Two years old

 

Today is my anniversary. Exactly two years ago today, I started writing this blog. Back then, I was desperate and in despair. Rosie was a mere 3 3/4 years old. What she knew of her dad was that he had been suffering from an unidentified illness all her life. Continue reading

Longing

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Without warning, this longing.

For years, I have lived in exile – from intimate emotion, from touch. I learned to live without, and felt stronger, superior even. I was untouchable in the Western sense: unreachable and thus invincible.

There were reasons for this Continue reading

Hello? Hello? HELLO??

It’s safe to say that today is not a good day. It begins with Ben shouting at me and ends with Rosie telling me she wants to kill me. 

There is a middle, too. That middle consists of editing a number of documents (fun), eating no fewer than 11 Belgian biscuits courtesy of my work colleague (more fun) and attending various meetings (ho-hum). 

I realise that sometimes I am happiest at work. When I’m busy, there is no time to think, and there is traction in not having time to think. Otherwise you get bogged down in thoughts of your maybe-maybe-not-ex and the million ways he fails you and your child when he’s needed most. 

This morning, Rosie pulls another fit, this time about wearing a long-sleeved top under her uniform t-shirt. It’s below zero, so she hasn’t a choice. I’ve been up since 6.30. Ben has had very little sleep, but unfortunately, I have to wake him to get him to move to the bedroom, because today I have to exercise in the living room (there isn’t anywhere else for me to go and it’s what keeps me sane and healthy, so it’s not something I’m willing to skip just because Ben happens to be sleeping on the couch. Anyway, I’ve warned him.) 

So, Rosie is chucking her fit, I’m just out of the shower, we have 10 minutes to get ready, and Ben is still in bed, murmuring to Rosie, trying to convince her to wear her long-sleeved top. She is taking the wee, as we call it here – playing up to the expectation that she will go into meltdown. And then she does. 

I say, ‘Ben, please, can you just help her get dressed?’ I am half dressed myself, hair wet, and Rosie is crying. I ask Ben again and he roars: ROSIE! She cries. 

me: ‘But… why did you do that?’ 

him: ‘Is that what you want me to do? I was talking to her.’

me: ‘I just wanted you to do what you did yesterday – help her get dressed.’

him: ‘What? Dress her against her will? Force her into her clothes? I WAS TALKING TO HER.’

me: ‘Yes, but there just isn’t time. She has to be dressed and out the door.’

Neither of us can see the other’s point. Ben is enraged. I’m angry and sad. Rosie is suddenly calm and ready to go.

Later, I find I can see his point, but I can also see mine. We had 10 minutes. She was not budging. And once she was dressed and out the door, she’d forgotten the whole thing. She is incapable of seeing beyond the discomfort at that moment. She can never accept that moments from then she will have forgotten it all. She will have moved on to something more interesting.

When I get to work, I dash off an email to Ben. I don’t like leaving things like this, but I also know I don’t want to speak to him for a long time. Equally, he is so laconic – so unwilling to talk – that there is no point in trying to find the right moment. He is angry, depressed and bitter. He is much the same as he was before, minus the booze. He is not the person I knew, nor does he stop reminding me that he never will be. It is his way of saying, move on

Anyway, I write him an email telling him how sad I feel about all this and trying to figure out a way for us to make a few decisions about Rosie – calmly, without shouting at one another. I say that seeing to Rosie’s needs is not something we can do when we feel like it. It’s something we have to do, whatever. I tell him it isn’t a choice for me, and ask whether he sees it as something he can choose to do (or not).

Needless to say, I’ve had no reply thus far. He is a slow burner. In all likelihood, he will never get round to writing any reply. At all. He has never really responded to any of my attempts at rapprochement (I mean texts, emails, letters). He is as silent as a cloud. 

When I get home with Rosie, she decides she wants to wear one of her princess dresses. The one she chooses is one of the scratchy ones, and soon she is asking me to do up the back, then re-do it and re-do it. I try to explain to her that I can’t do anything – that the dress is like this and that I cannot fasten it any tighter because that’s just how velcro fasteners work. 

She doesn’t accept this and collapses into tears, accusing me of refusing to help her. This escalates into a series of threats: I’m going to stab you with a knife. I’m going to kill you. I want you to go. I don’t want you any more. I want daddy. I only want daddy.

I put on my coat and walk down the stairs, to make a point about what it means for mummy to go. She doesn’t like this. She says she doesn’t actually want me to go. And when I remind her later of what she said to me (because I need her to understand that saying things like that is hurtful), she denies ever having said it.

So, somewhere in there, she realises she has behaved very badly. She does apologise eventually, but it is not especially sincere. 

And here I am. Rosie is asleep, my eyelids are drooping at a terrible rate, and the ground appears to have shifted beneath my feet without me really noticing. Tomorrow, it’s just Rosie and me, and I pray she will cooperate, that there will be no death threats or shouting, and that I manage to limit myself to five Belgian biscuits.

 

 

 

Three vignettes

Quick vignette no. 1: Today, I’m in a foul and pestilential mood. Seriously. I’m annoyed at everything. So when Rosie threatens to change her underpants at 8:35am (ie. seriously late), having got her uniform and coat on, I am in no mood. I am NOT having it. We are NOT going on the late register and that’s it.

Ben, who has thus far been asleep on the couch, is summoned with a bark that jumps from my throat and into the living room. He is up in moments, tries to calm Rosie, then attempts to slip away to the toilet.

‘Where are you going?’ I cry, furious. I’m not having this either. How dare he attend to his bursting bladder when Rosie is about to throw a full-scale tantrum. ‘Always trying to slip away,’ I mutter. ‘You are never there when I need you.’

Ben says something under his breath – something beginning with: ‘Yeah, well you…’ and I don’t hear the rest. I wasn’t there? He’s saying I wasn’t there? Where the hell was I then? On a Polynesian beach?

One minute later, Rosie and I are gone.

Postscript: Rosie and I make it to school right on time. Ben goes back to his South London premises. He cleans the cooker hob before he goes. We are unlikely to see him for a while. 

Quick vignette no. 2: Rosie is chatting to me after her shower. I’ve asked her to get up off the ground. I meant to say floor. ‘Floor is for the inside. Ground is the outside,’ she says. ‘Yes, you’re right,’ I say.

‘Mummy,’ she says, ‘drunks – you know the men who drink? – They sometimes sit on the ground outside. And it’s really dirty. Poor them. I’ve seen them. I see-ed some drunk people sitting on the ground and then they left their rubbish there and went away. But, Mummy, they are poorly and should go to the doctor. They shouldn’t sit on the ground. They need to go to the doctor. Because they’re sick.’

Postscript: I hug Rosie for being a much better person than I am. What a good, big heart she has.

Borgen

Quick vignette no. 3: It’s Saturday night and Ben and I are watching Borgena Danish drama series about a woman prime minister, political intrigue and the struggle to maintain principles and a personal life while furthering your career. Anyway, at one point, the PM invites her ex-husband over (he became her ex after she decided to continue being PM) to see if she can convince him to resume their relationship – even though they’re divorced. She says she thinks his new girlfriend is very nice, but “have you thought about what you’re leaving?” He’s shocked. “What is this? You’re living in another world. We are divorced. I’ve moved on. You need to accept that.” (I’m paraphrasing, but that’s about the gist of it). He leaves. She’s mortified, gets drunk and shags her driver. Oh dear.

Anyway, we watch this and I feel an uncomfortable chill wash over us. Maybe I’m imagining it, but I think Ben sees himself in the ex-husband character. I ask myself, am I deluded? What are we doing here? Ben comes over every weekend, slouches about the flat, plays with Rosie, surfs the net, watches TV all night, does some cleaning and repairs, leaves. This is what we do. Time and again. There is nothing else. So, what are we really doing? How long can we keep flogging this corpse?

Postscript: Ben left on Monday (see Vignette 1 above). I was not mortified and I didn’t shag anyone.