My day started this morning at around 6:50 with our youngest screaming out from her bedroom, “My wet Mummy!” it wasn’t exactly what I needed before a day at work and the kids’ last day at school before the Easter break.
Mabel – Like Butter Wouldn’t Melt – Stoner
After stripping the bed (for the second time this week – the youngest Stoner seems intent on keeping me on my toes when it comes to her toilet, or rather her non-toilet habits!), Martha crept into our bedroom with flushed cheeks, looking peaky and complaining of a sore throat. “Bloody marvellous”, I thought. Scarlet Fever has been doing the rounds at our primary school and so I jumped to what I though was a pretty obvious conclusion and kept her off for the day. Of course, as soon as she’d been double dosed with calpol and ibuprofen and she was safely away from the school gates she seemed to miraculously feel better and spent all day at work with me, eating crisps, munching on biscuits and writing a story about a witch, who turns out to be the heroine’s mother in the end (I did ask her where her inspiration for this mother-witch came from, but she just looked blankly at me – am hoping it is not a subconscious representation of her own sometimes snarly, crotchety mother!).
Mabel has been to the doctors tonight, she has had a nasty cough for weeks and weeks, so I thought it only wise to get her checked out. I always feel like a fraud though, when I take my kids to the GP and they immediately start playing with the ancient wooden bric-a-brac and mouldy plastic toys in the toy corner that look like they have infectious diseases dripping off them. I kid you not, there was an old wooden abacus there this evening – which my two daughters argued over very loudly and aggressively – that looked like it was made for Noah to help him calculate his ark navigations. I guarantee that if they had this creaky old toy at home, it would sit in the bottom of the toy box or in a wardrobe unplayed with for years, scoffed at with derision by all three of my bundles of joy, BUT…place it in a doctor’s waiting room and they will fight over it like wild hyenas. What fun!
She was fine, by the way, the cough has not turned into a chest infection, so now I feel like a completely neurotic mother – something I NEVER thought I would be. With a dad as a GP and a sister a nurse, I am usually very pragmatic and calm when it comes to the kids’ bugs – I was brought up to believe that a few paracetamol and plenty of water will cure most things – but maybe that has all changed and now I have turned into the type of mother I would have classed as an ‘over-reactor’, a ‘worrier’, a woman I could never imagine myself spending a lot of time with as she would drive me nuts. Maybe I am now her. Bloody hell!
Mabel, typically needed a wee on the way home, “It’s coming out, Mummy!” was shouted at me from the back seat several times before I relented and pulled into the entrance to a farmer’s lane, in the back end of nowhere, in the dreary drizzle. And typically, the wind blew just as I hooked my hands under her knees and dropped her into a squat position…..meaning my jeans got sprayed with piss. So, I couldn’t quite believe it when we were home for less than half an hour and I heard her screaming for me from upstairs. I sent Martha to see what bother she had got herself into, as I was trying to get their dinner sorted out. “She’s on the loo, Mummy!” she called down. “I don’t know if she’s had a poo or a wee but she’s not happy about something!” yelled my middle child. I traipsed upstairs to find my darling youngest daughter standing in a pile of wee on our bathroom floor. It seems she missed the toilet, or didn’t get herself on in time, or something. Maybe she just wanted to ensure my day ended as it started – with a whole pile of piss to clean up. It could have been worse, I tell myself, it could have been a number 2.
It’s on days like today – which, although exhausting with the seemingly relentless shower of shit (or pee) that has rained down on my head since the word go and have also made me want to laugh out loud at the silliness and ludicrousness of it all – that I want to call my mum and recount my day’s woes. She would have laughed with me at the constant challenges of raising young children. She would have defended them to the hilt against my complaints about their behaviour or their habits. She would have understood how tired I feel and how proud I am all at the same time. She would have offered to come down for the Easter weekend to spend time with us, to do nice things together, to go for walks and cook nice food, to take the kids shopping (she loved to treat her grandchildren to new shoes, or a new book, or something they needed for whatever sport they play or for school) and to read them their bedtime stories and to do Mabel’s bath time. Doing their bedtime baths and stories was always my mum’s favourite thing to do with all my children and something she always felt very privileged and honoured to be able to do. It is on days like today, normal days, days that in a few months won’t really stand out, that I miss her most. She is no longer part of my every-day, not like she once was. Don’t get me wrong, she is constantly in my head and constantly in my thoughts, but instead of using her as a sounding board, checking I’m doing okay, asking for reassurance, wanting her approval, I am worrying about her, about my dad constantly. It never goes away.
I was asked today by an old work colleague, the lovely Nick, whether I worry more about my dad or my mum and I had to pause. I am not really sure. I think I worry more about my dad and what he has to cope with on a daily basis. The seemingly endless barrage of abuse he takes from her some days, the lack of any joy in their relationship anymore, the housework, the cooking, the gardening, the shopping; all tasks he now has to undertake on his own, with no help from the woman he loves. At least with my dad, there are some things, practical things we can do to try and help, even if that is simply a daily phone call, or regular visits, or support from afar. But, I explained to Nick (the lovely Nick) that I do worry about Mum too, as even though it seems she does not really know what is going on and is confused beyond belief, she is fearful and anxious all the time. She misses her husband and roams the rooms of their lovely house looking for him, angry that there is a stranger there instead. She is unhappy and sad and there seems to be little or no joy left in her anymore and that is a constant worry and sits in the pit of my stomach as a deep and immovable sadness. There is not much I can do to help my mum, to take away her anxiety or her fear. My regular phone calls seems to agitate her and I am unable to rationalise with her, to make things better for her, to make her happy.
I always used to imagine dementia sufferers as very grey old ladies and wrinkly old gents, sitting calmly in a nursing home, staring blankly into space with a half smile on their lips, content in their fog of confusion and happy in their world. Mum is not like that, not yet anyway and I don’t know whether it would be better for her to get to that stage or not. I cannot let my brain take me there – I cannot allow myself to picture that, it is too difficult, as even if that would be a more serene state for her to be in, it would mean there is nothing left but a shell. At least now, in her feisty, fearful state we see glimpses of her old strength as she tries to physically push my dad out the room, or snippets of her old humour as she forces a smile as I recount something that has happened to me – usually involving the kids and usually involving toilets!
I spoke to my dad earlier and apparently she has not had too bad a day. I know he tries to protect us, so I am guessing it has been pretty tough, despite his protestations that all has been calm. It is easy when you live 200 miles away to blank out the reality for a few moments each day, to push it to the back of your brain. Easier still when you are faced with the children’s embarrassing arguments over Victorian counting bead frames in public and Mabel’s challenging toilet behaviour at regular intervals through the day to keep your brain and thoughts busy, barricaded from the reality of our family situation. So, as I kiss my most challenging child goodnight and remind her where her potty is, should she need it in the night, I am grateful for her tiny arms around my neck as she begs me for another story. I am thankful for the bedtime hollering as one child realises another has broken up their carefully constructed Lego house and this really is the end of the world. These day to day challenges are an absolute blessing and despite my exhaustion and my frustrations at the literal barrage of piss thrown at me today, I am grateful for them. What state would I be in if all I had to worry about was my mum? Bring on the piss….it may be infuriatingly annoying and exasperating beyond belief, but it is a good distraction. It could be worse, it could have been number twos!