Two weeks ago, on the afternoon of my eldest daughter’s thirteenth birthday, I waved my three children off with their dad. This afternoon I will get them back again, all four of us two weeks older and with two more weeks of life experience under our belts.
During that fortnight, they have spent time in the north and the south of England, with family and friends. I am hoping to hear their stories later, and from the different things they will tell me, I will piece together the fragments to gain some idea of the thread of what they have been up to during our time apart.
During the same fortnight, I have been to Scotland camping with my partner, his children and his parents. I had a wonderful time with a family who have made me extremely welcome since I (re)appeared in their lives after an 18 year gap last Christmas. I am looking forward to sharing my stories and photographs with my own children over the next few days, to give them some insight into what Mum gets up to when they are not there (mostly thinking ‘gosh, the children would love this’!)
Since I got back from Scotland I have had a few days of being entirely by myself in the house. As I spend most of my life fighting my natural inclination to live like a complete slob, I gave in to that inclination this week. This morning, therefore, I have been cleaning empty takeaway cartons, dirty pans, crumby surfaces and a mouldy fruit bowl out of the kitchen in order to tame the squalid and introduce a little hygiene.
Don’t ask me about the dining room. It’s still a disaster area. I had to recover from the kitchen with a big pot of tea and recovery is still in progress. I have three hours to do something sensible with the dining room (cover it all in big dustsheets and pretend I plan to decorate, possibly?).
The living room, however, I did tidy the other day and it is a haven of silent peace. Plumped up cushions, a vacuumed rug and… did I mention the silence? It’s blissful, and I have a pot of tea.
This afternoon, normality will return in the shape of One, Two and Three, and a whole lot of luggage (and probably laundry). Everyone will be talking at once, there will be people in every room, shoes left in the middle of the floor, books, games and dvds taken out and not put back, and life will resume its normal chaos, which I will spend my days trying to stem in vain, like King Canute battling helplessly against the tide. Or perhaps I should just give in and just enjoy the children and the mess. The jury is still out – I tend to swither from one side to the other on a day to day basis!
This is the reality of my life as a single parent. Periods of intense activity, cabin fever, full on parenting 24 hours a day combined with studying, looking for work and trying to stay sane, alternated with periods of silence, space to be me, too much time to think, missing the children and wondering what they are doing without me. All or nothing, no middle ground any more.
And two years in, I’m pretty much reconciled to this life. Each half has its ups and downs, and I’m learning to embrace both.
And I can’t wait to cuddle my three lovely, warm, loud, talkative, gorgeous individuals, exclaim about how much they have grown up in the past two weeks and settle down with them to our everyday chaotic life again for a while. We will all have grown and changed a little, and I can’t wait to find out how.