We all have those days when right from the start everything seems to be conspiring against you. This was us a couple of Mondays ago. The summer holidays were within sniffing distance yet it felt like we were all unravelling fast. On this particular Monday Oldest had to be dragged from her bed. The tiredness etched under her eyes and with eye bags that would have given any middle-aged mother a run for their money.
“Have you been reading in bed again?”
“No” Oldest muttered. “I know I am not allowed to because it is too late. I didn’t sleep well. I don’t want to go to school. I don’t want to have the supply teacher”
I felt sympathy for Oldest. I understood her desire not to go in, I also knew that a supply teacher would generally signal carnage and chaos in the classroom, something Oldest struggled with. Yet, I reassured her that it would be okay, and crossed my fingers behind my back that it really would be okay. After dropping her off at the school gate I had watched her reluctantly drag herself across the playground. Face turned downwards and a dark cloud hovering above her head. I felt pangs of guilt but what was I supposed to do? I told myself that it would be okay and continued with my day. Rushing to drop Youngest at pre-school, I realised that I had forgotten to return the nursery bear. Another black mark in the parenting book for me.
At the end of school Oldest came out in a furious mood. She was outraged at the unfair treatment she had received at the hands of the supply teacher. The car journey home was spent with Oldest interrogating me about why you would be a teacher if you clearly hate children, as this supply teacher clearly hates children. Again, I struggled with what to say. Secretly I agreed with her over the unfairness of the situation. I couldn’t let her know that I agreed with her and so for the second time that day I told a little white lie. Where I might have agreed that it was unfair, I told her to ignore the “warning” and that anyone who knew Oldest would know that it was rubbish. I then defended the teacher and said how difficult it must be for her. I told her that the teacher loved children. I told another white lie.
We then arrived home and everyone was in a subdued mood. Niggling and snapping at each other. Oldest and Youngest were bickering and in the end I decided that we needed to escape the four walls of the house before cabin fever set in. So we put on our coats and shoes and located the birthday card we needed to post. Herding my two across town is like herding kittens. We headed to the post-office. I was constantly checking that I had both of them. Clutching onto Youngest and turning round for Oldest. Stop, start and look. “Oldest, look both ways it’s a road here.” In Jersey we have some roads that don’t look like roads, they look like the pavement is continuing and that means that you need your wits about you. You can’t let them out of your sight. Then there is the plethora of zebra crossings which again many people just cross without looking for cars. “Look” I shout. “We are on a corner a car might not see us.”
Flustered we arrive at the post-office to find it shut. I swear under my breath before we push forwards to WH Smith. Its pedestrianised here and I feel that I can relax a bit more. We arrive at WH Smith to be told that they don’t sell stamps. “Try the shop two doors down” the shop assistant on the till tells me. So again I herd them out and we go to the next shop. I ask for stamps, as my two run riot round the shop. “Put that down please” I throw over my shoulder. I count the change out, pausing to say “look with your eyes not your hands”. Now I am turning into my mother too. We leave the shop and I see that I have been given two stamps. Am I supposed to put two stamps on for a card to the UK. I rack my brain but I can’t remember. I guess I must. I turn around again. Check that both girls are stood next to me and they are. Oldest is winding her sister up and I ask her to stop. She looks at me like I am being really unfair. She’s had a tough day and I feel guilty. I give her a hug and we push forward again. It’s getting busy now because people are finishing work.
The street is busy and I have to keep stopping to check that Oldest is still with us. She is deep in thought and has a habit of not paying attention where she is going at the best of times. I’m clutching onto Youngest, eyes constantly sweeping for Oldest. “Stay with me!” I admonish Oldest. “Stop wandering off”. Push forward. More people now and we are having to weave out of the way of people in business suits who are on a mission to get home. Just then my phone rings. One hand clutched onto Youngest, I check for Oldest, just behind me. I fumble in my bag with my other hand for the phone and pull it out. I’m talking on the phone still clutching onto Youngest. Distracted by the conversation. There is a bend on the road and a crossing. I stop, look both ways, still the person is talking at me on the other end of the phone. I reach the other side, still clutching Youngest. Check for Oldest. Where is she? It’s then that I see that she has continued along the path on the other side of the road. She hasn’t crossed with us. She realises at the same time that she has lost us and turns to see me on the other side of the road. I can see it happening. I know what she is going to do. The person is still on the phone and I can hear them still talking but it’s now just background noise. Oldest runs across the road: without looking. To my right I can see a car coming at speed, in front of me she is running. She’s not going to make it. I scream her name. Everyone stops. Time slows down. The car then sees what I see and slams on its brakes. The screech of tyres and then…nothing.
She’s made it across. She hasn’t been hit by the car.
I grab Oldest and hug her, alternating between hugging her and telling her off.
“This is why I am always telling you to pay attention. You have to USE your eyes. You shouldn’t wander off”
She’s crying. I’m crying. Youngest pipes up
“I always look where I am going, Mummy”
This makes me laugh. I look at Oldest, sobbing her eyes out and I feel guilty again.
“It’s okay” I reassure her. “It was an accident, it was no-one’s fault”
And just like that I utter the third white lie of the day. It was someone’s fault” It was my fault. Today I’m flailing at motherhood