Sometimes I’m totally fine and the day will have gone by well enough but after feeding time at the zoo, and what seems like 17 hours of homework (this year I’m in lower AND middle school again), a monster crawls into my body and I step out and watch it take over because frankly, I’m too tired to give a shit.
On days like today, by the time my husband gets home from work the monster is in complete control. I could already feel it creeping in by the time my husband sent his first text announcing his ETA.
“Sorry am so late. Leaving the office now.”
The Monster’s response is restrained because this has nothing to do with him: “K”
This is after numerous, repetitive explanations to my son, while I’m making dinner, that no, he does NOT need to bring in posterboard to class tomorrow for a project that is due at the end of the week. He has no idea what procuring something like posterboard involves in this country.
In the States we think nothing of making a late night run to CVS or Target or Staples or whatever office supply store operates past 5:30pm on a weekday to grab a last-minute project item.
Things are a little less intuitive on this side of the Atlantic.
“But MAWM! I neeeeeed it for class tomorrow. Can’t you run out and buy one?”
School started last Wednesday. I have already done three school supply runs in less than a week.
“I am not getting into the car at 4:46 pm to fight rush hour traffic to search for a tiny space in a parking lot where I have to pay £1.20 for twenty minutes just to discover that the store where I HOPE they sell it will have run out and by the way, they can’t let me in anyway, because they’re closing in 11 minutes. No. I will not go out and get you new posterboard. ”
The chorizo starts to burn. I douse it with chopped tomatoes.
“So what should I do?”
Fennel seeds, rosemary, garlic…
“Go upstairs and look under your sister’s bed for one of her class projects from last year. Flip it over and use the other side. It’ll have to do. If your teacher has an issue with that, tell him you’re saving the environment and recycling. Give him my mobile if he’d like to discuss it further.”
I’m already visualizing the text that the monster (not me of course) would send in response to a communication no teacher would dare send this early in the game. It uses the imperative of the infinitive “to bite” and the pronoun referring to oneself as the direct object.
In the meantime, my daughter who has finished her homework, is hanging upside down, swinging side-to-side from my adjustable desk chair doing her twenty minutes of required reading.
The only reason I know this is because my highschooler starts shouting at the top of his lungs that she is ridiculous and that that is NOT the way to read — all that blood rushing to her head can’t be good.
For a second I revert back to myself and consider yoga and all the hand and headstands they promote. I shrug off her unorthodox reading position and say, “Honey, if you want to read upside down, go do it upstairs in your room where no one will notice.” My mind does a fast-forward into the future and I wonder if I’ll repeat the latter phrase some day when she hits puberty.
For now, I’m pleased enough that she’s reading on her own and leaving me be.
When the kids were really little, I had a personal “curfew”– the kids’ bedtime. Anything past their bedtime meant I was “DONE, OVER & OUT.” All sense of maternal love and instinct flew out the window like a knackered cuckoo bird so any nonsense about needing a third glass of water or “the pillow not being fluffy enough” fell on deaf ears.
I imagined that had I been a smoker, I would have stood at that very window (through which my maternal nurturing had flown) like my Parisian girlfriends, taking long, glamorous drags of a cigarette marking the end of another full-on day of full-on parenting.
Curfew has somehow inched its way up in our house to “whenever I’ve had it.” Today curfew hit at about 3:43 pm.
“High-schooler”, who should be focused on his own business, is frankly moving a little too slowly for someone who was supposed to have left for hockey practice ten minutes ago.
Getting things accomplished in this household (out the door for school, homework, back to the car for sports practices, etc.) is akin to corralling a raging herd of turtles.
Second text from my husband. “Just arrived at Waterloo.”
More restraint. He doesn’t know the monster has pulled a “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”. Again, not husband’s fault.
The recipe I’m making now calls for a cup of red wine. I pour what’s left of the open bottle from over the weekend and think, “Gawd, I could use this myself” and then for some asinine reason that I cannot even explain (oh yes, it was The Monster, not me), I actually use the wine, just as the recipe calls for and pour it into the sauce.
WTF WAS I THINKING?!!
The Monster is back in full-force. Now I’m just a weary bystander– stirring the sauce.
Prawns, coriander, the juice of an entire lime…
I, “Nice Mommy”, push through meekly, hopeful even– with the last crumbs of nicey-nice I have left to answer my child.
“Yes my love, what is it?”
“How do you say trampoline in Spanish?”
The monster pushes me aside again but not before whispering reassuringly into my ear, “Stand back, Catherine. I’ve got this.”
To its credit, the monster calmly responds for me.
“Mommy doesn’t speak Spanish. Mommy doesn’t speak Greek or Japanese either. So Mommy doesn’t know. Mommy has NO IDEA how to say trampoline, or dinner, or prawns with chorizo, or much else in Spanish!”
The monster takes and deep breath and says gently, “Please look it up yourself.”
Text from husband: “On the 20:02 fast.”
The Monster furiously starts typing JUST EXACTLY what Husband can do with the 20:02 fast train from Waterloo and is about to hit send when a girlfriend, whose husband hasn’t travelled for business in over a month, sends through a hilarious cartoon from the New Yorker.
It’s a woman standing on the edge of a cliff holding up a lantern. She looks wistfully out to the horizon. The caption reads, “Night after night, she watches the sea, longing for her husband’s departure.”
Girlfriends and timing. Pure brilliance. I smirk. The Monster smirks too.
I send it onto another girlfriend. She whatsapps me back with “Aaah! Togetherness. SO over-rated.”
Sometimes a girl’s just gotta have her own space.
I don’t hit send on the Monster’s hastily-crafted text to Husband. He’s a good guy who probably would have done well to go away on business for a few days. Not the kids’ fault either. They’re lovely too. Lovely turtles.
Maybe *I* need to go away on a business trip– just for a minute. Hell, I’ll take fifteen seconds even. The after school monster can come with…