him then.

Fiery Ferguson: 1 Mum: 0

Goddamn Mother's Day and irresistable 5 year olds.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Where's St George When You Need Him?

I need a knight in shining armour. Not just any old knight. But one with specific experience in slaying magical monsters. In particular, Fiery Ferguson, the imaginary dragon I invented when I was naive and completely clueless and thought I was on the road to being Super Mum.

I have always followed the bedtime routine touted by all and sundry as the sure fire means to get your children to anticipate and welcome bedtime, then fall asleep for 12 hours straight without a whimper. Bath. Stories and cuddles. Bed. Lights out. Silence. Told you I was naive. (This was also the time that I could recite almost verbatim the haloed written word of Gina Ford, Tracy Hogg and Annabelle Karmel and followed their advice to the letter. Never straying for one second, because, as I mentioned I was completely clueless and thought that this would give the impression that I was a good mum and knew what I was doing.)

So when Captain Underpants was about 2 years old, and I was losing the will to live when faced with reading Goodnight Moon for the gazillionth time, I created an imaginary friend for my little guy - who happened to be a big dragon called Fiery Ferguson. I have to say that my intentions weren't exactly pure right from the start. There was a little voice at the back of my head which was quite confident that this would ultimately be my meal ticket to fame, fortune and a truck load of cash. That these innocent little adventure stories would one day become books sold to children all over the world and that JK Rowling would finally be given a run for her money where children's literature was concerned. Hmmm. Yes, well, let's just say that's not quite how things have turned out.

Anyway, every night I would snuggle with Captain Underpants in the rocking chair, the room cast in soft shadows from the night light, and tell a story about his adventure with Fiery Ferguson. Captain Underpants was quite a cautious little fellow at the time and most of the stories were simple tales of how, together with FF, he was being bold and brave and overcoming fears of great magnitude. They would go to the park and slide down the highest slide, or climb the highest point of the climbing frame. Sometimes they would paddle in Lake Michigan, then cover their bodies in sand without any concern for the scratchy gritty sensation. They would take the bus. Or the train. Together they learnt to jump high, run fast, skip, hop and tumble without a care in the world. They never ran screaming from bugs but would catch them (gently) and take them home. They loved dogs. The bigger the better. In fact, there wasn't a single animal with sharp claws and carnivorous teeth that could phase the intrepid Captain Underpants and his best friend, Fiery Ferguson.

I'm not sure how long I thought the Fiery Ferguson phase would last when I started it. But it certainly wasn't nearly four years. Four long and arduous years. Give me a rope someone please, so that I can put at least one of us out of our misery.

See, this is what happens when you are trying to reach beyond all rational expectations of what is necessary for a child's well being. I have unwittingly made a rod for my own back and the moment has finally arrived when my only desire is to use it to beat some sense into myself, should the urge ever take me to venture into Super Mum realm again.

Things wouldn't be so bad if I remained in control of the story telling and could keep spinning it towards whichever moral little tale or minor achievement I think is pertinent. But my control ceased about six months ago and now I am reduced to telling the story that my two miniature would-be authors conjure up. There are no moral undertones to their stories that I am aware of. But there's lots of fighting. Specifically super hero fighting. And the only achievement gained night after night after night after bloody night is the winning of the battle. The details of the battle are never important. But the winning is ESSENTIAL. Oh, and the chopping off of a baddies neck.

It is doing my head in.

Because (would you Adam and Eve it?) apparently this lovely, friendly dragon that I fashioned from the goodness of my nurturing mummy, in fact, best buds with all of the super heroes that you can throw a stick at: transformers, power rangers, TMNTs, the Incredible family, all of the Jedi and many more besides. And there isn't a day goes by that his extraordinary dragon skills, and the super hero abilities of his side kicks Captain Underpants and Johnny Drama, aren't called into action against decepticons, the omnidroid, mutated animals of all varieties (there is no discrimination) and, more often than not, the dark side of the force.

Every single night I am instructed to recite a slightly different variation of the same predictable story - and all I can think about can I kill this bloody dragon off? He has to go. It has reached a point where it is surely him or me. I know which side the boys would take so it would have to be a cunning and irretractable death. There can be no perceived blood on my hands, so to speak.

Do you have any ideas?

I fantasize that in a particularly violent encounter with both Darth Maul and Darth Vader Fiery Ferguson leaps forward with his fiery breath, certain to overwhelm them and....oops, gets stabbed in the heart by not one but two light sabers. And dies.

Or, maybe he is The Incredible's distraction tactic for the omnidroid...but unfortunately gets ripped wing from unfortunate wing and limb from unfortunate limb by this ginormous fighting machine. And dies.

Could it be that he gets wedged in the sewery world of the TMNTs, swallows a tummy full of malevolent rats and poo. And dies.

Maybe he just gets heart burn during his victory flight over Lake Michigan, falls into the water, is too heavy to rescue, sinks like a stone. And dies.

I am open to ideas. The more violent and sadistic the better (and if we can weave in someone getting their neck chopped off at least the boys will be happy).

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

It's Official - I Am Too Amicable

"I think the reason the boys are unsettled is that you are being too amicable and that is making them confused". That was the consensus of the counsellor. Shame she hadn't been in my house that very morning as I screamed obscenities down the phone at ex because, after being away for a long weekend he had promised to be there Monday morning to see the boys and he slept in and couldn't make it.

Of course, being the idiot that I am, and the sort of parent that just loves to set her kids up for a fall, I had talked to the boys excitedly about daddy coming over to say hi and how much he had missed them and how he would need the biggest hugs and kisses on his arrival.

Which never happened.

On reflection, no big deal. Certainly not big enough to start world war III over down the telephone. I guess there is a lot of inherent anger that sometimes erupts. And sometimes I just get so fucking mad that I am the one that is supposed to defend him when he lets the boys down and they automatically take it out on me. And OK, it's not very big of me but sometimes I get plain pissed off that he can sleep in, when I rarely get that luxury and am so exhausted right now with their daily early waking habits that my brain has the functioning ability of a sloth and I look as attractive as a crumpled dirty grey flannel.

After the hysterical episode I did gather my good parenting wits about me and apologise to the boys for shouting at daddy. Took responsibility for my actions. Said I was going to apologise (which I did - screaming at each other in front of the kids is something that we did a lot of 2-3 years ago for quite some time and I still have vivid memories of the confusion and heartache in the boys' eyes - it is something that we take great pains not to repeat now).

In trying to soften the blow for the boys following the separation, the fact that we appear to get on and care about each other is not making a whole heap of sense to their 3 and 5 year old brains. So we need to ensure we have predictable structure and routine with regards to when they can expect to see daddy and stay with daddy and when they are with mum. And we need to be clear that this situation is not going to change. Ever. Mummy and Daddy are always going to live in separate houses. The End.

In all honesty, I had been harbouring thoughts of 'what if?' and 'could we make it work?' and 'maybe he will realising what he is missing and we can be in love again?'.

And at least I know now, after the subject was broached with the counsellor and shot down in flames by ex, that that particular option IS NEVER GONNA HAPPEN.

It's actually quite a relief. Now I really don't have any dreams to hold onto and it does feel lighter to let them go, once and for all.

As for instigating a formal and predictable structure to the kids' time with their dad, including a mid-week sleep over - Hurrah!

Because it is one thing trying to be amicable and flexible and be the perfect ex-wife. But it is a bit galling when ex's work and social commitments constantly call the shots. "The children have to take priority" was another gem of the counsellor. Well, of course. I have been saying the same thing myself, only to be shot down in the well-worn argumentative flames of "I need to work to support you and my job is very demanding and I am entitled to a life as well you know." So the boys are now going to stay with their dad one night each week - which has to be the same night - and alternative weekends. Ex gravely told the counsellor that the boys are his priority and he would gladly have them all the time (excuse me a moment....HAHAHAHA...sorry).

So how is it that today, less than 24 hours after our meeting to discuss the fragile state of our 5 year old in particular and having agreed to put their needs before their own, Captain Underpants reveals "we are going to stay at daddy's house tomorrow night but he is getting his hair cut so N is going to babysit and put us to bed and then daddy will come home".

He didn't seem all that put out by it, admittedly. But I am. Not only that but apparently the Wednesday night plan is only going to work for the next 6 weeks until ex's marathon training starts, because the running club do their long run on a Wednesday night (and it stands to reason that he has no possible hope of winning the Chicago Marathon in October if he misses that run).

And then of course there is the trip to see the FA cup which, oh how unfortunate, happens to fall on one of the weekends that he should have the boys (a schedule that has been totally dictated by all the other trips he has been on recently) - so we will have to work our way around that (ie. forget what I said to the counsellor about the boys being a priority, because of course they are...until something really important comes up. Like a hair cut).

Am I being unreasonable in thinking this is...unreasonable? Am I?

I don't want to be a bitter, twisted, nagging old crone. But I don't want to play the role of constant martyr either. And anyway, this isn't about me. It's about the boys and their emotional well-being. Ex might have been royally screwed into an emotional cripple by his parents - as might I - but I am damned if that is going to happen to MY boys. Not on your nelly, sunshine. Not in my lifetime.

And I don't want to get my knickers in a twist over every little thing - but when the counsellor said that absolute structure, routine and predictability is essential right now for the boys, I think what she meant was that absolute structure, routine and predictability IS essential, don't you?

Not that we can decide when it suits us for it not to be essential. to approach this? Will it really be to the detriment of all concerned if I continue to take the approach of being amicable?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Keeping Perspective

Captain Underpants is having a real hard time with his mummy and daddy having two separate houses right now. After nearly 6 months the novelty has worn off and he just wants his daddy to move 'home'. Last Sunday he asked to come back to me early and of course I agreed. When ex left, after the usual round of smiles, hugs and kisses, the Captain started to cry. "I need to give Daddy one more hug", he sobbed. Captain Underpants has been blessed with the biggest baby blues and when they well up with tears they convey the deepest heartfelt longing that he is probably still too young to articulate with words. So we called Daddy and the instant ex picked up the phone Captain Underpants starts to quietly sob and simply says the following words, "Daddy, I just want you to live with me again. All the time."

I feel my heart sink in my chest and my throat starts to constrict. I will myself not to cry along side him. Ex immediately turns his car round and comes back. We all hang out for another half an hour and ex talks quietly to Captain Underpants, assures him that he is loved beyond words and that these feelings are natural. And that we are so, so sorry he is so sad.

By the time he leaves again, Captain Underpants appears a little happier and more accepting of the situation, but of course he isn't really. He is such a good boy. He is really trying to be brave and on the outside, for the most part, he is as sweet, loving and good natured as ever. But internally there is a lot of angst and thank goodness he is able to verbally express at least a small part of what he is thinking and feeling.

On Monday morning he wakes at 4.20am and can't get back to sleep. He looks like death warmed up. He has always woken early - but even more so when he is unsettled. I feel helpless and frustrated and knackered. But decide to approach this situation with a more proactive mindset rather than be overwhelmed. So by 6am that morning I have emailed his teacher at school to give her an insight into things he is struggling with at home. I have left a message with the child therapist we consulted prior to the separation, requesting a follow up session. And I have emailed a mum friend who owns a Chinese medicine practice asking if she can give me so advice on whether there are any homeopathic remedies which might help Captain Underpants right now.

There are underlying issues that I am having with ex, which I know have been winding me up but I have been too intimidated to address. I know both boys are far more perceptive than I ever give them credit for and decide to try to resolve some of these issues, so that I can be at more peace and can radiate that in some unspoken way to the kids. I agonise over what to say and how to say it. The last thing I want to do is to instigate any animosity between us. I finally find the words and approach the issues with care - and miraculously ex responds in kind and a weight is lifted.

Captain Underpants is still waking before 5am every morning. I find it hard to be patient and calm at the crack of bloody dawn, but I am really doing my best. Despite all the recent shennanigans I try to wittily relay on this blog, most of the time I am just mum dealing with two high energy children for most of my day. We have all started taking the recommended homeopathic remedies and I am determined to remain optimistic and to have faith in my vision that we will all be happier and better off in the long run. And in the meantime, these upsets are to be expected, are perfectly natural and can ultimately be overcome by keeping a sense of perspective in one hand and a whole bucketful of love in the other.

One kind friend suggested I create some one-on-one time with Captain Underpants each week so on Thursday I picked him up from school and, instead of immediately charging across town to pick up his brother, we went for ice cream. We had a perfectly lovely couple of hours and when I told Captain Underpants we were going to do something special like this every week he jumped on his toes with excitement and his whole face shone.

Which is the same reaction his dad got when ex revealed he had cancelled part of a business trip so he could attend Captain Underpant's school assembly on Friday morning. We have been practicing for the assembly for what feels like forever and in Captain Underpant's world it is a Very Big Deal. For ex to recognise that and put his son before business is also a very big deal. Long may it continue.

So the week had ended on a high note. Captain Underpants made me tear up during assembly, because I am such a sap and find it impossible to control my emotions in those situations. I can see that I am going to be such an embarrassement to him as he gets older. Oh well, it's just going to have to be a cross he is going to have to bear.

And finally, tonight in the bath, whilst performing a particularly challenging underwater Jacques Cousteau manuevere, Captain Underpants lost his first tooth. Oh the joy.

Which reminds me - better go and play tooth fairy whilst I remember.