Wednesday 17th January 2007
Today is Callum’s second day off school with an ear infection most possibly caused by me sticking down a toothpick to remove a glob of ear wax (cue maternal guilt in unbearable waves). The pharmacist looked at me aghast as I appeared for the second time in 3 days waving my little green slip! I’m exhausted, especially when confronted with the resilience of kids – a temperature of 39 one minute, jumping up screeching ‘Spiderman’ the next. Today’s convalescence tasks, including making Daddy a card and cutting out and colouring in, have blossomed into an orgy of craft manufacture: sheets of paper lying sticky and over-decorated on every available radiator to dry; abstract designs scribbled onto other sheets which were then cut up into tiny pieces perfect for scattering around the entire room (I’ve been unable to get a logical explanation for this, but I’m not still allowed to sweep them up on pain of tantrum.) Not to mention the glue and glitter everywhere (including inside that infected ear) from little fingers. The place is a wreck of sticky and crunchy shiny runs of silver and gold, and the floor’s piled with heaps of partially-used wipes pulled out to supposedly wipe up the mess: Angel’s very female contribution.
On top of all this, since Callum is off his food and Angel takes the cue from him, mealtimes are a dead loss: the kids push their portions around their plates like some sort of tea-party game, eventually becoming bored of the whole thing and flopping at the table like two rag dolls. Meanwhile, my throat feels like it’s been sanded with that vicious-looking dark blue metal file my father keeps hanging in his garden shed - but being rundown and unwell is nothing in comparison with the guilt at my children being inadequately fed: Annabel Karmel and Tana Ramsey stare down from my shelf in disapproval. Peanut butter sandwiches, scrambled egg, grapes, dried cranberries and expensive squeezy yogurts in fruit shapes hardly count as a varied diet for growing little people... or do they? Luckily they’re too young to notice... although Callum begged for mandarins today (we’ve run out), cue another surge of maternal guilt (it’s becoming an epidemic!) and sinking feeling of failure.
The day’s really dragging on and the children’s behaviour escalating. I nag, recriminate and my croaky voice steadily rises in frustration. Suddenly close to tears I walk out on the scene with the lame excuse of going to blow my nose, lock myself in the next room and call… my mother? No: probably not there but at choir practise, bridge club, drinking home-made wine with friends, or some church restoration committee meeting instead. Let’s see: call Natalia, hedge fund mum extraordinaire and pillar of calm! I dial Natalia’s number and Paloma her housekeeper answers, fetches Natalia for me. She’s rational and calm and manages to do the trick by inviting me round for a coffee tomorrow morning before my house viewing. An instant pick-me-up. Hooray!
I forgive the kids the rest of their dinner and pop them in front of ‘Tractor Tom’ –nice, sanitised and carefully vetted DVDs, while I sort out the washing. As I bend down, probably in the wrong ergonomic position, piling damp heavy towels, children’s vests with poppers at the crotch, and sodden candy-striped shirts between the washing machine and the drier, I vow to be more patient in future - after all, it’s not the children’s fault I’m not well and feeling shitty with myself! They really don’t deserve it: Callum, the most handsome little boy in the world with his infinite good nature and elder brother sensibleness; Angel, my pretty, curly daughter, wholesome smell of soft perfect skin, tickly freshness of baby-shampooed hair, cheeky dimpled smile and those shrieks of pure giggly girly joy - to me, they’re worth more than anything else in the world, and at the end of the day, all the aggravation and mess and tiredness are worth it - I hope!
I rub my aching back, clear my fuzzy throat, and decide that when the children go to bed, I’ll get an early night too. I leave hubby Martin a message: “Hey, it’s me. I’m not feeling too great, so I’m going to bed early. Please grab something to eat out, if you can. I'm not cooking tonight!”