Sunday, 20 July 2008

On reflection, is this home ed lark such a good idea?

I think I may have reached the state of parenthood I've longed to reach. Possibly for eight years.

This desired state is one where I roll out of bed one morning and say Uh? Where is everybody? and then, when I get no answer, go back to bed with a cup of coffee and today's Independent.

This state of parenthood is novel to me, and a bit like a magical transformation from anguished, care-worn, beaten, down-hearted, frustrated, lonely, miserable and hoarse, to invigorated and relaxed. In fact I may indulge in one of my favourite fantasies, now I have time. Not the one involving Dig, naked, with antler horns on his head as he dances around the garden. But the one where in the cafe I tentatively inquire what's the vegetarian option for the day? I sigh as I hear the microwave ping and expect the answer, omelette. Then the woman at the counter actually looks straight at me and smiles a warm smile and says Crank's Pepperpot Soup – the one that gives your weary soul a great, delicious hug. And with it you can eat, for free and as many as you like, fresh cooked garlic croutons that explode those garlicky kisses straight inside your mouth. That one.

Now I'm not sure why I feel in this relaxed state, or what has created this phenomenal change. There is no logical reason to this, after all. It could be, of course, that I have mislaid reason completely, and am now benefiting from unselfaware insanity. While I was sleeping, some Buddhist nirvana then sheltered inside my brain and kicked out all fears, self doubts, frustrations and angers, and put in their place happy thoughts, freshly brewed coffee, and today's unread newspaper.

But I have to face more fearful possibilities, too. Like this strange relaxed mood comes about not in spite of Shark, abstracted entirely, but because Shark is abstracted: enclosed in a field in Wales some hundreds of miles from home.

This Sunday morning, someone else will wake her, hopefully not by pelting her with a puffin or screaming at her head, then she will be offered a breakfast choice which I have not had to prepare, cook, or wash up for. From this point someone else will get her ready for a mountain ramble and hopefully she won't complain, squeal, argue or drag her feet, and if she does, that's not my problem. Then someone else will feed her lunch, busy her with quad bike challenge, feed her tea, fuss about 8 o'clock cocoa, and sort out the bedtime routine. None of which will include me.

I may feel confident she's having fun and is safe and will be insufferable when she comes home, but for the interim her absence does something else. It reduces our family status to the sublime peacefulness that is twins.

I cannot escape this observation, that twins play together. They have squabbles, upsets and fallings out, but there is no third dynamic introducing new constraints, knocking all games off course, providing new inclusions and exclusions, laying sister baits and traps, provoking one, playing divide and rule, all while safely knowing that if you piss off one sister, that's OK, because you've got another one to play with who was pissed off yesterday by Squirrel, and who right now will be a co-conspirator for revenge.

The fact that I can sit this morning with a cup of coffee and Gordon Brown in thick black print, and think these thoughts in a logical, ordered line, betrays something else that's new, too. The house is quiet. The house is so strangely quiet I think I may have sent Squirrel and Tiger away for an adventure holiday week and forgot about it. But no, because here are the two of them, sat on Squirrel's bedroom floor, listening attentively to Watership Down. All six uninterrupted hours.

And then I get to really think. Because what if twins became no children at all during 8.15am to 4pm? What if all my kids are occupied elsewhere? Would I spend everyday like this? Peaceful. Ordered. Calm. You people who send your children to school. Do you seriously walk around the earth with this knowledge that responsibility for the day's hours are all elsewhere? This wondrous calm and peace? This ability to think? Like Today I will read the newspaper! To be in charge of your own limbs and not be beaten by a willow fish? To think Hey! I'll use the blue cup! and not by doing so, create World War III and all the earth's destruction? And is the house so blissfully under your own control, with no-one else to pour oil down the toilet, compose a clay horse on the kitchen table, or paint the chairs orange, because it looks like a nice colour and we had a tin of it?

If really to send your children away, day after days, means this much calm and ordered peace, then I'm in. When Shark returns, she may just find the result of her summer camp is a brisk march down the road, dressed in black and white with mummy Grit behind her, urging, Let's not waste a minute now, because I've a full day ahead. After lunch with Laura I have an appointment with the manicurist and then, because I am a busy mummy, I need to hit the gym and book tickets for the opera.


sharon said...

Tempting isn't it? But I'm sure the novelty would soon wear off and you would regret it. However perhaps a HE swap with a like minded soul where you take each others kids as well as your own for one day a week/fortnight might be the source of a regular 'day off' for both HE Mummies. Quite frankly the extra kid/s won't make much difference to the noise and chaos the girls are capable of at times, in fact it may even be an improvement. Worth a thought...?

Potty Mummy said...

Obviously putting your kids in school is JUST like that Grit. JUST LIKE THAT. (I would stop but have to rush off to my pilates class before I meet my personal shopper for a spot of retail therapy, and then pick up dinner from the local traiteur...)

Suburbia said...

Sadly, when they're at school, we are at work!! So not peaceful at all!
It is funny how one less makes such a difference. I know I only have 2 but when one is away peace reigns!

Irene said...

Home education sounds like it takes a lot of courage and energy and I, for one, would never have attempted it. You have three kids the same age and I can only imagine the job you have on your hands to lead everything onto a good path. Are you made of saintly stuff? I hope you do get nice breaks on a regular basis and that you are treated well and are appreciated by all regularly. I hope they don't think you are Super Mom.

Grit said...

hi sharon! that is a good idea and one i have toyed with ... so far i have found people happy to give me their children but strangely not so keen when it comes to taking mine. not in bulk anyhow; one at a time only.

pm, i have recently been thinking what the f*** am i doing? and then i remember. i am IDEOLOGICAL.

oh dash, suburbia! i knew there would be something wrong with my plan as a lady of leisure! of course! dig would expect me to work! bum.

hello irene! i would like to think i am quite saintly but i swear too much. and the children probably consider a high level of motherly activity (aka interference) quite normal, which makes it harder for me to withdraw.

Em said...

This is sooooo right. Mostly I have twins, that fight, and squabble, and argue, and sometimes even play for hours and hours together unaided. But once a fortnight I have triplets! And boy, everything changes.

Elizabeth said...

Don't be swayed Grit--think of the evening battles to get homework done and lunches and uniforms sorted; the morning rush/battle to get them up, fed, dressed and out on time--usually before 9am! Yuck! That would have you too eshausted to relax-and by the time you unwind they're home telling you the huge project they had a month to do is due tomorrow!