Friday, 16 July 2010

On absence

I got my boys back briefly today. They're with me until Monday, then off with the CFO. The past two weeks they have been at a special campsite for the children and grandchildren of teachers with their parental grandparents, Team Sudoku. I am very tickled that such a thing exists. I imagine all the signage is perfect, with nary a misplaced apostrophe (not that that's an issue in France. All the verb endings would be impeccable and perhaps make occasional showy use of the imperfect subjunctive?). They have obviously had a wonderful time about which I will never hear more than the odd snippet, and quite right too. They're browner than I have ever been in my entire, melanin challenged life, Lashes is gigantically tall and Fingers now seems to have no front teeth at all. Maybe that's why he hasn't got any taller, it must make eating tricky.

It felt very odd to be waiting for them today. I had a tight knot of anticipation in my stomach, spent the day cleaning and tidying, buying food they like and tiny presents, all with a sense it shouldn't be like that. They were later than I expected, and I was less and less able to concentrate as the day wore on. These long stretches without them can feel like the starkest kind of personal failure. I've mentioned before, the constant low level anxiety that accompanies longer periods without the kids, an obscure feeling that something is wrong, or out of place. I know they're ok; better than ok. They're great, having wonderful holidays with people who love and enjoy them and care for them, and generally I fill my time without them well, I think. I see people, I write, I laugh, I lie in bed and wallow, or make myself a gin and tonic and read a novel. I'm learning, gradually, to enjoy the peaceful parts; not feeling the need to fill every moment with frenetic, compensatory activity.


But I'm reminded of something I wrote about Fingers a while back. I wrote this:

Your papa thinks I am a bit casual with you, but if I am, I am casual with you like I am with my leg, or my ear. You are part of me.

I suppose this is what I am realising I have lost, the offhand intimacy that comes with spending every waking moment with another person. It's not that it's all bad, it isn't. I am, indubitably, more appreciative, more careful of my time with them. I look at them more clearly and with more wonder when they come back to me each time, that bewildering mixture of completely the same, and indefinably changed. And of course, that shift would have come, in time, in any event. It comes to all parents sooner or later. But this is very much sooner and they aren't quite like my ears, or my elbows any more. They are separate, and that separateness is my doing. It's hard to accept, sometimes.


In the event, they rolled up at around four, an explosion of noise and irepressible good humour. It was wonderful to see them. Almost the first thing they did once their grandparents left was to tell me a long, meandering rude joke, the punchline of which was "Your arsehole is much bigger than mine". Then we went to the park, and Lashes sat under a tree reading a comic, while Fingers lay on top of me cackling every time the dog came and dropped a soggy tennis ball on my face. I will hold them very tight for the next few days and laugh at their jokes, and watch their shitty cartoons with them. And perhaps there's not so very much wrong with that.

17 comments:

Lisa-Marie said...

Emma, if you don't mind my saying, your posts about your boys read with lots of sentimentality and love, but no bullshit. I like it, it's what being in a family is really like :)

Anonymous said...

Dear Jaywalker,

I've watched my brother struggling with the same issues and I realise dimly how hard it must be. You seem to be coping amazingly well and with a degree of understanding and clarity which is unusual and inspiring. Your children are very fortunate in both their parents!

irretrievablybroken said...

This is exactly--but exactly--true and correct. When I'm not with my kids I feel like an amputee. A happy amputee, who can stay up till all hours doing whatever the fuck she wants, but still. And it makes time with them seem fraught somehow--I ignore them as much as I ever did, but then regret it when they're gone. A little.

Which may be why I found myself longing for my younger son's babyhood very intensely when my ex-husband and I split up. It was absurd, because that baby was gone anyway. But I think it was the easy intimacy and sense of purpose and PLACE that I missed.

Anyway, remember the E. B. White poem about the spider...it helps. Your blog continues to astonish and delight me, by the way. That Belgian Jay-Z ripoff was the absolute bomb (er, bombe....)

Em said...

You said that so beautifully. I hope you keep these posts for your boys.

RachieG said...

Off to meet people I don't know very well to go to Dusseldorf for the weekend, time now 03.14. Will they be able to tell I've been sobbing like a loon? I don't do crying pretty. It's snotty and red and puffy.

E, you write so beautifully.

(Ha! WV is lashen!)

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I think there might be a bit of Alain de Botton in you, after all.

Agreed, sentimental sans sirop.

C/Kalgon

GingerB said...

Is this perhaps why I keep my husband around? Hmmmm . . .

Jessica said...

There's nothing wrong with that. You're doing an awesome job, IMHO

Alison Cross said...

'Absence makes the heart grow fonder' they say. I'm not sure about 'fonder' but it certainly polishes up a greater awareness of people.

I was recently away from my son for 5 blissful days of stained glass panel-making. I enjoyed every moment of it, but there was a small, still gap that is usually filled by a perpetually chattering little boy, lego, DS games, single socks and crumbs.

I dread the day when he wants to put his arms around someone else instead of me.

Oh God, now I'm blubbing before my breakfast!

AnonyGay said...

Not much more to say than I thought this was touching. Thanks.

CHILDRENSALON said...

This post is an explosion of love.
Sometimes it hurts...but it is genuine LOVE!

Iheartfashion said...

This is so beautifully written Emma. It made me consider the fact that my kids won't always be with me 24 hours a day, and perhaps I should savor it more while it lasts. Thanks.

London City Mum said...

Emma

This is so beautiful, a real insight into your world with your boys.
You are right to treasure them. I can tell that they adore you as well.

LCM x

WrathofDawn said...

You're right about children being away making a mother feel... out of balance. When mine where young, during the part of their childhood where they spent a week with me and then a week with their father - during the off weeks no matter where I was, or how safe I knew they were, at a point early in the evening, I would start to get very anxious and feeling like, "I gotta get outa here!" and then I would look at my watch and see it was just after 6 pm, which was the time I had to have them picked up from their after-school program. You can take the kids away from the mother, but you can't turn off that mothering instinct.

I hated joint custody. HATED IT.

curlywurlyfi said...

Oh. See, now, I am having a little cry. Beautiful writing, entirely heartfelt, unsentimental, searingly true. This from someone who has no children. (Godchildren, mind.) God love you, Emma, for minding so very much.

Kitschen Pink said...

Your eloquence will be my undoing. You are a marvel. t.x

Jeannie said...

Beautifully put--enjoy every minute!