It’s time to elicit a pep talk from someone. I shall choose my victim carefully. Tell them exactly what I need to hear. Ask them to drum it into me any which way they can. Tie me up and blind fold me and loud speaker it in. For a fee, naturally.
There are swings to be contended with in this whole parenting a big brood thing. Great swathes of feelings of achievement having navigated them narrowly through a hectic, demanding May. Then the foot comes off the pedal in June just a tad and with it all the niggly doubts swarm in. What if I’m just not doing a good enough job? They seem happy though, don’t they, but should they seem happier? Any free moment I get, shouldn’t I be trying to improve things for them, hoovering a little more, pairing up a few more socks, baking something, blending a smoothie? Instead of hiding somewhere trying to scratch out some writing. Am I, in fact, quite absent from them as in my mind I’m off with the characters I’m eking out and carving into existence? Is there something perverse about this, creating people and worlds, while the real people in your real world might be crying out for you?
These thoughts are cyclical and can be prompted by any little random thing. Like marque 3 asking me to sign a piece of paper about ‘the talk’.
‘You know, the talk Mum, in school, about, you know, well you have to sign it otherwise I’ll have to do science all day instead’.
One of us is blushing. Not the one that should be though.
‘Did we do that with you?’
‘Tell me that we already had a little chat with you about, you know, that your Dad took you out for breakfast and you know…’
‘No Mum, that never happened’.
You see, I tell myself, just not bloody good enough.
‘But I googled the one for a ten year old’.
‘The what for a ten year old?’
Hell, can they do that?
‘Is there one for a twelve year old? We can do it together. Look it up. We’ll do a crash course before the one in school so as you’re up to speed’.
‘I’m up to speed Mum, don’t worry about it. Just sign here’.
‘Any questions, sweetheart, just shoot, we’re always here, kind of, you know, and your Dad owes you a breakfast out for anything you might want to chat with him about, instead. Okay?’
‘Okay. I’ll definitely go for the breakfast. Can I go to Sweet Moments afterwards too?’ Sweets. Yes. Give the children lots of sweets and forget to cover the basics with them. Well done you.
‘When can I have my breakfast chat?’ marque 4 pipes up.
‘What age are you?’
‘Ten, nearly eleven’.
‘Soon. Very soon. Maybe Dad will do a bumper pack chat. Take the two of you out. Or maybe even three…’
There are ways to make up for areas of neglect in big broods after all. A three-way Christening in 2010 comes to mind – yes we got three of our sons Christened on the same day, only the greatly disorganised can manage a feat like that – with marque 3 and marque 4 standing together as water is dripped down onto their copiously coated blonde heads and only marque 5 is small enough to actually wear the robes. It was a magical day remembered far too well by all.
On an up swing, such as it was on the last day of May, I can be heard calling out things that seem a little surreal.
‘You’ll have to all get your homework done super quick this afternoon. I won’t be able to supervise it later. I’m meeting my agent’.
‘Your what?’ Marque 5 asks.
‘My agent, you know, for my writing’.
‘Oh yeah, your agent. What?’
‘Can I come too?’
‘No you cannot’.
I sail off with no one in tow, thrilling enough in itself, briefcase swaying in hand – a little uncalled for, but hey, it makes it seem a little more real – and talk about the book and the characters in the making as if it’s all perfectly normal, everyday work. Then I go back to the unfinished homework. Which doesn’t seem to bother me at all anymore.
So my own pep talk person, when selected, will boom out that parenthood is full of swings, it always will be, and accepting them, going with them, ignoring the niggly doubts, is the trick to surviving. Maybe even thriving. In the meantime, this luckily chosen person will be asked to pin me down and tell me to keep carving and scratching away. I will do my best to listen. There is someone in my corner now, after all.