By Alison February 10, 2008 9 Comments 5 Min Read


The week passed.  And too soon it is Saturday.

I tuck a kiss into Finn’s coat pocket and wave
hello to peace and quiet. Today there is a book, a lunch of split pea
cinnamon rice,  eight hours of relative freedom, and a salt and pepper dog called
Penny, lying, almost permanently, across my feet.

Though I spend all week wishing my little boy
away for five minutes of every given hour, when he is actually gone, I
find myself bereft. Morose. Conjunctivitis and a nasty cold sore have rendered
me too ugly (trust me, this is borderline she-devil disease) to leave
the house in daylight, and though the rest of the world is hideously
blurry, I can see with startling clarity the shape of every dust
particle dancing a merry jig on a beam of Winter sun. I can’t resist
cleaning the windows again.

Afterwards I fling them open and boom K.D.Lang
into the garden, declaring myself a temporary social nuisance and
feeling mildly thrilled when I see a woman in a pink beret go past
mouthing the words to Miss Chatelaine under her breath. I want to run out and dance with her. To make her tell me where her children
are today,  how it is that even at eight o’clock on a Tuesday morning
she always manages to look like a young Vivienne Westwood…all quirky frills and yummy confections of  salmon and olive green. And a hat.
Always a hat. Today a beret, last week a little pill box affair perched
upon peach curls. How it is that she seems so deliciously
unaware of how wonderful she is? A walking smile on a cloudy day.

But of course I don’t. I don’t. I hide
in my little ochre  cell and settle into my armchair with The
Secret Mothers Club, a book with a deceptively perky  chick lit style
cover disguising the kind of truths that bring the roar of tears into
my raspberry rippled eyes…

"Motherhood is not a trifle. It is not a
zabaglione or a dessert of frozen berries with melted chocolate.
Motherhood is the ultimate matrix- between life and death. When all the
romance and glory is stripped away, it is a wasteland with no
consolations for the errors, mishaps and sins we unwittingly commit in
the juggle between "doing the best we can" for those we have brought to
life and staying alive ourselves."

Motherhood is not a trifle. On
Saturdays granted the freedom I live in day to day hope of, I am lost, even to myself. Stripped of the do this and do thats, the constant take your fingers out of mouth and the do as I say not what I am’s, I am lost.  While I secretly despise woman who live through their children,
who let themselves be defined by them, without Finn here my life loses
shape and there isn’t sufficient time to mould myself into anything
worthy. I am strangely uncomfortable. Vulnerable, without the armour that is my child. I clean, I eat, I read.  I chase new favorites around the music channels and field how are you texts from a man I want don’t want want don’t want. A man who doesn’t want me but remains thoroughly committed to playing a pointless game of friends. Maybe easing his guilt. Maybe tucking me onto a shelf for a rainy day.
I want to tell him that I am a rubbish friend. To go away and leave me
alone because the game is beginning to
bore me now. Or climb into bed with me,  trail a finger down my spine and watch me shiver. Watch me dissolve, why don’t you?

I write. A book shaped by the quagmire that
is single motherhood. I worry. About Finley’s tendency to over-react to
everything in his wake.  About the meeting I have to attend with child
therapists on Tuesday. What do you think is wrong with him Miss May? Why is it that his goddamn pre-scissor skills are so hopeless? Why Miss May, if his conversation is littered with big words and poetry,  does he struggle to hold his pen the way we demand he should? How come he can draw pigs and elephants and drawers full of socks but he can’t yet write his name? Why Miss May? Can you tell us why? We think perhaps it is you…   

And then he is back.  A bundle of corduroy
I throw myself at him. Smother/ Mother. I run a silent check. His cheeks are rosy. Tick. He is clean. Tick. Giddy happy (to see me: ah the arrogance of maternal love). Tick.
Apparently uncompromised by our circumstances. Tick. Surviving his parents
chatty indifference. Tick. Writing what goes unsaid under thick childish skin and storing it up for years of therapy. Tick. Thriving on it.

I feel all of a muddle. Giggling like me and the paternal part of our familial equation are flirting in a bar. Then wearing my ice queen hat and demanding answers. Has he ate? What was it he ate? Has he been good? Did he go the toilet?  Desperate to know,  but all at once desperate to escape the boring details of gluten free pizza and a tantrum in the park, described in detail by a man who only has to father him once a week.  How bloody dare you criticise? Already feeling the
grip of loving my babba too much suffocating me and  shaking him off in fear of consuming him.
So unwrapping his arms from tight around my neck and putting on my coat,  then tying the lead onto the dog we are minding and
letting myself out into the navy blue sky. Standing in front of a new
Dallas mansion built where there was once a dignified thirties villa
and dissecting another families life. Shuffling to keep warm in the dark while the
dog pokes around in the dirt and watching their lives like so many soap operas.

Feeling outside of the Mother I am supposed to be. Living in fear of bald patches on his  little head.  Proof  that I am dragging him, kicking and screaming  through a life  blurry at the seams.  Peeling him off the front door  he has barricaded when life is splintered all over again by his Daddy’s see you soon mate, be a good boy for Mummy.

Be a good boy for Mummy. Be a good Mummy for your boy.


  1. Kristie says:

    I think that it’s helpful to remember that children grow up in spite of their parents. You did. We all did. He is loved. That’s most of the job right there. Be gentle with yourself.

  2. Karla says:

    Kristie’s comment is right on the money. I love what she said and wholeheartedly agree. Be kind to yourself – you’re learning this as you go – as we all are.

  3. Lisa the book sniffing librarian says:

    …Alison, you’re quite evidently a wonderful mum, even when you’re(quite naturally!) exhausted. One of my neighbours, already having had 3 children, has just announced she’s pregnant yet again..and you know what? She doesn’t deserve to be. It’s quite possibly one of the most dreadful thoughts I’ve ever admitted to having had.
    It just seems so fundamentally unfair that people with such scant regard for the children they already have continue to have more, pleased to be having yet another “baby” to fuss over and make them feel important. I cannot remember who said the following quote yet it’s a saying that’s so very true.
    You’re not having a baby, you’re having a PERSON.
    Finn is so young, all the “problems” you describe are ludicrous, I’ll bet you feel like shouting from the rooftops that children develop certain skills at different times to each other, when they are good and ready! I had similar issues when my son was Finn’s age and guess what? All of a sudden he’d be able to do what ever it was that had been demanded of him…in his own time! Don’t let them grind you down. Wishing you the courage of your convictions when you have to face these challenges x …sorry for such a long post.

  4. Jayne says:

    More assessments? Honestly, don't worry about them. My girls are now 19 and 23 but even 23 years ago they were starting to test and assess children. I got myself twisted up into knots about an assessment they wanted to do on my older girl (according to their bench mark she wasn't physically reacting the way she should, I suppose similar to Finn). My doctor at the time was one of the old school type, fairly close to retirement, but he had been largely responsible for setting up the ante natal care in our island, so I guess we can assume he knew a thing or two about children. I was at his surgery one day, worrying about my little girl's development because the people 'in the know' had made me fret. He completely put my mind at rest by calmly stating the commonly known and now often forgotten fact that children develop both intellectually and physically at different rates. Where my daughter needed to catch up on some physical development, she was far ahead on speech. In the end, just as he predicted, it all pretty much evened out during primary school. …Just as he was right about her height … I had been advised that based upon her height at aged three she was most likely going to be in excess of six foot two as an adult! As an adult she's five foot four.
    Seriously, please try not to worry. As for fretting about everything else, it may not help overly much but you're in a big club of mothers who care. We all fret. I still do, even though mine are grown up. What I think we all see, here on the outside, is a good and loving Mum, nurturing a sensitive and artistic soul. For what it's worth, I think it sounds like you're doing a great job.

  5. Nonnie says:

    Alison there is so much I would like to say. Firstly, I am more than sure that you are a fantastic Mother and you are doing your very best for dear Finn. Secondly, please try not to worry about what these stupid teachers/child psychologists/so called experts say. Children develop at such different paces. I always remember that my Sister was very slow to start reading and the teachers were all worried, and surely there must be something wrong with her. My Sister got 10 A grade GCSEs, 3 A grade A Levels and a first class degree! Like I said, children are all develop differently. Don’t let them make you worry about Finn. He sounds like a very bright little boy. Thirdly, crikey I am so with you on the man issue. I went on two dates over the weekend with perhaps the most perfect man and he is clearly quite crazy about me, yet I feel totally freaked out by it and all I can do is think of my ex George(who also wants to still be friends!) and compare this new man to him. Why can’t it all be simple?!!
    Keep going dear Alison, you are a great Mummy!

  6. lazy h says:

    Hello Alison, Nonnie has just written what I should have liked to write (but better!). I believe you to be a fine mother and Finn to be a happy and lovely child, and I very much hope that the therapists see that.

  7. Veronica says:

    hate to even state what seems obvious to me.. as others will probably want to jump on me for thinking I am cruel…but… perhaps your own over-reaction to so much is affecting your son. Don't forget that kids are sponges…they have ears and eyes… a lot of people seem to forget that. If they don't have a role model for that very thing… they probably wouldn't bother doing it. Hope you don't take it the wrong way………..

  8. Jade says:

    this post brought tears to my real, so honest,so true.
    why do we all have to be tested, measured up- torn apart – what possible good will come of it?
    you would know if something was "wrong"- and, then what ? what real difference does it make ? you sound like a good Mom to me, and Finn seems like a delightful child.
    more than once I've told teachers,(etc.)- that I do not agree with their opinion of my children or of what they think is important-I have never regretted it- I only regret the times I did what I "should " and not what was true and right in my heart.
    and, by the way, I have sweet, smart, kind, wonderful children!
    they are not at all like most other people and I wouldn't have it any other way !

  9. Polly says:

    -sigh- You paint it in a way that I think, maybe, I can see it. I think, maybe, I have even felt it. Fin is fine. More than fine, probably. Our society likes to blame the differences in our children (& us) on something. Can't ever just be that they are individuals! Sure, he's going to be touched by the fact that his parents aren't together. But it can touch him in a positive way just as easily as it could a negative way. They think it defines him and right now maybe it does. But it won't forever. Do you know, I heard that if a child never went to school until the age of 7, he/she would enter school reading and adding and no further behind than the child who had been in school all those years. I don't know how your school system works there but I say, he's YOUR son and you can go into that meeting doing the telling! I'll be praying. Blessings… Polly

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Skip to content