These days, I dread the moment at social gatherings when old friends, family, strangers ask me what I’ve been up to, or what I do. I am left drawing a blank. I stand there gawping like a vacant fish out of water gasping for air. My words do not form. I have nothing to say. There is nothingness! Well, I just assume that there is nothing that they really want to hear. Let’s face it, no one really wants to hear about someone else’s children and their various achievements that I hope I am instrumental in facilitating. They don’t really want to know that on a Monday I head down to Aldi for my weekly shop or that I brace myself every day at 3.15 for the barrage of information and the bickering and the bundling that comes from 3 children who have been at school and now want to have my full attention.
When I had a legit job, I was very busy. I worked in an industry for a long time where deadlines were key. I worked late, I attended meetings about meetings. I felt like every minute was organised/timetabled and important. That’s not to say that I didn’t have weekends of lolling around on the sofa nursing a hangover watching the Hollyoaks omnibus. I know it’s been said many times. It’s nothing new. The arrival of children opened my eyes to the concept of time and how all of a sudden no time was my own. But it wasn’t until I gave up ‘work’ that I entered a new realm. And it wasn’t until all 3 of the nutters were at school that my world became a truly crazy place.
What happened to me last Friday is a good example of a series of events that is now my normal but looking at it with my pre-parenting eyes, I would probably say that either I am crazy and need locking up soon, or at the very least, I have made it all up and therefore am still mentally unstable and need help!
Pretend you are at one of those work away days and you are given this scenario: You have an important meeting to get 3 clients to. In that time you will have to deal with unexpected bodily functions, travel delays, a stubborn, argumentative client and the transportation of lots of equipment and important documents that only you are allowed to handle. Then you have to find a way to get them home without encountering obstacles on the way, or killing them or yourself. Oh yes, and do a version of this all over again the next day and the next day and the day after that, and DON’T SWEAR (well, I fail on that one every time)!
I realise this is quite long. Apologies. But some things just need to be said in a longish sort of way! (oops, another penny in the sorry box!)
At 2.45 I arrived at my kids’ school to help set up a cake sale. My oldest wanted to help on the stall as it was to raise money for her year group. Cake sales are a thing to behold. The primitive, competitive instincts of parents and their children kick in and it was like a plague of locusts descended on the rickety trestle tables laden with heavily adorned cup cakes and rice crispie creations. The cakes looked good, yes, but they are just that, cakes. It all got a bit feral and a bit scary! But still, I’m sure everyone would agree that they were damned fine cakes! Of course, my other 2 children irritated me enough to encourage me (I mean force here of course) to open my purse and shell out several pounds so they could buy back the very cakes that we had made. Aaaagggghhhhh! This is a very common scenario that I’m sure most parents will attest to which totally negates the concept of the cake sale.
Anyway, as things were winding down at 3.45, I dragged 3 children, more bags and coats than seemed necessary and some half eaten cupcakes and we got in the car to drive 8 miles through stop start traffic to my son’s cricket coaching. I was quite pleased with myself. I think I only swore once, maybe twice, nothing too shocking, maybe the s word, but really I’ve blurted that out so much now that I think we can probably downgrade shit to low-level cursing (can’t we?) We had some good conversations, there wasn’t too much in the way of bickering and whinging. We got there on time which made me feel so good – yay, I was winning.
Whilst attempting to remove the correct bags from the mess in the boot and persuading the 5 year old to get out of the bloody car, the boy asked me what that hissing noise was. So then I found myself on my knees on the gravel surrounded by 3 children, one anxious, one disengaged, one stroppy! Yep, there was definitely a hissing but where was it coming from? The tyre? the engine? I knelt there, bum in the air, ear to the filthy wheel, willing the hissing to stop. It didn’t stop. Bugger. So by now it was 4.50 and the cricket coaching starts at 5.
The 5 year old had been smelling suspiciously of pooh on the journey. She had not produced a pooh for nearly 2 weeks. I’d tried most things, the Dr had prescribed stuff, I’d bribed her (obviously), I’d lost my temper, and finally, on the advice of others, I had ignored it. I was starting to wonder if touch down would ever be achieved. I have to say, I admire her ability to control what is really an involuntary process so stubbornly and completely.
So, I abandoned the hissing car for now and we headed into the clubhouse so the boy could get changed. My little girl was standing in the corridor in that way that only I could notice as subtly different… the slightly hunched over stance, the look of intense concentration on her face and it suddenly dawned on me that finally her Derren Brown mind control antics could no longer stop the inevitable downward movement of a log that must truly be the same size as her. I picked her up like a rugby ball and barged into the loos. Seconds later (and with a small element of triumphant relief), I realized that I now had a blocked public toilet to deal with.
But first I had to get the prodigal son to his lesson. So, I cleaned the five year old up as best I could with no wet wipes. Luckily I had the obligatory spare pair of pants in my handbag, so pooey pants went in the bin, clean pants went on and the toilet was flushed (I’ll deal with the blockage soon). And miraculously, son was successfully delivered to his lesson.
So, it was now 5.10. I deposited the girls in the clubhouse bar. I had a fleeting and very very strong desire to order a pint and down it. But instead, I called the husband, who is a very busy man, in lots of meetings, looking after lots of people, and wiping lots of metaphorical arses. I’m not sure why I called him because he couldn’t do anything from his office in Tottenham Court Road about the fucking hissing that was coming from the car now parked in Cheam! But hey, it’s nice to share the shitty burden with someone else. Well, an absolute dire necessity at that precise moment. And actually, as usual, he gave me good advice. Of course, I wanted him to do something magic and make it all go away, including the great big smelly blockage in the loos, but alas, he just told me what I already knew, in a nice way, that made me feel like I might be able to get out of this situation and that I might actually get home.
So I drove the car around a bit, I looked at the tyres from lots of angles, I managed to deduce that yes, it was infact the tyre that was hissing – a slow puncture. I’m not gonna lie. I was scared. In half an hour, I would have to attempt to drive 3 precious loads home through rush hour traffic. The advice was to pump up the tyre as much as I could, and drive home slowly. Ok, I started psyching myself up.
I managed to clear the log in the toilet and I went back into the bar. I explained that we would not be stopping for fish and chips on the way home for fear of the tyre going completely flat. For all I knew, I may actually have just said that we had lost our house and would be sleeping on the street that night for the reaction that I got from my oldest child. With the sounds of the best of Prince in the background and some ageing rockers setting up a stage in the corner of the clubhouse bar, I descended to the level of my 11 year old daughter and we had a good old barney, me giving as good as I got, until I checked myself and stopped… And anyway, it was now 5.50 and I needed to go and grab the boy! I downed the apple juice that the now perky and relieved 5 year old had demanded I buy at the usual inflated price and which she now regarded as if it was hemlock. I grabbed the many bags and I marched the girls across the cricket pitch.
We got to the car at 6.10pm which was still hissing malevolently. We drove at a snail’s pace to the nearest garage where I scrabbled around in an almost empty purse for money and pumped up the tyre which was scarily low. I drove in a state of high anxiety with an anxious boy in the back asking me if it was going to be ok. Of course, I told him all would be fine, although the swearing did increase exponentially (low level, I assure you) and I was still in the dog house about dinner. We stopped to pump the tyre again and by this point I’ll admit, I was panicking. But, the thought of waiting for a break down truck at 7.30 on a Friday night with 3 tired, hungry kids (we’d finally settled on Dominos) filled me with more fear than I can describe to you! So we soldiered on… slowly.
We made it to the garage at the end of our road as the warning message came on. ‘tyre pressure dangerously low!’ – no shit! We abandoned the car, grabbed the bags which seemed to have multiplied in the boot, and we trudged up the road, a strange looking crew, walking through the door at 8pm.
And the scary thing is that this was not such a strange afternoon. And the really scary thing is that the next time someone asks me what I’ve been up to, I will still have nothing to say!