Saturday, 5 July 2008

On being feckless and child-free



James finished school on Friday for the summer holidays. Yup, that’s right – the start of two months stretch ahead of us (and again I wonder why it is that you pay huge fees for less school time than state schools – one of life’s mysteries). More for less, that’s a principle I wish I could apply to my working practice (and my whole life really).
Anyhow, the curious thing is that I haven’t seen him yet. Could he go home with a friend for the night? Well yes, sure. He has fun; we get a night to frolic around town. Freedom! Freedom without the cost of babysitter! Exclamation points surely allowed for this? We had early supper at Woods, bumped into some friends, got chatting, didn’t have to keep looking at our watches for the witching hour. Adrian sank a fair few pints and I sank, hmm, two decaf cappuccinos, one J2O, one mineral water and one ginger beer. God, I hate this not drinking lark.
Unused to being off the leash we trailed home reasonably early and watched American Gangster with a mug of Options hot chocolate (how sad is this?).

The next day was surreal. Vague memories of a life pre-child floated back. The actual reading of papers (rather than skimming the headlines and then putting them in the recycling pile – some days I even bypass the headline bit); the leisurely drinking of coffee; the silence (no PlayStation, no yelling, no thump of rugby ball against wall); the sheer unadultered luxury of a bath uninterrupted by ‘Where’s my (whatever)….’ and ‘I’m hungry’. Then the phone call. He was having a fabulous time and could he stay another night please? We looked at each other, shrugged and said, sure, why not. A whole weekend of feckless freedom. Bring it on. Arms punching air.

But the problem is we’ve forgotten how to relax. We’ve lost the gentle art of childless pottering. One morning was fine but the prospect of a whole other day sans child, sans Playstation, sans incessant ‘what can I do’itis? I went into panic mode. This was my chance to do all the things that normally can’t be done. Panic turned into headless chicken. The list reached such monumental proportions that it toppled over and fell to the floor in a heap.
I got some work done; we visited SWCBM; we cleaned; we tore down half the old kitchen; I washed piles of clothes; sorted out tons of stuff and freecycled a bunch and took another bunch to the charity shop. Then I decided to make an assault on the garden. So this morning there was I, in the sagging fruit cage, picking fruit in steampunk fashion, arms like pistons, fruit flying anarchically – half in the bucket, half out. My back aching, vicious gooseberry spikes stabbing my wrists. A young blackbird hurtled past me in terror and I suddenly wondered what on earth I was doing. How tragic is it that I can’t even pick fruit in a vaguely bucolic leisurely fashion? Instead it’s a manic race against time.
I really truly envy people who can lose themselves in the moment, wobble through life in a gentle manner, smell the roses, seize the day. But maybe I just have to accept that that is never going to be me. I’m always going to be spinning, arms flailing like a demented Indian deity.

Also, I realised that, while childless freedom is fabulous, I miss my boy. Hate having his room empty, find it unsettling that I leave my PC for half an hour and come back to find it still on the same page (rather than being greeted by wild flashing graphics and some new just-discovered game). As I type this, Adrian has gone to pick him up. Within half an hour we’ll be back to the usual mayhem. Have to say I’m pretty glad.

38 comments:

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I know just how you feel. It's nice for a short while, just to have the space and freedom and even go back to being single but then you remember that you have a different life and you wouldn't want it any other way.

Lovely blog,
CJ xx

Lindsay said...

Wait until you return the compliment and have your son's friend back for the night - mayhem perhaps?

Preseli Mags said...

And there was me worried and pacing because my six year old went out for to a barbecue and didn't come home until 9.45pm! I can't imagine what it's like to not have a child in the house for two whole nights. I always think I'm going to 'get things done' when child-free but it never happens. I'm still usng my children as an excuse for not doing any of the things you listed as resolutions in your previous blog! Oh well!

Elizabethd said...

Nice when they are away, but nicer still when they come home!

Bollinger Byrd said...

Youngest with attitude has been away to Blackpool for the weekend with mates. First time in a hotel without family, sorted it all himself.
arrived back for 35 minutes and has gone back out now to return....when?
I enjoy the pleasure of the PC just as I left it, and not having to retype all my passwords in and get rid of whatever youtube song he's left on for me to enjoy!!!!
bbx

DJ Kirkby said...

2 whole months off school?! We are struggling to split the 6 weeks between us from our anual leave entitlement! I am not sure what we'd do without at least one boy at home constantly...but strangley, the thought of an
an afternoon nap just flittered past on little pink piggy wings.

bodran... said...

And then they come back and you forget how much you missed them! And why won't they leave you alone to get on ?? Weird isnt it..
I'm waiting now for Nell who's been away grasstracking for 2 days and i know that within a half hour of her being home i'll be tearing my hair out [slight exageration]...And your house is going to be great... xxx

Cait O'Connor said...

Yes Jane, enjoy your son while he is with you. They grow up far too quickly and you will miss him when he's gone. My grown up son came to visit today, it always makes me so happy to see him. Childhood seems to go in too much of a flash, honestly.....

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Hoh yes I remember all this . . . rushing around trying to get so much done and achieving nothing. In the end we just stopped doing anything - stayed in and enjoyed each others company - HS and I . . . go on give it a try.

Yup I used to miss the kids too then they came with friends . . . eeeeeeek.

Have Robot Boy and Geek Girl here at the moment.

Lady in red said...

it is so rare for me that all my boys are out of the house, that by the time I have adjusted to being able to do whatever I like they return!!

the only time there were no offspring here over night was the night before I went into hospital when I had cancer. there have been nights when there are just two out of the four at home but never are they all away. I think that would seem really strange.

Frances said...

Jane, it it lovely to read what you have written about the absence of James, and then to read what others have commented about their experiences with the growing up of children, and the gradual gaining of those children's independence.

May I let my soul open up, and just say how much I wish that children had been part of my life. I really love to read about what other moms, and dads, feel as their offspring arrive, grow, stretch their independence ... and depart. (Of course, some of 'em return.)

Ladies and gentlemen, treasure those children. Children of those ladies and gentlemen, know how lucky you are to the children of such fantastic parents.

If I write more, I will have to get a hankie, because I will cry.

xo

CAMILLA said...

I always missed the children too when they were stopping over at friends Jane. Just recently I said to my son wish you could come over more often, reply was..... well at least I am not living abroad.! They grow up soo quickly, enjoy the time with James,wish they never grew up so fast.

xxx

KittyB said...

A night off is a true luxury, yes, but there is a frightening emptiness and silence. Walking past the boy's bedroom door feels momentous, the curtains open to the dark, the bed cold and empty. And even if we go out (which we sometimes don't do, just walking the dog through the fields and enjoying the sunset on the hill is a rare treat these days) one of you still has to remain in control, don't drink too much, just in case something happens and you're needed in the night!
Oh, Frances, poignant comment. It helps to remember in our moments of screaming, sobbing or sighing over the shortcomings of our offspring, that we are really, really privileged just to have them at all.

Milla said...

2 nights is too long. Sometimes I feel I have one child, sometimes 3 - it depends if T is at his best friend's house or his BF is at our house. They are all but married and luckily W is adorable. I never use time wisely and am anticipating a big regret session when I'm on my death bed. The trouble is that it is always neatly packaged up and episodic in books and films but drifts and is hopeless in real life.

Sally's Chateau said...

2 months, is that all ? mine finished the middle of June, but hey, this is FRANCE.
Your book Spirit of the Home is brilliant btw. x

Lane said...

One night is great. Two is weird. We haven't done three yet and I don't think I'm ready.

And I still love Asbo. I'm sure he's from the same family tree as my smelly Peg. I hear Fedex do good deals on dog deliveries:-)

Zoë said...

Remember this feeling well, the huge desire for space, and then when it came, the inability to just enjoy it.Then the days when 30 kids came and camped in the garden and played guitars all night,inventing songs and having their own festival. Now they are mostly not here, we have another week sans R when she goes to Barcelona for 10 days next week, then in September off to Uni. T decided to stay in London over the summer, he's having too much fun, and the rents paid 'til September. We are trying to give ourselves permission to go away; and leave the cats to the neighbours... but will we? Hmmmm.

Letting go is so hard.

xxxx

Mopsa said...

It could've been Ovaltine - much worse.

60GoingOn16 said...

Jane - this is all a rehearsal for when they leave home for college or university (or post-school gap year etc etc), then come back again, then move into their first grown-up home, then come back again, then move in with girlfriend/boyfriend, then marry (maybe) and make a truly grown-up home and start the cycle all over again.

Now I live 170 miles from my daughter and her husband; they're coming to stay for a week next Monday - and I can't wait. But, there's another side of me that relishes the time and space I have now that I'm older and the freedom and independence I have that comes with living solo. Somewhere, between house full and house empty, is a sort of balance . . .

pebbledash said...

Oh, bless! I live solo (+ the dogs) and have to say I relish the space and freedom. Mmmm. How's the midsummer resolutions going? And please email me your address and I'll send you a sketch/doodle book. D xx

Ellie said...

Oh oh oh, I know how you feel - but having a girl, I used to miss the giggles, thumps and squeals as they all practised beauty makeovers in MY bathroom!! You're right though, slowing down is difficult- perhaps you need more practice???!

icemaidensmellingthecoffee said...

Freedom is a strange new toy. it comes without instructions.
Your blog took me back to what I recall as long, sunny?? summers with my 4 with no timetable, just drifting through and I loved it.
What does happen. Pixie faced and carefree once and perhaps not a harridan now but stressed and anxious and tiptoeing over eggshells to live with fledglings who keep testing the updrafts.

blogthatmama said...

Has he returned with lots of foul-smelling washing? Is he overtired and ratty? Are you still feeling the same way? It's like looking at them when they're asleep, pondering their most cherubic moments... Lovely post Jane, Blogthatmamax

Pipany said...

Hi Jane. I missed these last two posts much as I feel I am missing out on life at the moment!

I love the resolutions and yet againam reminded how similar we are as this is what I do when the chips are down/lethargy strikes/despondancy knocks...you get the gist? Love a good list of changes to be wrought and the feeling of being back in control, even if only for a while.

Could have cried at the freedom of the feckless post - staying in bed? Reading papers in said bed? I do remember it...I think.... xx

LittleBrownDog said...

Hope you're enjoying having James back (mind you, I find that feeling only lasts a couple of days before you feel another sleepover coming on). Sounds as though you got so much done. And you are good about the drinking (says she, knocking glass of vino over as she reaches for the mouse - still that's a few centilitres less than I would have drunk this evening). My life has never been the same since Milla pointed me in the direction of that excellent value faux sauvignon from the bottom shelf at Tesco...

Miss Penelope said...

Fret not Jane, I am waiting for Daughter and Grandson to arrive for hols here in France. Weather is Scorchio, even the pool is at 30°c.

So after child has grown up and left home there does come a very sweet returning, Grandson will be here for a month, so I get to be an indulgent Grandma.

I am glad to hand him back and then miss him, the house is so quiet

Victoria said...

I can so relate to this (particularly the bit about school fees!!!). My daughter's about to go off on choir tour for a week. One part of me relishes the freedom from constant demands ("Mum, can you buy/take/get/give/lend me whatever") but the other part knows I'll miss her. I'll have to try Options hot chocolate. My husband and I are serious users of Horlicks Light.

Fennie said...

Like Pipany, I love those resolutions! You are brave to make them. But the person that invents something to make resolutions stick will make a fortune, though maybe that's something we could do collectively on Purple Coo - if you and everyone else were prepared to be honest that is. I resolved not to eat anything else covered in yoghurt but have just eaten, not a couple of hours later, 4 yoghurt covered peanuts on the basis that it's Sunday, the sun is shining and I have to go to IKEA rather than doing what I want to do and pottering in the garden, arms most definitely not going like pistons. But I do have gooseberries to pick before the birds and hedges to trim and a lawn to mow. Then there's the cleaning and the tidying and the ironing. And I don't even have a nine year old to look after: Somehow when I did (so long ago now that I have completely forgotten) things seemed rather easier. We went to the beach, had fun, came home had tea, read stories, bed etc. No sweat. Still the days were longer then, much longer. No computers for one thing.

Victoria said...

Hi, Jane, how amazing to discover this was your blog! I'd just been having a cyberconversation with Zoe about you. Thanks so much for the lovely comments over on mine. Your garden looks pretty idyllic too from what I can see. However, they can bite back, as you've discovered. Hope the finger isn't too sore. If it's any consolation, I'm still suffering from a euphorbia burn: anti-histamines, antibiotics, hydrocortisone, the lot.

Jane said...

Did you really post that at 3.55 am? There is detoxing and there is detoxing!
I always seem to end up with everyone else's children here . . . must be doing something wrong.
We are 2 weeks into summer holidays here in Scotland - but they are whizzing by far too fast with my attempting to sneak off to get some work done without too many calls for refreshments.
Good luck with the book,
I'm very bad at reading your blog & not commenting - so there you go,
J
x

Sorrow said...

Had a good laugh out loud at this..
I am soooo looking forward to reducing the number of chaos insurgents in my house..
volume down 3 notches and then..maybe tea with out the "hmmm? yes what was that?"
I love my kids and the way they orbit me, and I so know the feeling..

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

As I sit here reading this, I am both childless and husbandless. Hubby has gone to take kiddies to grandparents and is due back soon. But I am indulging myself catching up on blogs. Enjoy your summer.

Rob Clack said...

Good luck with the detox. I tried to persuade a hypnotherapist to hypnotise me so I stopped at half a bottle, but after several sessions he told me it couldn't be done. I have to either give up entirely, or not bother. Guess which I did!

Hadriana's Treasures said...

Hi...just saying hello...@themill recommended your site (we met up for a drink last night). Nice post BTW. Will be back for more.

Milla said...

go and snatch an award, I'm bad at all this. next blog???

Eve said...

I find the silence of a child free house unsettling, but you would have to know my #4, I keep thinking , where is he? what is he up to?

Irene said...

My daughter is grown up now and my son has died of cancer and I would give a lot to have them back as youngsters once again to have them underfoot squabbling and laughing and generally making noise. Although I do admit also, that I like the peace and quiet that comes with this part of my life and I do appreciate it very much, but then there really is a time and a place for everything. Now is the time for me to look back with fondness at the memories.

IrishEyes said...

Playing catch up and thoroughly enjoying myself!