Monday, January 21, 2013
I wake up at 5:51, and again at 7:23. I'm not really awake, but I don't sleep for that last few hours either. I can't help but go over it in my head: unless my English mock exam tomorrow starts at 12:30 (10 minutes after my last lesson) it won't end in time for me to pick Jr up, and I'm reminded that I haven't finished the revision for Jane Eyre yet, which keeps me awake.
I don't really get up until 8:07, a 40 minutes later than I really should be getting out of bed. I hadn't been sleeping; just stressing and watching the clock tick by, each minute building on the overwhelming stress, the pressure bearing down on me like the knees of the Night Mare, only she doesn't leave me alone when the sun comes up. Eventually I break away and tear myself off of the sofa. Yes, the sofa; my bed is too big for me when I'm alone, I feel agoraphobic in it and can't settle. That, and yesterdays laundry is still strewn across it; I haven't put it all away yet.
I try to be good once I'm awake. I slept in my work blouse and trousers from yesterday: I don't work, but the ensemble turns my boyfriend on like you wouldn't believe. I love these trousers; too bad the zip's broken. I'm the crafty sort; I really should be able to fix that. I just haven't, yet. I get some porridge on the go, made with water (I have to ration the milk) and some fruit puree from the previous nights desert. It's home made; a little frozen fruit cocktail, some oat bran, some flour to thicken, a hint of milk, some brown sugar and cinnamon...it's quite good, and on pancakes for dessert it made up for the small dinner nicely. I mix it all together and set it on a low heat in my only good non-stick pan, and head upstairs to wake Jr.
He's such a good boy, but like I have always been, he's a sensitive thing and a very restless sleeper. Last night was no exception...a few days ago, he overheard a friend's mother mutter "I'm gonna bloody kill him one day" under her breath about her own child. My son, of course, took this literally and started crying "don't kill him! He didn't mean to!" Me and the other boy's mother tried our best to reassure him that she had only been joking, that it was just an expression meaning she was fed up, that she would never hurt him. And while that succeeded, Jr had still had the idea of his friends death implanted in his mind, and it circled back to him last night, making him call me upstairs near midnight because he couldn't sleep for fear of it. I remember something similar from my childhood, only I was a bit older. Is this normal? Or have I, my father, my grandmother, all passed on our depression to my son? Is he, at 4 years old, already taking on the mental health issues I've always struggled with? That crippled my dad? That killed his mum?
It's a depressing thought, and as I always tell my little boy (and as my therapist has always told me) if a thought makes you sad, try not to think about it. Do something else instead; shoot something on a computer game or blow bubbles (depending on which of us is receiving the advice). Run around like a fruit for a while, or drink something hot. There are lots of things we can do when we feel sad other than feeling sad, and I encourage him to do the same things. It's been snowing; I tell him to think of the snow, and he falls asleep quickly enough.
Now, however, at 8:15, he's fast asleep because he was awake so late last night. I have to wake him for school, and he wakes happily enough. We're both cheerful this morning; as cheerful as ever we are. Which is pretty damned cheerful, in fairness. And thus begins the whirlwind of my mornings: 15 minutes of stirring porridge interspersed with "mum, can I play a game?" And "I can't find it: can you help me look?" Followed by "mum! The telly's not working!" And of course "Where did my controller go?" Before we finally get him all set up...just in time for me to serve his porridge and tell him to turn it off. He kicks up one heck of a fuss, but I did tell him when he first asked to play that there wasn't enough time. Perhaps I should have just said "no" flat out, but it's easier to intersperse breakfast making with a happy-but-demanding child than one screeching from the naughty step, and I hate starting and ending days badly.
I give him his "porridge drink" (porridge with milk, to cool it and make it drinkable) and promise we'll play games later, and that's the end of that. While he drinks, I make my own breakfast: a meal replacement shake with 1/4 cup of mixed nuts and seeds, 1 cup of the fruity porridge I made earlier, and 1 tbsp oat bran. This will probably see me through until mid-afternoon when I'll snack on fruit, olives and nuts. It's pretty healthy, and tastes like warm angel delight, which I adore. It's easy to pretend it's not "healthy food" although the lack of really solid food can sometimes make my stomach (which craves buttery toast and eggs) protest it's emptiness, even though I'm easily getting two meals in the drink. I can't drink it yet, anyways; a glass of water, and it's back to Jr.
The next thing I do is brush his hair and teeth, put him on the loo and wash his hands and face. Or I mean to: it's 8:35 and I should have left already, so this part is reduced to "do you need the loo?" "No, mummy" and then we're getting dressed. Well, he's getting dressed. underwear, socks, pants ("Oh! Wait! I need a wee!"), vest (it's still icy cold), school T-shirt, school jumper, body-warmer, gloves, thick coat with hood, wellie boots...I have to check it all off in my head: I'm horrible at this motherly thing and am waiting for the day I send him to school with no pants or something. But I love him, so I try my best, and it hasn't happened yet. For me, "getting dressed" means putting my wellies on over my slippers (my boyfriend bought me both: I can't afford either for myself after paying for Jr's) and changing my over-sized fleece, left by an ex, for my winter coat (a huge, padded, hooded, knee-length thing bought from Lidl's for £14.99. Good quality for the price, and for me. Nice and warm, and waterproof; I don't ask for more) and we're off. I'm pretty sure I haven't even looked in a mirror, much less brushed my hair.
I leave the house and am slightly horrified to find it's still so icy. No one has bothered to ice or grit our little cul-de-sac; why would they? But we live on the side of a hill, leading down to a lake and up to the school. It's beautiful, but with 1/2" of solid ice underfoot, it's dangerous. My son and I fall down a dozen times between us just trying to get past the little slope outside of our house, and I hurt my knee quite badly. I get about 1/4 of the way there and find a neighbour, who has a son in my son's class, standing in the garden. "You're braver than me," she says. "I'm not going out in this! The school can shove it!" She can't be the only one who's made this choice, and considering how late we are (it's now 8:55) I'm tempted to agree. Jr immediately tells me that he thinks we should head home and, cold and in considerable pain, I agree and go back knowing full well that this is an irresponsible choice.
I get home, but getting there something impressive happens. A couple of things, really. The first is that I realize I actually really don't want to be "that" parent. You know, the one who keeps their child home in indignation every time a snowflake or a drop of rain falls, that parent who forbids their child from doing PE any time the weather peaks above 21C or yells at the teacher for an hour solid because their child is behind in the class after missing so many days and half days because they don't understand that Dr's appointments should be made AFTER school. I really hate those mothers, and don't want to be one. I want to be a good mother, who makes sure my son goes to school, and enjoys it. The second impressive thing is that my son, who had been all for the return a minute later, seemed to suddenly realize coming home did indeed mean not going to school, which he loves. This was followed by a cry of "but mummy! I want to go to school and see my friends and my teacher!" And what parent can honestly say they don't want a child who loves school? Really?
So out we go again, much more carefully this time. By 9:15, we're there, and I sign him in the late book while the receptionist takes him to his class. They have this annoying thing there; if a child comes in at 8:59, they're on time. But if they come in at 9:01, they're late. Not just 1 minute late either; 6 minutes late. When working out late times they calculate from 8:55, even though your child isn't officially late until they close the classroom door at 9:00. This annoys the hell out of me, because it means that even though most of our late's are by less than 10 minutes, the total "time missed" is well over 2 hours, at least 40 minutes of which is made from these 5 minute additions. It also annoys me that when I fill in the form (and I always work it out from 9:00, not 8:55) they always go back and change my minutes to 9:00. I don't know or care why they add that 5 minutes; I guess to motivate parents to bring their children in on time, or make it look like lateness is more of a problem than it is. I'm not sure. Either way, it angers me; I'll take responsibility for the time he misses due to my error. Heck, I'll even take the 5 minutes when it's my fault, so I don't mind today because I was already late. But a lot of his entries in the late book were due to things like him having "accidents" on his way to school and needing to be taken home for a change of clothes, or him tripping and hurting himself and needing to walk a bit slower the rest of the way in. What am I supposed to do about those times? And why should I be penalized for things like that, outside of my control? Hell, they even made me sign the "late book" when he was ill at school and I had to come pick him up at lunch time, and after 10 entries in that book, you are sent to the head teachers office. It doesn't matter how many days off he's had, it doesn't matter if your total time late is 10 minutes (or rather, 60 minutes by their calculations) or 12 hours: you go to the head teachers office for the same lecture on the importance of being on time. I swear, when I get in their I'll rip his head off if he tries to castigate me for half the stuff they make me sign that book for; I know time keeping is important, but since when can I control the public transport I rely on to pick him up? How am I supposed to fend off all illness and injury? It irks me: I would have been in less trouble if I'd kept him at home and claimed he'd hurt himself on the ice. I feel like I'm being punished for making the responsible choice.
I get home, and I'm icy cold and aching. I sit down with my breakfast drink and some water, and write this. I already know that my knee is bruised and quite badly swollen, and I can't really walk the mile in to college. I only have two classes today, but one is a mock exam. But then, I'd have to reschedule anyway, almost certainly, for the school run. My knee is killing me. I can't afford the time off. I feel my breathing quicken; hyperventilation coming on at the dumbest thing. I can't go in. I can't afford the bus, and I physically cannot get in. And even if I do, I don't have a huge workload. I say something unladylike, and decide to stay at home. I email my teachers and apologise, I ask for the re-schedule and the homework from my other class, and I try to calm myself down. Something hot will help. I make a cup of tea and seek out a pair of gloves.
Today is Blue Monday, the third Monday of January and the day of the year people in Britain are most likely to commit suicide. If I was going in to college I'd be wearing bright colors and a "Be Strong" badge as a survivor of suicide attempts and a role model to others. I leave off the badge, but seek my brightest clothes, regardless. Even if I will be wearing an over-sized fleece over it. My house is cold, and I can't afford to keep it heated all the time, so I save the gas for the evenings when Jr. needs to get ready for bed. But I can still wear the bright colours, and drink hot tea, and breath deep.
You may think I have wandered far off the top of what my goal is, but this is not the case: I'm simply illustrating that goal to you. A year ago, I would have been "that parent." I would have had enough money for the heating and would have had egg on toast for breakfast, but I would have had these things because I was with an abusive made who molested teenage girls when I wasn't looking and made lots of money with which he kept me quiet. The house was clean and tidy only because it was one of his rules, but I was no more organized, and often spent hours laying awake in bed, fretting even though I couldn't enunciate my problems. I'm a mess right now, but I'm better than I was a year ago.
And that's my goal. To continue getting better. And every day I'll write about that journey, and read back over it on Blue Monday next year, and see if I have indeed improved at all. If not...well, I'll just have to wear something brighter.