Tuesday, 7 December 2010


‘Snow is falling all around me, children playing having fun’. Shakin’ soddin’ Stevens didn’t know what he was singing about. Night after night I pray, I cross my fingers, I do little rituals, anything, just anything to have an extra day at home. Just an extra few hours in the week to address issues that are being exclusively ignored. Basket ball sized Golden Retriever hair-balls, dinners that take more than ten minutes to cook, dirty laundry walking to the washing machine by itself, life endangering toys upon the stairs, revolting lavatories, my children and last, but most definitely not least, bloody lesson planning.
No-one is happy. The fifteen year old has sat her mock GCSEs with barely a good luck from her mother and though I hardly deserve it, has made me very proud. My son, that long haired lover, is eating food reheated in the microwave far too often and is going about in this perishing weather in exactly the same garments as he wears, if pressed to go, to the beach. Ludicrously overdressed for August, suicidally underdressed for minus zero temperatures. I am not there to nag and insist upon hats and scarves and vests.
The littlest ones are starting to notice my absence. For the first time ever I was not one of the token mothers at their annual, Christmas craft day at school. Long faces met me on my return from work.
“Why couldn’t you come mummy?” asked the Red-Head, burrowing under my arm as I attempted to type a Powerpoint slide on Haikus for Year Seven.
“Where, sweetie?” I replied, half listening, the other half of me attempting to think of a five, seven, five syllable, three line poem.
“To our craft day? I made pretty things. Chloe’s mummy was there and Sam’s and...”
“But darling, you know why. You know that mummy is learning to be a teacher isn’t she? So I work in a school all day. Just like you go to school all day”.
“It sucks”, was her succinct reply. Her elder sister was not quite as pithy in her reply.
“It’s emotional neglect actually”. Oh God. Being this close to Christmas, Childline must have visited the school, just in case.
“I think that’s a bit harsh darling”, I remonstrated, “Emotional neglect is when you don’t get any love or cuddles or compassion or comfort”. I made a mental note of the alliterative word triplet I’d used. ‘Must use for Yr 9 lesson on persuasive writing’. The eight year slammed my computer lid shut.
“It could also be emotional neglect when your way of life, the one that you are used to, is whipped away and you never see your mum anymore and when you do, she doesn’t listen”.
“I am listening sweetie, really I am. Tell me what’s going on”. She didn’t want to. Who could blame her? She’s very cross with me. My mantra, “I’ll have a good job at the end of all this and we’ll be able to go on holidays in a plane”, is meaningless to her. As far as she’s concerned she has everything her heart desires. My earning more money is insignificant. What is significant is the here and now and, the here and now is a life bereft of the relationship she once had with me.
Once in bed after a story and a very big cuddle I rang Mags in despair.
“I can’t cope with this guilt”, I cried, “I’m a crap mother who is deserting her family. They feel abandoned and to make matters worse, I’ve made nothing home made for them for Christmas”.
“Like what for God’s sake?”, asked Mags. I could tell she wasn’t really interested. I’m a Celebrity had her undivided attention. I blew my nose.
“Well, by now we’ve usually stirred the Christmas pudding and made a wish. This year it’s a five minute wonder job. There is no cake, no mince pies yet. I haven’t pickled so much as an onion, let alone a shallot in balsamic vinegar. I haven’t bought any cards. I haven’t written my round robin. The sausage meat for the sausage rolls has gone past its sell by date. My shopping is far from covered. My Good Housekeeping lies by my bed. Spruce and unread. I….”
“That’s what it’s like for most women Alice’’.
“You’ve been complaining for years how those bloody magazines, featuring shining, sparkly families have always made you feel so inadequate. And yet every Christmas, whilst the rest of us beavered away at the office until the last minute, we’d turn up at your house on the way home only to walk into a winter wonderland that the style editor of Conde Nast could only dream of”.
She had a point. But I had a confession.
“I don’t even know where to go for a tree this year”.
“Same place as always?”, she asked.
“I’ve been banned”. Silence.
“From the nursery, Alice go elsewhere for your trees, the letter said, please”. Hang on, 5, 7, 5. I may not have a tree but, would you believe it, I’ve got a Haiku.

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