About a month ago I mentioned to my husband that I was thinking of buying a whiteboard for our kitchen. I could write to-do lists, keep a record of activities, write up list of meals that we’d be having that week, plus have exercise and blogging schedules. I was going to be organised. I didn’t get the whiteboard and the moment passed. A couple of weeks later I had this great idea to buy a tin of blackboard paint and paint an entire wall of our kitchen with it. Same idea as the whiteboard but it would, I imagined, have more of a funky cafe vibe if I could write all over the wall with chalk. My husband nodded with all the feigned enthusiasm of someone who knows that this idea too shall pass. But, just in case, that same afternoon he went out and bought a small whiteboard and attached it to the kitchen wall. Point taken on the funky cafe vibe idea.
The two qualities that I think are most valuable in someone raising young children are kindness and patience. Unfortunately for Pickles and Pords their mother does not naturally possess either of these. I don’t say this to be hard on myself. I think I have other useful attributes for parenting, not least of which is the self-awareness to know my limitations and try and work on them. So every time I find myself losing patience (hourly), or starting to respond in a way that is less than optimally kind, I make a new resolution. Today I will choose patience and kindness. As I organised the new whiteboard with different headings and space for lists I just knew that from this would flow a new me. I would be organised and therefore never be flustered. I would be the mother of my resolutions; always kind, always patient.
Unfortunately, this week the babies were sick and my resolve to be kind and patient was severely tested. It was conjunctivitis, so we were in quarantine. Pickles spent the days roaming around the house and I would follow him with my disinfectant. Towels, bedding, clothes were all washed in hot water immediately after use. He picked up the routine quite quickly, and on Tuesday afternoon I found him staring into the washing machine, which was running with one face washer inside. Future (kind, patient, well-rested, mother-of-the-year) me is going to have to deal with the fact that he has worked out how to operate the washing machine on his own. In that moment, I was just glad that he’d got the fact that in the world of the sickness lockdown, hygiene was paramount. It wasn’t fun, but we got by with books and blocks and too much tv.
Then it would start. At about 4pm each day, Pickles reached the end of his tether. He hated being inside all day, he hated being sick, and so he would let me know about it with a low, continuous whine. The sound was the perfect expression of what it’s like to feel sick. Others might say: “I don’t know, I just feel ‘blerg’.” Pickles said “errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh.” “What should we have for dinner?” “Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh.” “Shall we read some books?” “Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh.”Silence from me. “Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh.” “Maybe we all need to have a little lie down.” “No! No lie down! Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh.” And so it went. I imagined my husband in his IT workspace, probably laughing at videos of cats playing piano, emailing someone on the other side of the room rather than having to talk, and going out for a little walk to clear his head when it got a bit much. I cursed his name. “Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh.”
There never were longer hours than those between 4 and 6. Then, suddenly, they’d be over. Dinner, bath, bed. Day shift done. Relief and peace for approximately 30 seconds. Then it was Pords’ turn. “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!” She was congested and it hurt to lie down. So she wanted to be held. All night. By me. If I left the room to brush my teeth, she would recommence: “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!” Now, my rational mind got that they were very little people who weren’t feeling well. But the tireder I got, and the more times I heard an errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh or an aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa, the less patient and kind I felt. In a brief moment of respite I stood looking at my beautifully organised new whiteboard and the blank columns where I had planned to schedule time for exercise or blogging. I shook my head, took the red marker, and wrote “ALWAYS CHOOSE SLEEP!!!” My husband smiled: “That seems like a very good plan.”
Yet, here I am not sleeping. It’s a Saturday morning and I asked for an hour to write a blog. I’ve been interrupted approximately once every three minutes. I am sorry to say I have not always responded with patience and kindness. And no doubt it’s incoherent mostly rambling. I should have trusted in the wisdom of the whiteboard.