People say that Gin is a mother’s ruin, but at present, it is my sanity potion. It is required for me to deal with the torrent of absurd happenings which is my life. Whoever said having children and working was ‘having it all’ was lying on a massive scale and should be publically flogged for making such a ridiculous suggestion. I would happily sit there, gin and bitter lemon in hand, basking in the sight of the aforementioned ‘know it all’ having tomatoes thrown at him and being whipped in the stocks for their stupidity.
This week has been a week of testing boundaries; can I really get out of work at a reasonable time without feeling guilty and obliged to stay longer and prove I am worthy? The answer is a resounding no; I stayed longer and my children pulled the guilt card on me. I have found that, even though they cannot read properly, they have a talent for manipulation that would have even the Spanish Inquisition spill out all their secrets.
‘I actually really, really missed you, mummy.’ Ewan said as I rush in ten minutes before bedtime.
‘Yeah, me too’ shouts my two-year-old Clara, unaware of what her brother is saying.
‘Ewan, go and get into your pyjamas and brush your teeth please.’ I need some unwind time, I had been dealing with other peoples kids all day and I did not have the strength to play entertainer to my own offspring, not tonight. The guilt rises up through my stomach like indigestion and I swallow and try to suppress it; even good mums need time to themselves, didn’t they?
‘Clara, you need to brush your teeth too sweetheart’ I sing-song to my daughter trying to make the prospect of toothpaste appealing. She hated the taste of toothpaste and would regularly try and avoid cleaning her teeth. I am not surprised as brushing your teeth has to be one of the most mundane activities I have ever come across in my thirty-eight years on the planet.
‘awwwwwwwww, O.K.’ Clara lowers her head sadly and proceeds to walk to the bathroom to join her brother. Great, I have two minutes to quickly check through my Facebook, I better make the most of it. As I reach my hand inside my trouser pocket to retrieve my phone, I hear my son shout ‘Clara, no!’ followed a blood-curdling scream coming from the bathroom.
‘Oi! What on earth is going on here?’ I interrupt Clara as she is about to slap Ewan on the head for taking her toothbrush.
‘Ewan took my toothbrush!’ Clara wails as if she is having her teeth extracted. If they handed out Oscars in the category of ‘best-exaggerated reaction from a toddler’ my daughter would have a cabinet full. She tried her best to convince me further by throwing herself at my legs and grabbing onto them.
‘Mum, she hit me on the head with the toothbrush which really hurt and nearly poked me in the eye, that’s why I took the toothbrush off her.’ Ewan jumped to his own defence flashing his blue eyes at me to draw me into his version of the story.
‘Clara, did you hit Ewan?’ I crouch down so I am at Clara’s level and move her giant curls from her face. She nodded her head sadly looking at me with remorseful eyes.
‘Clara, you do not hit your brother, you do not hit anyone, do you hear? Why did you hit him?’ I said as sternly as my tired voice could.
‘Ewan was pulling a tongue at me.’ Clara explained with a voice full of sadness. I knew there was something dodgy going on; Clara rarely hit without being provoked first, she had a fiery temper like a bear backed into a corner and prodded with a stick.
‘Well, it is time for bed anyway so he can’t do it again, can he?’ I reassured as I generally turned her around towards her bedroom. My hands on her shoulders could sense the tension rising at the concept of going to bed. ‘Me no wanna go bed, no mummy, no bed.’ She complains as she shakes her curly mane of blonde hair. I cannot be doing with tantrums tonight, I thought before letting out a huge sigh. ‘You have to go to sleep sweetie, you won’t get big and strong otherwise.’ I said in the most persuasive voice I could muster, my smile a mixture of annoyance and sheer insanity through exhaustion.
‘I will sort her out if you like.’ My husband interrupts the onset of tears from both my daughter and myself. ‘thanks darling, that would be great’ I declare as I make my way to Ewan’s room.
‘Oh, for pities sake!’ I scream as I grab my foot in pain. Stupid flipping Lego on the floor, one day I am going to throw them out; not tonight as I can barely muster the energy to stay standing. Why did I think it was a good idea to buy Ewan lots of Lego; they are torture devices, not toys.
‘You should be more careful of the Lego mummy.’ Ewan surmised as I kicked the remaining Lego under his cabin bed.
‘Yes, I will be careful and not buy any more if you like.’ The annoyance at Ewan stating the obvious was apparent in my face, I bet I looked like a bulldog who was chewing a wasp.
‘Can you read me a story please Mum’ my son says in a wimpish voice that is designed to pull on my heartstrings. At least he is changing the subject before I explode in a rage. He proceeds to pull out the secret weapon and flash his large, blue eyes at me and pout his lips; he means business. Ewan has, and will always be my baby boy and he uses this fact regularly to get his own way. He would do just about anything to get his own way.
‘It’s 7 O’clock, it is time for bed.’ I say, half-asleep from having to work nearly twelve hours, my head is heavy with the hustle and bustle of teaching and then doing a parents evening on top of that.
‘But, I am not tired, I don’t want to go to bed.’ The complaining continues like nails scratching a chalkboard.
‘Mummy needs to get a shower sweetie, plus you have school tomorrow, you need your sleep.’ I lean my hand against my cheek in an attempt to keep my tired head upright, it did not work. ‘But I want to tell you what happened today at school.’ Bang, another shot to my guilt tank. The interesting thing about this tactical play by Ewan is he knows I want to know about his day at school; therefore reverse psychology will keep me engaged in conversation and sleep avoidance.
I asked Ewan about school every day. I always like to keep tabs on what he is getting up to due to my desire to ‘helicopter parent’; I hover around collecting information and if I need to land and do some ass-kicking, then I will. Ignorance is not bliss when you are trying to raise your children not to be spoilt brats or indeed sociopaths.
‘Go on then, tell me what you did’ I say, knowing I will not listen properly, nor will I remember any of it as I feel so heavy it’s like a train has ploughed through me. My son looked at me and started to think, his pupils raising upward as he tried to drag the information of the day out of his mind and present it to me.
As roughly a minute passed of standing around in silence, I resolved that my son had nothing of significance to tell me. The little scamp. He was mind tricking me again and it had worked. I was weak and had fallen for the trap.
‘Ewan, if you are not going to tell me about school then it is time for bed’ I suggest as I throw the duvet over him in an attempt to coax him to sleep. I need to sit down, I need a blooming drink and if I do not get one in the next ten minutes I was likely to start getting angry.
‘Sshhhuuuusssssshhhh! I’m thinking Mummy, I have to remember in my brain what happened.’ Ewan stated boldly as he placed his index finger over my lips before pointing it to the side of his skull like I did not know where in fact his brain was. This was getting ridiculous, I was being shushed by a six-year-old but I did not have the energy to show my indignation, some battles were not worth it.
‘Go on then, I will wait.’ I rolled my eyes and sighed deeply as I began to wait. The soles of my feet burned with pain from standing most of the day and my ankles felt like they were about to give way any minute. My son saw my grimace as an annoyance; I want to sit down, have a large gin and ginger ale and watch a true-crime documentary, is that too much to ask? I have worked hard all day, don’t I deserve it?
‘Mum, I forgot about what happened today, I have searched my brain and I cannot find it. Has my brain stopped working?’ He asks inquisitively. All I knew is if I didn’t persuade him to go to sleep soon, my own brain would give up.
‘Maybe it is because you need a sleep sweetie. Your brain needs recharging like a battery.’ I was currently considering the state of my own brain, it would be flashing at 5% battery at present.
‘Do you know mum, I think you are right.’ Finally, I have success, I can reward myself when I get downstairs. Throwing the duvet over Ewan I give him a kiss on the forehead.
‘Mummy loves you lots and lots and jelly tots. Night, night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.’ I say to Ewan aside move towards the exit, I was three steps away from freedom. As I begin to shut the door to Ewan’s room I breathed the sigh of relief that every parent has when they have put their children to bed. Now it was my time, adult time in front of the TV.
As I throw myself down onto my spot on the sofa, I breathe a sigh of relief. Peace at last. If you listen close enough, just after bedtime you will hear a collective sigh across the country of parents who have just been released from the tiny dictators that mess with their minds on a regular basis. My reward for surviving the day is a nice, cold lemonade mixed with a shot of my favourite Rhubarb gin.
I take the first sip of the evening and feel like I have entered nirvana; all the troubles of the day seem to melt with that first sip as I watch a highly unrealistic American cop show. As I put my drink onto the side table, the tiredness hits me like a tidal wave of exhaustion. I am beyond tired, I am nearly catatonic. I must stay awake, I must not fall asleep on the sofa halfway through a TV show like all the other nights; I must fight it as I still have gin left. Whatever you do, do not close your eyes.
‘Honey, it’s ten past ten, you fell asleep’ my husband gently nudges as he stands over me at the side of the sofa.
‘Jesus Christ on a bike you scared the hell out of me!’ I remarked a little too loudly for the situation to warrant.
‘You missed the finale of the show.’ He explains with excitement. ‘They all died at the end’ he announces with a jovial tone.
‘Really? Why the hell did they kill them all off?’ I murmur as I pick up my gin and lemonade and walk into the kitchen.
‘They didn’t, I just thought it would be fun to see how you reacted, fooled you.’ He grins like the Cheshire cat that just got a gallon of cream. He is always joking about things, I never know when he is serious. I do not do well with jokes, I am too gullible.
‘That would have been a sad ending, but not as sad as this…’ I say as I pour the barely touched gin and lemonade down the kitchen sink. Goodbye gin, it is such a shame to waste you but my body has decided sleep was more important; off to bed I go. Maybe they call it mother’s ruin because mothers are always too tired to drink it and this fact sends them down the path of insanity.