I am in Ireland. It is cold – so so so fucking cold – but also peaceful and calm. (And in fact the cold is a delightful novelty; last night I walked to the pub – a mile! Without collapsing from exhaustion! – wearing THIRTEEN items of clothing. I will be both sick of wrapping up, and bereft of any clean clothes in about 2 days’ time, but for the moment I’m giddy with the strangeness of it all.) I have so far read two books and one newspaper, and drunk 38 cups of tea. I have been here for 29 hours. There has been: no jetlag; many naps; occasional concerns about What To Eat Now; people coming and going; no mention of any inauguration (What? Who?). This, of course, is because I am without the kids. It’s really quite blissful. And I have it, all to myself, for the next ten days. (A suggestion to anyone who is experiencing grief – USE IT TO YOUR ADVANTAGE. You might as well get something out of it, no?)
I had a vague notion somewhere in my head that I might try to post more often in 2017; that clearly hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts, but now that I am cocooned in damp in Dublin, without the distractions of parenthood, who knows what feats of creativity might overtake me. The truth is that parenting not-so-small children is actually – and I can’t quite believe I’m saying this – but it’s actually more time-consuming than parenting their younger counterparts. The full-on neediness is gone (THANK CHRIST) and broken sleep is now occasional rather than consistent, but the strung-out (in all senses) requirements – the school projects and the homework and the dress-up-days and the after-school activities and the endless ENDLESS discussions and negotiations and worries and concerns… As well as wrecking one’s head, it also uses up most of one’s time. Precious time, which could actually be spent ONLINE.
Here is a list of things which have been chewed over, regurgitated, spat up, and spat over – before being finally swallowed (with some difficulty) in the past week:
- Device ownership: Is it a right? At what age does this right arise? Can good behaviour reduce the “agreed on” age? Why does EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD have their own phone / screen-thingy AND WE DON’T?
- Existing devices: Communally owned or actually belonging to the person who owns them? Can good behaviour result in the transfer of ownership?
- Death: A necessity or something which good behaviour can ward off forever? Why can’t I eat this teeny tiny battery thingy? Also, when you die, can I have your ring/socks/biro/nail polish?
- That stash of Irish chocolate in the fridge: If it’s in the fridge, which is a family commodity, surely everything therein is also a family commodity? Can good behaviour get it out of the fridge, down our throats and into our bellies? Why is EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD allowed to eat whatever they want AND WE CAN’T?
- Vikings: Did they have to go to bed by 8pm? Why were they allowed to fight with swords and eat with their fingers? Can good behaviour give us a Viking day when we can fight as much as we want and wipe our faces on the sofas and stay up until we drop dead of exhaustion?
- Pets: Why are (our) cats the worst pets in the world, and can good behaviour result in dog-ownership? What sort of dog can we not get? What will we call the dog we will never own? Which one of us will the dog we don’t have love the most? Why does EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD have a dog AND WE DON’T?
- Netflix passwords: Intellectual property to be enjoyed by all, or the sole property of The Dictators? Can good behaviour release the information? Can we use this information to watch Spy Kids? How about Goosebumps? My Babysitter is a Vampire? Why is EVERYONE ELSE IN THE UNIVERSE allowed to watch this AND WE ARE NOT?
I feel like I’m in some Sartre novel. (Nausea, most likely.) Or am living The Scream. IT. NEVER. ENDS. And my friends with older children smirk when I tell them How It Is, and I can tell from these smirks that they’re thinking: “Don’t think it’s going to get any better, because it won’t”; or: “Ha! Try parenting an 11 year old girl”; or: “I have 13 year year old twin-boys. Do you really expect pity?”
No, I don’t expect pity. Just some occasional headspace, that’s all. About ten days’ worth a couple of times a year will do fine.