Sunday, 9 May 2010

Fête des Mères

Mother's Day today. It's been very odd. It's not that I have ever thought it should be a huge festival of the infinite wisdom and bounty of the mother goddess, with pygmy jerboas bearing macaroons and Jimmy Choos and baby pugs. Rather, it used to have a certain understated shape. Breakfast in bed (apple and toast usually, with small finger holes and liberal Nutella), tea sloshing around alarmingly as it was carried by a small and erratic majordome, some kind of homemade cardboard item, flowers, of increasing niceness as the years went by and my flower totalitarianism rubbed off. Now? Well.

First, there was the school fête yesterday, which was partly mother themed. What with the "maman je t'aime" songs, and the small boys holding approximate cut out heart shaped pieces of cardboard with pictures of their mothers on, it seemed to be designed as a particularly obvious psychological torture for someone in my situation - separated, sad, hungover, and spending the weekend without her children. I walked home alone clutching my purple cardboard heart with instructions not to read the poem on the back, because Fingers is planning to read it to me himself ("you can't read" said his brother, witheringly. "I know it by heart", said Fingers, gurning insolently back at him).

Then today. I couldn't sleep at all last night. I had one of those proper, miserable, sleepless nights. Nurofen and tea at two, making a sandwich at three, watching Nurse Jackie at four as the sky got paler and the over-enthusiastic birds started to sing, drifting off for an hour or so at seven to dream of freak spring snow. This is, I find, the perfect state to co-host a eight year old boy's birthday party for fourteen children in one of those exceptionally resonant, strip lit, indoor play centres. The CFO and I huddled in the cafe, mopped up spilled grenadine, did an occasional headcount, talked through the endless logistics of juggling two small boys.

"Bonne fête" said the first of a succession of fathers (it was all fathers) picking their children up after the last shrieking contest, the last murderous rampage in the dodgems.

"Euh, Merci ?", I said, a little puzzled that they could think a child's birthday party might be enjoyable for the supervising adults.

"Je veux dire, bonne fête a TOI" he repeated. Oh. Fête des Mères. It feels oddly fraudulent accepting, what? Congratulations? This year I have seen my children less than at any time in their lives, now that we share custody. I don't think that was wrong - their father is loving, resourceful, consistent, and utterly committed to them. I believe he is as vital to their wellbeing as I am, and even separated, we are a good team. The boys are doing ok. Who knows what goes on in the strangeness of their boy minds, but they give a good impression of being relatively content, and absorbed in age appropriate pursuits like hitting each other, complaining and being amused at rude words. But it's a massive adjustment for all of us. For me, I struggle with the knowledge that I set this in motion and that I have to vindicate my choice by being happy and successful and making it, whatever "it" is, work. I think "it" can work, truly - that it already does. Parts of this shared custody thing are quite brilliant. But it would be idiotic to pretend it's painless, just an exciting adventure. It's not, and being a part-time mother is the strangest thing - I'm disenfranchised, guilty, a bit sad, a bit gleeful, a lot lost.

Once our birthday duties were over for 2010 (praise Nathan), the four of us went to Quick and the CFO let me eat his chips while the boys squabbled and we talked about how there seemed to be no good solution for Mothers' or Fathers' Day, or birthdays, when you're separated. Then he wished me bonne fête too, toasting me with his giant paper beaker of Coke and they dropped me off at home. Eventually this new shaped family will have its rites and rituals I suppose, but for now, we're feeling around in the dark trying not to bump into each other.


the polish chick said...

happy mother's day just the same, waffle. you're doing "it" brilliantly, under the circumstances.

still, i find all this enforced holidaying and flower-sending etc, so forced and silly. (of course i tend to be this way about all society-approved holidays). you're a mother all the time, and it's a hell of a job.

IsabelleAnne said...

Yes,what "the polish chick" said. xx

Sarah said...

Bah. Tomorrow will be a better day, if only because it's probably impossible to have *less* sleep than last night. And sleep, it makes these things of the mind so much worse when it is lacking.

Anonymous said...

Happy Mother's Day. It sucks to be alone today, but look at it this way: you can celebrate with your children some other day when you are not sleep-deprived and hung over.

Also, agree with polish chick. You're managing to do "it" pretty well overall, considering how nebulous and uncomfortable "it" is. Things will get better.

Anonymous said...

I admire your ability to write so eloquently, even when things aren't going well. I agree - you seem to be doing very well indeed. I love your blog, happy or sad. And yes, sleep makes everything seem brighter. Hoping you get some more sleep.

Betty M said...

A school fete, a kids party and mothers day all in one weekend would take it out of anyone - you are as the polish chick said doing it brilliantly in the circs.

Alisa said...

your heart and writing are beautiful

Veronica Wald said...

I was touched, to tears, in part because I know how much better it would be for you if your mother were there with you.

I am thinking of my mother (1912-2005) today, too.

And just be sure the kids spend Father's Day with you :-)

Sarah Eccleston said...

I'm with Veronica on that one! But I don't have children and even I can imagine how difficult this must have been... bravo for getting through it. Sarah

Laurel said...

Honestly, as a mother, I think mothers most deserve the Mother's Day sort of recognition when things are hard. It may not be easy or perfect but you are trying your best. And eventually, if not already, your boys will realize that you made this choice because you need to do what's best for yourself too (and really that will be the best for them as well). Mothers deserve to live their own lives, too. I apologize if that just sounds like a truckload of cliches and/or truisms, but I honestly think it's true.

So I send you my good Mother's Day wishes even if I can't say "happy Mother's Day," and I wish you weren't sad and hungover, and I hope you feel better.

Also, I don't think there is anything quite so effective as an indoor play center for making one feel utterly desolate and bereft.

vw - shenestr, which is the feeling of getting a decent night of sleep after having had an awful one the previous night. Wishing you shenestr as well.

auntiegwen said...

It gets easier x or I've become more practised at it x