Thursday, 27 November 2008

In which the CFO has a trying day

Love my faketastic hairdo.

My birthday, then, was fine.

The jumper from the CFO was exactly the sludge coloured jumper with a bow I had requested.


It's getting to know all the other sludge coloured clothing with bows in the cupboard. They are probably trying to establish some kind of a pecking order, maybe based on bow size. I tried to self-censor my second-guessing, 'it's all an elaborate double-bluff in a minute he'll come out with a PUPPY' thoughts, with moderate success. The CFO apologised for not surprising me, with a hangdog face, about fifty thousand times. And got the spawn clothed and to school.

Lashes made me a jellyfish mask and a circle of plastic cut from an Actimel bottle with a face on, and regifted me a Halloween plastic bat. Lovely stepmother sent a teeny tiny tortoise on behalf of the Bearded One.

Jellyfish mask, teeny tiny tortoise, and jumper.

Fingers refused to make me anything at all, but drew me one of his characteristic long fingered 'bonhommes'.

The MRI was short, and the spawn haircuts painless.

My birthday cake, albeit chosen and bought by me, was delicious.

Violet and the Space Cadette got me lovely things. Thank you Violet, thank you Space Cadette.

There was lunch with a Kir Royale and about five desserts.


At spawn bedtime, as the CFO poured himself a much needed "steeff dreenk" as he calls it, Lashes kept calling pathetically for me to come up and look at stegosauruses. On my third trip up, I slid down the last ten stairs onto the tiled floor, causing terrible injury to my pride and a very sore arse. I burst into tears like a histrionic infant. The CFO looked nonplussed and patted my arm. He was having a less than excellent day, juggling tending to my every whim and sulk, feeding and coralling the spawn and preparing a complex presentation. With no phone battery. Or help. Tears were not part of his plan for a pleasant evening.

A matching wailing noise was heard from the second floor. The CFO started getting his cross face ready and preparing his menacing shouty voice.

"What's he saying?" I whimpered pathetically from my foetal position on the sofa of evil.

The CFO went into the corridor and listened briefly, frowning.

"Je ne veux pas mourir ... He says he doesn't want to die"

I uncurled, clutching my sore arse, and went up. Lashes was drooping on the top stair, weeping inconsolable real tears.

"I don't want to diiiieee"

"Oh, but you aren't going to die, sweetheart! Come here". I squeezed his limp pyjamaed body.

"Yes, I am. Everything dies"

"Well, yes, but not for such a long long long time"

"But I don't want to ever! WHY do we have to diiieeee. I don't want to be in the dark FOR EVER"
"Oh, Lashes"

I manhandled him back into his bed and held on with both arms around his fuzzy fleece-covered belly, resting my head on his shoulder.

"It's horrible when those thoughts come, isn't it angel. I get this ALL the time. You poor poor thing. Have you tried thinking about something nice?"

"I can't. I have so many questions! My head is full. Why can't I be one of those fish from l'epoque des dinosaures*? The ones that NEVER DIE? Why do things have to die?"

"I know sweetheart. It's awful and scary for you isn't it? But someone told me**, and it sort of helped me, to think that when you're old and you're body is all worn out and tired and broken, you'll be ready to die, and it won't be awful and scary then at all. It wil just be ok"

This set off a new round of wailing.

My voice was cracking by this point. I remember so well how terrifying and alien yet compelling I found the "Old Age and Dying" chapter of The Body Book at his age. It was even more irresistible than the pages about how to make a baby. That feeling of being TRAPPED simply by being alive. The 'no escape' feeling. The panic. I still get it at least two or three times a month. It's no fun being six and having an existential crisis. It's no fun being thirty four either, but at least you have the odd coping strategy.

"I don't want to be without my maman. I don't want to be alone in the dark without my maman".

Here, I collapsed into a soggy heap on his shoulder. I am not sure this is the recommended approach in the parenting manuals, but it is traditional on birthdays.

"I knooooooow! It's so hard darling! You poor poor thing. Life is soooo haaard to understand! Oh god, let's go and see Papa and see if he can help. "

Gulping and snivelling, a two headed ball of misery, we headed downstairs for bright lights and rationalism. The CFO looked at us with a sort of disbelieving outrage and tiny squinty eyes. I just wept louder and clutched Lashes' hot, snotty hand.

"We need you to cheer us uuuupp. Lashes is scared of dying"

Lashes wept harder. I gulped.

CFO gave a stare full of recrimination and future trouble at my snotty form.

"You're not going to die, Lashes"

Lashes stopped crying instantly and adopted his sensible arguing voice. "Yes I am. Everything dies; you know that"

The CFO rolled his eyes. "But only when you're body is old and tired and worn out.."

"We've done that one. No good." I interjected, hoarsely, gesticulating a throat cutting motion.

The CFO sighed deeply.

"Lashes. Are you going to die tonight?"

"Noooooo, but.."

"And are you going to die before this weekend?"

"Noooooo, but..."

"Well then. We can talk about it this weekend. Now come on, off to bed."

Lashes looked aghast, but stopped crying. I pulled myself marginally together. "The best thing, Lashes, is to think about something REALLY nice to take your mind of it."

"Yes" said the CFO briskly, with the determination of one whose whisky is singing a silent, but compelling song to him. "Père Noel is coming! Think of that!"

"Yes, and St Nicolas" (more about the TWO red suited bearded present-bringing men in Belgium soon).

"They don't exist" said Lashes, smartly, tears still smudging his cheeks, but voice much recovered.

"No, but the presents do. Think about presents! And think about lizards, and riding dolphins and Pokémon and Nintendo".

We bundled him upstairs in a litany of Pikachu and Ben 10 and science experiments and giant friendly lizards and metal detectors, his mood lifting fractionally with each. By the time he had reached his bed he was serenely asking for pet kimodo dragons and nuclear fission kits.

We went back downstairs and I burst into tears again.

"He said he didn't want to be without his maman! In the dark!"

The CFO supressed his urge to get an axe and kill us all, but sighed meaningfully. He sat down cautiously next to me on the sofa of evil and patted my hand like it might contain live ammunition, while turning on the tv with the other. Then he fixed himself another large whisky and we watched an episode of Mad Men. I cried throughout, and for about another hour after it finished, big silent tears plopping down onto my new birthday jumper. The CFO sat and held my hand silently, wishing he had never met me, probably.

Eventually he turned to me and held my face in his hands, wiping snot from around my chin.

"If you're very good I'll make you a hot water bottle"

It seemed like the best offer I was getting, so I took it. In the nineteenth century he'd have probably sent Lashes to boarding school and had me committed as hysterical. Poor CFO. Born in the wrong century.

*I think this is what he meant. But I think he thinks there's only one of them and it's been alive since the Cretaceous era.

** Grief counsellor actually. Very nice, if not tremendously helpful.


expateek said...

"The CFO supressed his urge to get an axe and kill us all, but sighed meaningfully. "...

... "The CFO sat and held my hand silently, wishing he had never met me, probably."

Funniest things I have ever, EVER read.

"Get the axe."

My God.

You are one sick (and adorable) poppet.

Too much....

And I must add, existential crises are NO FUN. I keep having them and they suck. My condolences to you all, for the pain....

Anonymous said...

Oh God, that's going to be me in a few years. Not the 34th birthday, I'll hit that rather sooner - I mean the whole can't-deal-with-death-sobbing mother. I got ridiculously upset discussing alterations to Hubby's will not long back; I'm completely useless. A sobbing child would finish me off. In a manner of speaking.

OMG. We ARE all going to Die.

I cut my finger on my birthday last year, and stood there with the blood pouring into the sink sobbing my little sorry-for-self heart out, while Hubby signally failed to locate the plasters that were on plain view exactly where I told him they were. I feel the CFO did good.

Pochyemu said...

I had this death-realization (after the appearance of crinkles around my eyes when I laughed) not too long ago. This means your child is much more advanced psychologically than me. That's a good thing.

We have these sort of crying crises in our house all the time, because I'm fucking nuts. I'll be bawling about something irrational (stubbing toe, missing family) and Rob will be patting my head giving rational advice ('your toe will stop hurting, work through the pain', 'you'll see them in 2 weeks!') and imagining a life in a kung fu monistary in China. And I'll just KNOW he's thinking that married life isn't for him, so I'll cry harder. It's a perpetual circle of fucking yourself.

I don't want anybody to die, and no one close to me has died, so I choose to live in a state of denial. And that is the second way in which your child is more advanced than me! It must be all that chicory.

Anonymous said...

I remember the I'm-going-to-die-and-holy-shit-everything-dies crisis when I was six, too. My parents dealt with it entirely differently than you and the CEO: "What a worry-wart! Go to sleep!" I would have rather had you two. (Mind you, when my dad died a couple of years ago, I remembered that advice and took a couple of Atavan and went to sleep. For many, many hours. It wasn't a bad thing to do.)

Waffle said...

You're already making me feel better. I love you.

Expateek. He needs the axe. He deserves the axe. But a small one, right? With pulleys?

HFF - Yes! Doom! Aren't we having fun tonight. Do invite me round for your 34th, I can show you how it's done. First create a river of your own snot and tears, then wallow in it.

Pochyemu - I love the idea of Rob visualising his monastery. The CFO is probably visualising a giant, smooth running factory.

Pinklea - I was pregnant when my mum died, which was an all round bad move, oblivion wise. All I could do was listen to the BBC world service until I got comatose with boredom enough to sleep.

katyboo1 said...


Made me cry now. Do you think the CFO will hold my hand too?
What a poohah time for you.

justme said...

Take a deep breath. Its OVER now! You dont have to have another birthday for AGES! Relax and have a drink. The CFO is a king among men, and the thing with the bow very attractive.
Is the teeny tortoise real?

Potty Mummy said...

I am still laughing, which is not a good thing as I have been told by my own CFO to get an early night and not stay up blogging because then I will get sick - again - and old and die horribly and - oh my god. Do you have any tissues left?

Mr Farty said...

Boo for excremental crisises! Crisii? They're no fun at all, are they?

Anyway, great hairdo. And birthday cake, you say?

Cake? Death? Such a tough choice.

Laura Jane said...

Oh crap - what a day!

See your premonitions about a dodgy birthday eventually came true. It just took until bedtime and the stairs incident and the existential crisis.

Your CFO is hereby nominated for sainthood for his restraint on this occasion. And so are you for sucking it up and not running away when Lashes needed you when you had a sore arse and were already crying (even if you cried anew in sympathy, it was NOT inappropriate).

And the really good news is that you never have to have THAT particular day again!

Anonymous said...

I found this post both funny and moving... kudos to you and your writing and your adorable children.

I remember that moment for me too -- I was in third grade and I was sitting with my mother and sister and we were talking and laughing, and I was suddenly overcome by the realization that we were all eventually going to die. It was terrifying. I felt sick. I didn't know how to explain what was wrong -- I wasn't as articulate as Lashes -- so I told my mother that my stomach hurt, which it did. She rushed me off to the bathroom, since that's what you do with an eight-year-old whose stomach is bothering her. It didn't help much with the fear of death, though.

Waffle said...

People, this is WAY more comforting than talking about my dark fears in therapy ever was.

Katyboo - is fine really. Please don't cry. Have a Hobnob. The CFO is already having to invent himself a giant spreadsheet to restore his mental equilibrium.

JustMe - No, thankfully. It is a teeny golden wooden one from Chinatown.

PM - No - you'll have to share this soggy one with me. Woe!

Mr F - At work, can't see your link, dammit. I'll try at home. Yes. Crap. Lashes and I are like Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir when we get together but with less smoking.

Laura Jane - He is saintly. Rubbish at surprises but saintly.

Marya - Hello! At least, perhaps, the bathroom was brightly lit? That helps me. Poor little you.

Anonymous said...

Hallo, delurking again this time but actually commenting for once. That post actually made me cry a little bit...

This might be total assvice, but when my Granny died when I was five my parents got me Badger's Parting Gift. If you haven't seen it, it's just the most lovely book and tells the story of Badger, who is elderly, coming to terms with death and saying goodbye to all of the people he loves before a peaceful death (which would also make sense either in a religious or totally non-religious context).

It did make me weep, but not in a bad way, and made death seem much less scary. You can get in off Amazon but I dunno if there is a French translation (but am guessing Lashes can probably read English anyway?). End of assvice here.

On another note, I think birthdays are always far more stressful than they ever need to be. And I think there's nothing wrong with it being your party and crying if you want to. Hope you're having afterbirthday cakes today.

Chantal x

PS My word verification is "quivie", which is what my chin was doing as I read your post...

Anonymous said...

My two went through the scared of dying phase when they were 5 or 6 and we did the usual it won't happen till you're old etc routine. It seems to be a normal part of growing up (except for Pochyemu by the sound of it). However, when their father died last year the younger (she was 13 then) went through it again, but this time it was 'I don't want YOU to die, what will we do if YOU die'. Much harder to answer, given that she thinks I have one foot in the grave anyway, and it reduced me to hysterical sobs like you. I ended up having to promise faithfully to drive very carefully, and ring on my home every day (yes, I do have a handsfree) and to appoint my youngest sister (favourite aunt) as guardian just in case. She seems to have got over it as she hasn't mentioned it for months now. I still have to write my will though .... another fun task for the weekend.

The CFO might be happy with a chocolate axe, perhaps filled with whisky?

Welsh Girl said...

We are going to die? and then I have to spend eternity in the darkness with my mother? Oh please no... I don't want to die, NOOOOOOOOOOOO.

Damn. Now you've started me off to. I'm off to find the secret of eternal life. I'll send you some for lashes when I locate it....

Waffle said...

Chantal - not assvice at ALL. I will get it. But will it completely fuck me up and I'll cry and cry? I'm bad enough with 'No matter what'. I can't read that thing without choking up.

CA - Poor you; poor girls. It's no fun. Unless you have a chocolate axe. That might be fun.

WelshGirl - I'm counting on you now. Don't let me down.

The Spicers said...

You had my laughing AND crying with this post.

Unknown said...

Oh, this made me laugh!

I grew up in Belgium (Kortrijk/Heule). I have a 5 month old baby boy and was diagnosed with cancer last month.

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