We run. As a family. It’s become a bit of a “thing”.
I blame the Park Run. We thought we’d try it last summer and almost twelve months later, we still turn up almost every week, come rain or shine. It can be a painful half hour if Mabel is not channeling her inner happy child. If angry Mabel comes out to play, then there is always the risk I will be reported for child abuse. If positive, leaping across the tree-roots-Mabel is out, then the whole affair is rather enjoyable.
A few weeks ago, I could tell before we’d even got dressed that all was not boding well. She scowled at me when I asked her to get her clothes on. She growled at me when I placed her trainers in front of her as she sat, hunched and tense on the bottom stair. She then refused to jog to the start line – our normal warm up – choosing instead to scream at me.
I tried to keep her positive. It was a beautiful morning, it wasn’t like rain was lashing sideways into our faces, like it had done several times through the winter months. What was there to moan about? I felt confident in my parenting abilities. This child WOULD complete the 5k course.
The whistle went and we were off. Before the first bend, my smallest child had started to whinge. It started fairly quietly. And then it built.
I should point out at this point, that she had achieved a PB the week before. 30:00 was now her best time. A pretty impressive result for a pint-sized 5 year old. So, I knew she could do it. She had done it many times before. It was all in her head.
By the time we got half way around our first lap of 3, her lungs were warmed up. She was growling and howling, yelping and screeching about a pain here, there and everywhere.
By the second lap, people were stopping me to ask if she was okay. One lady offered to sit down and stay with her whilst I finished the run. I tried not to snarl my thanks at her, but could she not see that the kid was playing for dramatic effect? Could she not see that she was perfectly capable of – well, of anything she sets her bloody mind to – it was just today, she didn’t want to do it and was ensuring that everyone and his dog knew about it.
As we started the third lap, I was dropped to my knees, a threatening tone to my voice, warning my Littlest about her lack of treats later when a chap came up to us and asked Mabel if she’d look after his watch as he was waiting for his wife and he needed the watch to finish the course. It was a dubious reason, but in her now very agitated and highly emotional state, she took it and for a few moments it distracted her.
I saw my chance and by half way around the third lap we were running and chatting about the weekend ahead of us and what film we would watch that night with our pizzas (our Saturday night family night-in).
As we approached the final bend, a couple were finished and walking back to their car.
“Go on Little Lady!” they shouted. “You’re doing so well!” The Park Run is like that. Everyone is like a character from an Enid Blyton book. Rather jolly nice.
We thanked them and kept going and I heard the chap say, “did you hear that other little girl screaming her head off earlier?”
I almost stopped to point out that the screaming, potential-victim-of-child-abuse-by-an -overly-demanding-mother was in fact this now-calm kid, running like the clappers to try and beat me to the finish.
She drains me.
I was searching for some old photos on my computer last week. I found loads of videos of when Archie and Martha were very small. Funny videos of them in the bath, or running around the garden. Archie obsessed with Bob the Builder, Martha as a baby. You can’t see me in the videos, but you can hear me.
And, what I heard hurt my heart.
In those videos I heard myself being tolerant, kind and patient. I heard a calmness in my voice, a humour, a relaxed and confident mother who is spending time with her young children, teaching them and inspiring them to grow. It was shocking to me. I almost didn’t recognize myself.
I hear Mabel sometimes growling at her sister and brother. I hear her scream at the injustice of the world. I watch her intolerance at unfairness and her grit, strength and occasional fear when faced with a new challenge. And, I know it is a reflection of me.
The other two had a calm, happy, chilled out me. A mother who rolled with the punches, had time for their curiosities and embraced lazy days and space.
Mabel has a very different me. A hurried me. A busy me. A worried me. A me damaged by the knowledge that bad things happen to good people. That injustice is served upon those who try their best to play the odds. A me marred by grief and pain and stress.
It was a difficult thing to listen to and to acknowledge.
We have just got back from visiting my parents. Mum was much the same. We decided to take her out for a walk in her wheelchair. It was the first time she had been out the home for several months.
“Go backwards down the ramp,” was the warning from one of the care workers. Good job too, as we almost tipped Mother out a few times when we hit a small kerb or a divet in the road.
Martha was determined to push. I suppose it is a bit like pushing a baby in a pram, the young girls all love to do it. I kept one hand on Mum’s shoulder in case I needed to grab her lapel and keep her upright.
I was fretting for nothing. It was lovely. It rained gently and then the sun came out. My mother got to feel the rain on her cheeks, the sun on her face and a gentle breeze in her hair. She was slumped to the side the whole time and the only sentence we got from her that made any sense was when Martha asked her what she used to love doing:
“Shooting a gun!” was her response. It made absolutely no sense at all, but made us all laugh.
As we said our goodbyes after a lovely hour out in the fresh air, I watched as all three of my kids hugged their strange Granny. Their Granny with the wild stare and the rambling, incoherent words. Their Granny whose skin is flaking and who seems to constantly have eye bogies in the corners of her eyes. Their Granny who reaches for people she can’t see and who scowls at people she can. Their Granny who can no longer walk or right herself in her seat, who can’t clean herself or go to the bathroom. Their Granny who has not said anything nice or loving to them in several years.
I watched as they took it in turns to hug her and tell her they love her.
And I consoled my angry, stressed, busy, hurried and damaged self, that I may be changed by this whole experience, but surely I can’t be getting it all wrong.
I miss you, Mum x