Sunday, 19 February 2012

A wearying over-familiarity with mince

In a tensely negotiated compromise which has spared me from the blood-curdling prospect of "Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked", I write to you this afternoon from Manga Zone. It is cold in Manga Zone, so cold, and the sound of the teenagers killing each other on Xboxes blends, well, not even slightly with the Japanese nursery rhymes on the stereo. Manga Zone smells of nascent testosterone, gravy and Clearasil. I have just been to use the lavatories, and they look and smell like French service station conveniences circa 1983. I think that might be the first time that the loo seat has even been put down. Once more, I am spending my Sunday afternoon here and I am as "bored as a dead rat", as the French expression goes. Manga Zone does, however, have a wifi network (and let me also say, the staff are astonishingly lovely), so at least I can try and update my weblog more than once this week.

Ten things I did not anticipate on having children:

1. Attendance at places as not-at-all varied as: Manga Zone, Tokyo Gym, that Japanese shop in town that sells infantile plush animals, fetish maid outfits and samurai swords in one small, and mystifyingly popular space.

2. A wearying over-familiarity with mince. And ketchup. And the Quick menu of cheap, unhappy livestock, deep fried.

3. Viewing Richard Hammond as a largely benign force in my life (due to his ability to distract my children for hours at a time with the seemingly irresistible sight of people being felled with giant foam poles).

4. Being proved to be an irrational, arbitrary, angry dickhead almost daily in one way or another to the point where I often have to retreat to the loo to have a long hard word with myself about my dickishness.

5. Saying "YOU NEED TO FINISH YOUR NUGGETS FIRST", ever, in any context.

6. Genuinely considering sleeping on a campsite (a campsite! Toe fungus and barbecues and dehydrated noodles and plastic thong sandals and freezing concrete shower blocks!) to ensure my children can spend their Easter holidays washing giant tortoises and clipping lemurs' toenails (here. It is a long way from Brussels).

7. Enjoying sniffing another person's head even when it smells at various times of hamster bedding, tramps and antiquarian manuscripts.

8. Becoming that person that shouts impotently at the television. "I LOATHE THIS, I SIMPLY CANNOT BEAR IT", then huffing away to listen to Bach and read poetry (Inazuma Eleven, I am looking at you here, you piece of shit).

9. Bidding for Pokemon cards on Ebay, lost minutes after their much fĂȘted arrival.

10. Realising I can no longer divide 17,500 by 25 without electronic assistance.

Actually, there's one more.

There's the feeling you get when you're waiting for the children outside school (just once a week, in my case) and they come out, wrapped up and staggering under heavy school bags and you can see them searching for you, looking around all the waiting adults with that slight lost look, that vague anxiety, until they spot you, see you waving (discreetly, so as not to be an embarassment) and smile, properly smile, their studied casualness falling away despite themselves. And all the guilt and inadequacy and fretting about trying to do a decent job and trying to know what's right, and sensible, what's not enough, or too much, falls away temporarily, because in that moment, you've done absolutely the right, the only thing for them just by showing up. Because sometimes showing up is actually enough.

(Five seconds later they might very well be telling me not to wear that coat again, please, maman, you look like a witch. But I try to cling onto those five seconds of feeling I've done ok a week.)

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

Beautiful. Parents amaze me constantly. Mine, others and people who choose to take on the phenomenal task.

Also thankyou for pointing us to your friends blog.
http://www.fatponies.com/2012/02/11/my-parents-are-loonies/
Also wonderful.

Roberta said...

Dear Waffle: So true, all so true. Points four, seven and ten were like looking into a mirror -- shameful, kind of wonderful and then kind of shameful. Thanks for your last observation -- I'm grateful that it is sometimes enough just to show up.

The Return of the Native ... sort of. said...

Sadly, I clicked on your link about Easter holiday activities.
Waffle, do not send your children here.
They are liars.
They say ...
'En Belgique, nous avons toujours du soleil'
This
Is
Not
True

Waffle said...

ROTN Ha! - I think - hope, trust - they are being ironic... If not, it is possible the children will be showed a cow, told to clip its hooves, and assured it is a giant Seychelles tortoise.

Anon - I am very glad you like ze Fat Ponies. She is VERY VERY GOOD.

Roberta - I like to think so anyway. Fingers crossed, eh?

MargotLeadbetter said...

I watched Alvin and the Chipmunks 3the other night. Despite the heavy-hearted dread I felt beforehand, I really quite enjoyed it. Liking crappy kids' films is one of the things that surprises me about parenthood.

MJ said...

I cling to those 5 seconds (well, 25 seconds in my case, 5 seconds each day) as too often I've got all those other seconds of the day.

So far, I've avoided Alvin and his blasted chipmunks and I hope to remain chipmunk free. I've lost valuable time to Jack Black and Gulliver's Travels.

Dara said...

I saw that movie and it wasn't as horrible as I thought it would be. You are so spot on about the "showing up" bit....and I know I can be a dickhead, witchy mama too.

It's the hardest frickin' job in the world. I go to work for relaxation.

Anonymous said...

Awesome post Maman Waffle

bbonthebrink said...

Yes, yes yes and yes. I agree. I always love picking up the kids from school, and now you've explained to me why. Thank-you. BB

Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes said...

I can only nod in agreement, although since I have girls I hope to get out of pokemon or game halls. I know, I know: female stereotyping at its worst, but please for the love of chocolate let them hate Playstation and such like!

Laura Jane said...

let's hear it for number 11! All five seconds of it.

momosyllabic said...

Number four. My god, you sum up what I most hate about myself-as-mother.

I've found Studio Ghibli a relief from televised entertainment that makes my brain turn into pepto bismol. My children are younger, but Miyazaki has such a range of films, and they have backgrounds with pretty grasses and interesting flowers and drug-addled fantastic faux-bavarian russo-franco-italian detailing that maybe you and yours could still enjoy them. There's a cheap box set one can get here from amazon.

Patience_Crabstick said...

Lovely. I've seen that look on my kids' faces too and it never fails to make me a little verklept.

Jessica said...

Ugh. I just tried to do the math in my head and thought I'd arrived at the solution but upon checking realized I'd misplaced a zero. So I was WAY off.

Parenting seems to me like voluntary pain that produces beauty. I see it everywhere and it makes me... hesitant but also I feel as though I might be missing out on something wonderful. Horrible, possibly crazy-making, but wonderful.

Lesley said...

So true, funny and poignant. I've been meaning to tell you that I am glad you returned to blogging.

laura said...

That last point, so very true. From the perspective of someone whose Mother regularly didn't bother to turn up after school and who sat waiting at the gates of her primary school for what seemed like an age before realising she wasn't coming this week and walking home, being there is the most important of tasks. God, sorry that was miserable and babbling