In Admiration of Single Parents

Did I tell you I admire single parents?

Well, I don’t think I used strong enough language.  I don’t understand why those strong, resiliant super-heroes don’t dress themselves like this:

Perhaps they don’t see themselves that way; perhaps they evolve tough as nails without noticing.

I have been lone parenting for four weeks now – and have mostly evolved into a mushy heap, while other life forms are evolving within my washing pile.

I knew it was coming.  Early mornings; frantic, coffee-fuelled activity; coaxing and getting-ready and stamping and not-wanting-to-get-ready and loosing things and chaos and the spilling of breakfast cereal.  Leaning over, holding Big Sprog’s trousers out, waiting for her to step into them; the frustrated words that mean hurry-up-stop-looking-out-of-the-window; the inevitable crying; the Mummy-feeling-crap.  And while we’re talking trousers and crap, there’s the shitting-down by Toddler of Mummy’s clean ones last week, two minutes before nursery drop-off and work.

Yes, I’m working:  2.5 days.  The children go to a babysitter they love so much that they don’t like going home.  I’m too relieved to be disappointed.

Tiddler has been weeing in a potty.  He likes to clean up after himself.  I glance round to see him precariously carrying a full potty on the stairs to empty into the toilet, or the bathroom floor if he misses, or worse still the waste paper basket.  All kinds of things end up in there; except waste paper which belongs on the floor.

How many times do I pick paper up?  How many times do I retreive the little plastic bits of games that they never seem to play, just spread around the carpet to make the hoover cough?  How many times do I replace books on the shelf; pick up five mugs, each with a bit of sour milk in the bottom; retreive discarded pyjamas, shoes and socks?  How many times do I clean spilled coffee?  Toss the Duplo bricks back into the bucket?  Fish a stash of books out of Big Sprog’s duvet cover, before putting said cover back around the duvet?  Soak up a flooded bathroom using another towel that will now need to be washed?  Not enough, I guess.

Why do the pesky critters eat so much?  Or why do they request food, graze for a while, then request something else?  I’ve read so much about letting kids eat when they are hungry and not judging or not force-feeding them. But as a result there is always food lying about and the only thing they consistently finish is melon.  Melon hands are sticky hands and the best place to wipe sticky hands is on mummy’s trousers – having first inspected them for signs of poo, of course.

Eating makes them grow.  One of them has always grown out of something: wellies; school-tights; trousers; socks.  The financial aspect is one thing:  finding time to pop to the shop to get it is quite another.

There’s no ‘popping’ anywhere.  There’s dragging, coaxing, bribing and the employment of silly games.  We walk through W H Smith wriggling our fingers in the air like demented witches, to stop us from touching.  But Popping?  Not so much.  I had some improtant vet-related paperwork that I had to ‘pop’ to the Post Office at the start of January.  I carried it round with me for weeks, but every time we passed a Post office there was an enormous queue, and Tiddler was crying, hungry or wanting to climb the walls.  Eventually I decided to make a special Post-Office trip in the car, but there was a tantrum on buckling the car-seat.  I rested the envelope on top of the car while I soothed things out.  That’s the last time I saw it.

But as I said before, I expected all this.  It’s the fabric of having kids.  It’s the unexpected things that cause the problems.

Loosing my phone.  I couldn’t ring for help or sympathy.  I couldn’t even call myself on hubby’s phone and see if I could hear it ring.  I Facebooked and Big Brother helped me out.

The dishwasher broke.  Doesn’t sound like much, does it?  We didn’t have a dishwasher for years.  But suddenly there was nowhere to hide the pots.  Put them on the surface and there’s no surface left.  With my kids’ style of eating, washing-up-as-you-go-along is frustrating.  The house took a day to go from chaotic and a little bit grubby to absolutely gross.

It’s hard fixing dishwashers with Toddler on your back.  Never-the-less, I downloaded the Destructions which told me to check the filters.  They were clean.  So I called the lady on the helpdesk who said I needed to clear my sink’s u-bend.

She didn’t say that when you take all the pipes apart under the sink, you’ll need to remember how to plug them back together.  Now I couldn’t use my sink OR my dishwasher.  Thank God Gareth came round and helped me out.

Another time my phone-charger died and the battery had no juice to wake me up next morning.  There’s an alarm on our cooker so I tried to set that, but I wasn’t sure if it had worked or not.  There’s an online alarm-clock feature you can use, but I happened to know that my lap-top sometimes does automatically shut-down when it knows I’m not watching, and I couldn’t work out how to turn this feature off.  Then I remembered an old alarm-clock, a relic of my Grannie’s life that hubby wouldn’t let me throw away because it says ‘Made In Glasglow’ on it.  I wound it up, tested the alarm a few times.  It wasn’t consistent.  I set it anyway and lay awake half the night, worried I’d never wake up.

Dunno why.  It was like that scene in Four Weddings where Hugh Grant wakes up to a roomful of alarms.   The kids didn’t stir but I raced round the house, pump dangling, swtiching them all off.  Then I started to laugh.

There’s the hardest thing about lone parenting.  You’re laughing at your desperation, or you’re happy because they’ve gone up a reading-book colour, or you’re about ready to put them down the loo, and you look for someone to tell.

I guess it’s why the super-single-parents I know are so very good at reaching out and cultivating friendships.  Anyway:  they’re heroes, those people.  Heroes.