A typical week - one year on
People say time is a healer. People say that with time life gets easier. It hasn't so far.
One of the reasons I tend to write my blog late at night is because I feel that's the only time I can do what I want to do without interruption; without guilt. The rest of the time I'm there for the boys, running the house, grieving, worrying, pretending, doing what I can to mould our new family structure.
Running the house sounds a bit grand but what I actually mean is that it takes many hours to tidy up, cook, clean up, wash clothes, dry, iron, dust, hoover, empty bins....the list is endless. The cleaner is on maternity leave and I'm so desperate I've offered to babysit as soon as her son is born, so that she can come back and get on with the cleaning. The iRobot helps a bit.
I seem to be in a constant state of internal battle. Debating about what's best for the boys, what's best for the family unit and what's best for me.
In the days and weeks after Paul left, in amongst all the love and words of support I received were a few well meaning but insensitive / misplaced advice and questions. Questions such as 'Will you be going back to India?' and 'Will you be moving home?'. One of the neighbours said 'I always see your husband and the boys out and about cycling. Don't stop doing that with the boys now. They need that'. Bang! I felt an immediate pressure. A pressure to do something I didn't enjoy (which is why it was mostly the 3 of them out and about). Her words have stuck. Paul and I are different, but one of the things I want to change about myself is to be less sedentary and encourage the boys to continue to be active outdoors.
The lockdown which started in March 2020 was bitter sweet as it hit the pause button on life as we were getting to know it. Everything stopped and I suddenly had our two boys at home full-time and they were my responsibility 24x7. I couldn't 'relax' and go back to bed and hide under the duvet anymore. I had to set an example; a functioning example.
So, I hired a skip and got working on clearing and tidying up the shed, garage, attics, utility room and cellar. I tidied up the garden. It gave me a purpose. It was cathartic. The sun was shining most days, it was spring and then summer and we could go out for walks and bike rides. The lessons were all offline and the boys had autonomy over when to do their schoolwork as long as they completed their homework by end of Friday; which they did every week diligently. Despite the boys sleeping till midday most days, they did their schoolwork and still had time to do things together - be it chores or family fun time.
This 3rd lockdown now is not the same. The boys have live lessons from 8:30 till 3:20 Monday to Friday. As soon as they finish at 3:20, one wants to 'relax' (playing COD 🙄) and the other wants to continue working on his GCSE NEA. I'm aimless most of the day. I feel rudderless. I look around and the chores overwhelm me. I know I could be doing so much; yet I don't have the mental strength nor the desire to do anything. I try to feed the boys a couple of healthy meals with veggies every day. I've become an expert at making Paul's salad albeit without the tomatoes. That's the least I could do, right?
Just as I am resting on my laurels, my neighbour's words jolt me into focusing on my inadequacies. What am I doing to encourage the boys to be active? Nada. So, I frantically think of a walk around the village and start cajoling the boys to come out for a walk. This is so ironic for those who know me. Usually, it will be Paul getting me to go for a walk with a bait of a coffee or a pub stop en route to appease me. If only Paul could see us, he will be killing himself laughing 😂. I bet he will also be proud of me, especially as we went on a 2 hour walk on Sunday through muddy fields to see the rare crossbills which have taken residence for the winter near our village. I took Paul's trusted binoculars and we were rewarded with seeing these beautiful bright red birds along with a flock of siskins.
One thing I'm learning is that the boys don't like surprises. So, I am starting to sow the seed of a walk or a list of chores they need to do a day in advance. I sow the seed and walk away without any nagging. A few hours later I water that seed by gently mentioning the subject in passing. It seems to be working. They may not be happy doing the chores or coming out in the wet and cold, but they don't complain. Once we are out, we do tend to have a laugh and a chat - although there's usually a drama with Harry at the start of the walk because he has his AirPods in and wants to stay in his own world of music and audible. Baby steps I keep reminding myself. But it isn't easy.
Paul definitely made walks interesting. Here's a video taken end of May 2019 when we were out on one of our many walks - this sums up the boys goofing around. Being outdoors wasn't a chore for them.
It isn't easy as a single parent. From being a happy, tight-nit family of 4, going to a 'WTF just hit us' family of 3 is difficult to comprehend let alone articulate the thoughts and feelings. I constantly feel like a failure.
The boys are growing up rapidly and their teenage hormones are raging. I miss Paul's calming and balancing presence. I can't cope with Harry's raging temper at the simplest thing going wrong with his NEA or drums practice. I can't cope with Andrew's unusual short temperedness. Times like this I question whether I am a good parent. I don't know what the boys are thinking and feeling during those moments. Do they wish Paul was here as he knew how to calm them down? Do they wish I was as good as Paul?
Being a parent isn't easy and being a good parent is even harder, but rewarding. It was always a juggling act even when Paul was around. But, now it is harder because there's no one to say 'let's share the workload', there's no one to say 'honey, you put your feet up, have this glass of wine and I'll take over', or even better 'put your feet up and I'll massage your feet'.
I guess there's no typical week even a year on....and covid definitely hasn't helped us establish a new normal. It feels temporary. Things seem to be on hold.
But having a large G&T in hand while ending this blog, I feel upbeat. Boys are still dedicated to their schoolwork; they are healthy, we have happy, laugh out loud moments; the house is still standing; the car is still running and passed its MOT last month, the boys have clean clothes, the house is tidy-ish and the bins get emptied regularly.
I guess I can rest on my laurels for just a few minutes.