In the eight days for which I have been a single parent, considering husband’s absence, my admiration for all those people who raise children on their own – for a lot longer than I am going to be forced to do so –has soared.
I never considered how hard it might be to do this by myself for a week. Or a month. Or six. Or whatever it turns out to be.
I didn’t consider how difficult it would be at times to discipline, or even exert any kind of control, over two teens. Especially since they are both bigger than me. And I didn’t consider how hard it might be to sustain the energy required to do so ad infinitum.
I have just had a row with my fifteen year old son who has told me not to be childish.
And now I feel like crying. Which – I concede – would be childish.
So I have abandoned breakfast to write instead.
Not that I was able to write for long before called to a catastrope unfolding in the kitchen; the washing machine was overflowing and flooding the house.
All my attempts to identify where the problem was failed despite taking as much as I could of the wretched thing apart with a butter knife, sitting in a puddle on the floor craning my neck into the drum and trying really hard not to cry.
Eventually I had to prise cross son from bedroom and beg his help. He took one look and said, ‘there’s a big hole in the seal’. He’s right; there is . I couldn’t see it. Because sometimes you can’t see the wood for the trees. Or holes-in-seals for breakfast time tears. I can’t call a plumber because there isn’t one. So I shall have to identify a friend with a silicone gun and repair the hole myself. In the meantime my children will continue to go through the numerous outfits they do every day so that by mid next week the laundry basket will be regurgitating stinky clothes all over the bathroom floor.
At that point husband called to ask how morning was.
Wobbly, I said, and burst into tears all over again.
Last night as I lay in my bath I noticed that the bottoms of the bathroom curtains had been burnt – by the candles we often use in there. Not because we’re all New Age and hippy or because we enjoy romantic bubble baths by candlelight in manner of models in glossy magazines, but because we frequently don’t have lights and needs must when bathing so that I can see how clean my feet are before I get out. I pondered in some irritation on this but only for a minute, at least, I thought, we haven’t burned the house down.
I think that’s the key to life here: count your blessings: your washing machine is kaput, your darling son is furious with you, your husband -the one whose name you’ve been battling to clear – may as well be a million miles away, but at least the house is still standing.