This morning, I am broken. My back aches and every muscle in my body feels weak. I barely have the energy to form my mouth into the shapes needed to make words, or the breath to speak them.
I can’t bear to go home and face the mammoth task of beginning to clear up the tsunami wreckage that is my house, so even though it is now nearly lunchtime, I’ve driven to an out-of-the-way Starbucks to get a takeaway coffee, sit in my car, in the rain, and type this, as well as eventually writing brief notes in my dairy. The very thought of doing anything else, even getting out of the car again, exhausts me.
Have I had a hard training session? No. I’ve just got my children to school. At gone 11am. Their school day is just beginning, two hours late, and so will be even more difficult for them, on top of the anxieties they were already feeling.
I’m not looking for sympathy, or virtual ‘hugs’, just understanding from any teacher and support staff out there, from any other professionals involved with children and families, and shared recognition with other families that this is what many of us go through before our days have even truly begun, before our babies have even made it into school. To the people I cancel meeting, or the phone calls I’m slow in returning, please understand it is not through laziness. My beautiful, smiley, funny, fearless five year-old now wails “I don’t want to go to school!” before she even opens her eyes every morning, and is heart-breakingly relieved when I can finally tell her it’s a weekend day. She is more often than not now bad tempered, aggressive to the point that both her sister and I now flinch when she raises her hands near us, and cannot cope with much that everyday life throws at her.
My smart, observant, creative seven-year old has to be wrestled and regularly sat upon to get dressed, rarely eats in the morning, and has taken to displaying a kind of mania on many school mornings, insanely producing a grating false laugh and other noises for an almost impressively long time, designed on some level to provoke a reaction that will result in further delays in getting to school. I feel deafened by the noise today, and her sister was on the verge of tears by the time we pulled up in the school car park. The irony is that at least she was willing to get into school quickly then, to escape the slightly terrifying hysteria of her excessively loud sister, who meanwhile, had begun to undress herself again and hidden her socks, as well as undoing herself from her car seat and readying herself for the game of ‘jump around the car so mum can’t catch me’, which when I am feeling weak, she is a master at.
And so they’ve both got into school, which is allegedly the best place for them. My manic seven year-old turned to look at me for the briefest moment as she was escorted in, with no more hysterical laughter or game-playing on her face. She looked at me with uncertainty, as if expecting me to say or do something, and I paused, uncertain in my response. And then the door closed.
Certainly I appreciate the break right now, but I also know I am useless to utilise it. I will need to go back to school in now less than 3 hours and muster up the strength to cheerily greet my babies, who may well have had good days, or may be desperate to get away from it all. I will somehow need to revive myself enough before then to tidy up and at least make our house functional again, let alone less chaotic. But right now, I am glad of the anonymity of the grey skies and the rain and the car park, as I am broken.
By Pauline Delaney