My little big boy went away for three whole days on a school trip last week, and, to misquote Burt Bacharach, “I just didn’t know what to do with myself.”
Because, for all the times I’ve sighed at the mess he leaves, and the noise he makes, and the eternal questions he asks. For all the endless debates we have to have about homework and putting his clothes away and brushing his teeth before bed. For all the frustrations I’ve felt when he leaves dirty socks between his sheets and empty crisp packets on the couch and half his dinner in the dog…….
I REALLY missed him.
Parenthood has to be one of the toughest jobs in the world. The frustrations and the yelling, the tantrums and the backchat, the growing pains and the lip that comes with trying to raise a way-too-smart-for-his-own-good child often leave me drained and begging for respite. And if you add bipolar disorder, social isolation, and a zero support network into the pot, then the responsibility of parenthood is rocketed into a whole new stratosphere of exhaustion.
So you’d have expected me to be singing from the rooftops at the prospect of three days of childless freedom …
But instead, I have to admit I felt quite lost.
It probably didn’t help that I was off work at the time as well, but, without the usual daily, chaotic “routines,” such as taking him to and collecting him from school, cooking the tea, helping with homework, picking up muddy shoes, and answering the door to his friends, I became a proper fish out of water.
I even missed the bedtime shenanigans – the nightly struggle over bath time, the perennial toothbrushing saga, the need to sweep the biscuit crumbs out of the bed, or the pleas for “just one more game” on the X-Box. For three whole days, I didn’t have to remember 22 different voices to bring the “BFG” to life during storytime or find the strength to shove the dog off his bed.
I felt very strange without him – almost redundant – and I craved the “structure” provided by parental chaos. My son and I have developed an almost symbiotic relationship: I nurture, protect and provide servitude for him …. and he gives me superhuman strength to defy this illness.
When I’m SuperMum, I can’t stay in bed all day, because I have get up and get him to school on time. I’m not allowed to quit my job, or to act in ways that would get me fired, because I have a mortgage to pay, and he needs a roof over his head and food in his stomach. I don’t have a right to walk in front of that bus, or run away to a hippie commune, or put my fist through that window, or sit in the middle of a busy pavement, or max out my credit cards, or dye my hair pink and dance on a park bench, even if my head is screaming at me to do so …. because that would emotionally affect him, and that would be selfish.
I’m not allowed to let my illness beat me, because I have a son, and as long as he is dependant on me, I have to keep fighting it.
And for that, I am eternally grateful.
© Alice through the Macro Lens