Tuesday, 4 September 2018

Summer 18

I posted the following on Facebook today :

And so, just like that, the summer is over and it's back to school tomorrow. This year I did something I haven't done since the Noughties: stayed off Facebook for the whole summer holidays, well, apart from today. If you thought I'd gone quiet, nothing was wrong; I simply identified in myself that tendency to compare my summer holiday parenting with everyone else's picture perfect summer, find myself lacking and get a bit fed up. My complete failure at ever having learned to drive has finally started to feel a disadvantage, and I'm not firing on all cylinders in terms of my energy levels. (It's complicated, to do with my fairly rare form of hypothyroidism, my magic tablets that send me zooming around at high speed also having a few unpleasant long term side effects, and my consultant's desire to balance energy now with disaster later, and so reducing my dosage. Sigh.) Thus, it hasn't been the charge about doing lots of exciting stuff kind of holidays.

I knew it wouldn't be, and at the start of the holidays I had a couple of days with no desire to check Facebook (unusual for me), found it beneficial and so spent the rest of the summer strangely Facebook free (helped by drowning my phone in the washing up water at the start of the holidays, and not having WiFi for a couple of weeks at the end). I found myself set free from the desire to make it exciting, and just let them get on with it.

If you didn't notice I wasn't here, then that's perfectly OK. I don't need to be missed, either from my point of view or yours. No guilt.

Most of the summer has gone undocumented photographically, and of course, that's perfectly OK too. It's not written into The Contract that everything memorable should be remembered, and we all know that photographs lie. My phone, via some wizardry that I don't comprehend, occasionally alerts me to a video compilation it's seen fit to create, of happy, smiling photos and random video clips, set to jaunty music: "Your August memories!", "3 days last week!", "10 days in the Vendee!" (It was 12, actually Phone, but thanks anyway.) My point is, these compilations don't capture it all: they don't capture every snide bit of back chat from one of them; or the absolutely frightening autistic meltdown of another, or indeed of nearly a month's worth of decompressing meltdowns and mini meltdowns following a particularly chaotic end of term season, giving us a pleasant week before the back to school preempting meltdowns begin; or the constant bickering; or the cleaning up of daytime wee accidents for 5 weeks following the milk trial (merely consisting of brioche and/or croissants eaten 3 days in a row, dietitian's orders), the resultant 3 wet beds for the child a night, 3 nights in a row and accompanying tummy aches and constant bad behaviour as her little body tries to get rid of the milk protein, and you try to remember it's not her fault, and yes she was potty trained 18 months ago, and yes this shouldn't be happening, but it is, and it's really not her fault and she needs cuddles and reassurance and really, you've got a working washing machine, so no biggy; and just needing, craving solitude and an easy life... But this is not what you signed up for, and nobody gets to be happy all the time but you have peace in your soul and if you stop to listen, joy and a song in your heart placed there by Someone Who does not change or grow weary. The video compilations don't show that. But, they can be an aide to counting your blessings, especially those 4 feisty ones, who have been healthy all summer. I remind myself, please don't complain as a family nearby is going through something unspeakably dreadful with their beautiful, smiley one. Look back and see that it wasn't so bad. It was jolly tough, but at the end of it, most people are getting on with most people, and you have made some memories. That's a win. Let go of the middle class expectations of outings every day, and bask in the slow ordinariness of now.

And don't forget that man of yours, I tell myself, that quiet, unassuming bloke who has filled in the energy gaps for 18 married years now, when many would have been dismayed at the sheer difficulty after year 2 and walked regretfully away; that man who went to work every day then soothed a crying, disheartened, wet-again-in-the-night and just doesn't know what to do with herself as something hurts or just niggles but she doesn't know what and she certainly can't just go straight back to sleep child; who actually forgets it's your 18th wedding anniversary but does drive you and 4 children vying to be crowned Vilest Kids in a Car Ever all the way to an Airbnb somewhere near Le Mans for an overnight stop, only to have to wheel out rusty French after 11 hours in the car to phone Airbnb's St├ęphanie's Lady Who Does Danielle, who quite clearly Had Not Done, for some reason was not expecting us, was 30 minutes away and had not cleaned the house. Danielle came after Mark spoke to her from outside the Airbnb. She Did. Sort of. We had clean sheets at least. We learned that "Pas de panique!" is indeed an actual French phrase. St├ęphanie gave us a partial refund. We left ASAP in the morning. But that man and I had to chuckle at spending the night of our 18th anniversary in a cobweb-festooned Airbnb, with 4 vile children finally wrestled to sleep, and of course I forgave him the lack of a card. (It was in fact a whole 3 days after our anniversary we finally sat down and opened the rest of our cards. See? It doesn't matter.) I am so thankful for him.

And so today, amid the last minute name tapes and washing the dust off lunchboxes that never made it from the worktop to their summer home in the now full with other stuff cupboards, I opened Facebook again. It seems that any notifications before 9th August have now been removed, so if you tagged me in something, it's gone. If something momentous has happened, tell me about it as I missed it. I have missed it, but the peace was lovely.

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