The Stephen Fry of the playground

I’ll admit it. Young children bore me. Up until they reach the age of about seven, I couldn’t be less fascinated by what they have to say. The_Thinker_Rodin-2

They undoubtedly feel the same way about me though, so I don’t feel too guilty about the admission.

(I refer to my child here, by the way. Yours might be the Stephen Fry of the playground, in which case I’d love to buy them a latte and have a chat.)

But is a five-year-old child capable of introspection?

Last night mine interrupted Masterchef to tell me she was going to the bathroom in order to have a think about Daddy.

“About who?” I asked, distracted by the pannecotta on the screen which looked indisputably like a breast with a huge nipple. (Greg’s grin when he saw it suggested he thought so too.)

“About our Daddy, what died,” she replied.

Off she tootled to the john and shut the door behind her.

She was in there a long while. After Greg had sampled the breast (predictably, he LAHVVED it), I knocked and opened the door.

“Get out!” she barked. “I want to be on my own so I can think.”

When she came out I asked her what she’d been contemplating.

“I was thinking about when Daddy died,” she replied.

“Oh. And did you feel happy when you thought about Daddy, or sad?”

“I felt happy and sad.”

Like Dianne Weist in Parenthood trying desperately to connect with her surly hormonal son, I found myself saying;

“I’m here if you want to talk. Or if not, talk to Mrs X at school. Or perhaps Mrs Y. Or Grandma! Or Aunt!”

She nodded at me like I was deranged, then asked for an Oreo.

Finally I find myself genuinely interested in something she has to say, but unlike her views on Barbie and the Secret Kingdom, she is suddenly unwilling to share.

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Left Central Incisor: A Lament

Today I am in mourning.imagesCA951OM4

For a tooth.

My daughter’s left central incisor, to be precise; in the space of a few more wobbles, it will be the first to succumb to the Tooth Fairy. (Who now charges upwards of a pound for collection BTW. A pound! In my day etc, etc).

As the mother of an only child this is a new experience for me, but I imagine the departure of a first baby tooth is a milestone for most parents. But this loss signifies more than just a quid from my wallet.

Mark and I heralded the arrival of each and every one of those baby teeth with the zeal of Percy Thrower and his first runner bean shoots.

“Come and feel this!” I’d shout, forefinger jammed between the poor bairn’s drooling jaws. “What do you reckon? Tooth… or bit of biscuit?”

We watched as she went from gummy, gurning toddler to a little girl with a full set of perfect, Haribo-chewing gnashers.

The smile she has now is the same one He knew, the teeth the same ones He helped nurture and clean. But not for much longer.  For incisor will follow incisor, canine will follow canine, and before long she’ll have a new set of tombstones which will completely transform her face.

The loss of this incisor signifies that she is growing up. And with tragic, wearying inevitability, He is missing it.

 

 

Things You Don’t Tell Your Mother

There are certain things you don’t tell your mother.

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Keeping me at arm’s length with a broccoli floret

Like how, when you were seventeen, you crashed her car into the gatepost while she was away in France and had it fixed out of your savings before she came back.

Or owning up to the true extent of what you got up to at University, and how little of it involved academic study.

Even now, close as we are, there are things I don’t tell my Mother. Partly to save her brow from further angst-incurred furrowing, but also because I have good friends and a counsellor with whom I ‘talk out’ my fruitier escapades.

Of course, when it comes to my own daughter, I like to think she does, and will, tell me everything.

Being five-years-old, this currently involves information about her latest bowel evacuation and news that she doesn’t like broccoli, (although she did tell me the Great Fire of London was in 1666 the other day, which really was news to me).

One thing she doesn’t discuss with me though, or even mention much these days, is Daddy. And I don’t push it, because I might cry and not stop, and she might end up as she usually does, wiping my tears and telling me everything will be OK.

I hadn’t thought much about this until I dropped her off at school this morning and her teacher asked for a ‘quiet word’.

Seems she’s been mentioning Him a lot at school. In the dinner hall. In assembly. She’s confided in staff that she’s sad that her daddy is dead and that she misses Him. She has sought comfort in the arms of teachers and dinner ladies.

I spent the rest of the morning ulcerating about this particular conversation starter. Arguably the most important and interesting of conversation starters for us to elaborate on, yet she keeps me at arm’s length with a broccoli floret.

She witnessed His death. She continues to witness the fall-out from His death. So why hasn’t she sought comfort from me?

Perhaps she’s trying to save my brow from further furrowing too.

The poisoned fish finger

Fried fish finger

Fried fish finger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A friend entrusted me with her two daughters yesterday, thereby making me custodian of three little girls under the age of six. For an hour. Until their daddy came to pick them up.

Looking after other people’s children always makes me skittish as I am convinced that I am cursed and that they will fall foul of a falling Acme piano or a poisoned fish finger whilst in my care. These two, however, miraculously survived, and their daddy duly came to pick them up.

Hearing kids and their daddies interact always sends my heart into fluster, and I have to concentrate on not a) bursting into tears or b) shouting ‘Oh for fuck’s sake!’ in a really childish manner. Last night was no different.

“Have you got a cuddle for daddy?” he asked them.

“Yeah!” Within seconds they were trampolining on him, using him as a set of monkey-bars, swinging from his ears etc.

The moment reminded me of when Mark used to come in from work: the tail lights of the car edging into the garage, the shriek of ‘Daddy’s here!’ (me), the sound of the heavy car door slamming and then the sight of his face at the kitchen window, invariably contorted into some ludicrous expression.

When my friend’s husband arrived, I wanted to cuddle him too. I wanted to nuzzle my nose into his starched work-shirt collar and loosen his tie, and ask him how his day had been. I wanted to watch him flick through the post, then go to the fridge and help himself to a beer. Then I wanted my daughter to hug him and feel the sense of warmth and security that a returning parent brings.

Instead I kissed him sagely on the cheek and watched his reunion with his girls.

Turns out my daughter felt it too. As they were leaving, I heard great wails coming from outside. I ran out, gathered her up and asked;

“Whatever is it? Acme piano? Poisoned fish finger?”

She buried her head in my shoulder and cried: “I just want my Daddy.”

Him and her

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This is Him, and her.

Hello. I’m having a glass of Rioja at the end of one of those ‘Oh sweet Satan’s ball-sack, I’m a TERRIBLE mother’ days. Will you join me?

I have had the emotional resilience of Wensleydale cheese today (crumbly, for all you non-Northern-English people). And I’ve been unable to toughen myself up.

And my child has both a) witnessed it and b) had to stay at my Mother’s whilst I spent time collapsing on the bed at home. It sounds melodramatic, but I swear, today, I’ve not even been able to THINK about, you know, Him, without going all Wensleydale.

I don’t know why it hits you like this. Anyone? Anyone?

If I’d even tried to compose a post earlier I wouldn’t have had the energy to press the buttons on the keyboard. Fortunately, Rioja has the same effect on me as spinach has on Popeye – it makes me strong to the finich.

It’s the school holidays and I’m up to my ears with the sound of kids shouting for their daddies. I’m sick of people rambling on about going on holiday together. I’m weary of people complaining about the forthcoming fortnight they’re going to have to endure with their husband and kids. I’d sell a kidney for the chance of a holiday with just Him and her.

“Are you cryin’?” My daughter asked me, as tears powered down my cheeks.

“Uhuh.”

“‘Cos you miss Daddy?”

“U”- snort- “Huh”

She doesn’t say anymore than that these days. She just goes and gets a length of toilet paper from the bathroom and clumsily tries to stop the flow.

And I thought to myself today – with no level of profundity whatsoever – I thought, nothing really matters. Nothing.

All I want is you, Buble. Can you hear me?

The Duchess of Hazard

I am the Fun Police.

At least as far as my daughter goes. She wants to take her scooter down a slight incline and I’m there, sucking my teeth on the sidelines, hardly daring to look. She wants to do star jumps on the trampoline and there’s my face, moulded into the mesh like a bank robber.

Yesterday, a group of us went to Newby Hall. Fun central, as far as kids are concerned. Water fountains to jump in. A lake to paddle in. A zip-wire to…zip down.

All potential death traps. Lynn Faulds-Wood has got nothing on me.

Water fountains = slip hazard.

Lake = drowning hazard.

Zip-wire = one way ticket to paraplegia.

Friends will testify that I have always been on the cautious side. (Except after a few beers – then I’ll do owt). However, since M died, I have become convinced something is going to happen to take my child too. In fact, my buttocks have been permanently clenched for eighteen months.

Prior to this, it was my own health which caused me anxiety. Everything took on catastrophic significance, from headaches (brain tumour) to athletes foot (skin cancer). It was a psychological unhinging which was attributed to M’s sudden illness and near-death in 2008. Finally I was told I had ‘Health Anxiety’ by my weary-eyed GP, who just wanted to satisfy me with a diagnosis of some description so that I would fuck off and leave her alone.

Since M was taken from me though, my anxieties have been transposed onto my girl. To the point yesterday where I was so caught up in worrying, I forgot to take her bathing suit and she refused to go into the fountains nude.

Instead she stayed close to me, wrapped up in the safety of the towel.

A Chimp with a Gun

Sam is capable of using his own abilities, eve...

Sam is capable of using his own abilities, even if this is something his host normally can not do. Taken from the Season 4 episode “The Wrong Stuff” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Widowhood feels like that programme from the 80s, Quantum Leap.

When that bloke arrives in a new world feeling like himself, only to look in the mirror to find he’s now a naughty nun.

Like learning how to live again, widowhood presents a series of ‘firsts’ and new choices. All to be dealt with whilst fighting off the grief gremlin who is clinging to your back  – yeah, Dr Sam Beckett, you didn’t have to deal with THAT added twist, did you?

Today, I had a ‘first’. Yes, seventeen months in. I thought I’d pretty much fielded all the balls in this ‘new normal’, but an emotional googly came at me today, threatening to deflate an otherwise glorious day.

I’d met with some friends in a park in Newcastle. It was a searing 24 degrees, cloudless sky, the kids were free-range, we were young, bronzed and gorgeous*.  (*OK, the group next to us were young, bronzed and gorgeous, but we were absorbing it. Like osmosis. And that was what mattered).

You just knew something had to come along and shit on it.

And he did. Right at the end, as we were saying our goodbyes. Steve Duncan appeared on the periphery of my vision. (We’ll call him Steve Duncan, for that is his name).

Steve Duncan was an ex-colleague both M and I shared. We worked on a youth project together in Sunderland ten years ago and aside from a wild Hallowe’en party involving a Hulk mask and a bowl of vodka-laced gunk, I haven’t seen him since. Yet there he was, Steve bloody Duncan, now with blonde-haired child calling him daddy.

My blood instantly chilled. Steve Duncan wouldn’t know about M. He’d be over in a minute, asking me how things were, what I was up to, how was his old mate M? I could see him looking at me with that, “That is her, isn’t it?” half-smile expression on his face, poised for the approach.

It occurred to me that I had not yet had to deal with people who had known M, but who weren’t aware He was dead. I was confident that social media had covered this for me. But Steve Duncan had been out of the loop for so long, the news wouldn’t have reached him.

I gathered my child and my dog and scurried up the hill towards the car. When I looked at my reflection in the wing-mirror, it could well have been a naughty nun looking back at me.

Another experience in this strange new world.

Note on picture: WordPress suggested it as an accompaniment to this post. This baffled me at first – what combination of words could have prompted it? But then I realised that over the past four months, Wordpress has clearly come to know me better than I know myself. For that is exactly what I feel like. A chimp with a gun. Thanks WordPress!