Apologies. Over the past two weeks there has been a slight pause in delivery of any kind of the brain spill I usually call ‘writing my blog’ due to the fact that I’ve barely had time to pee. Which my sister, by the way, informs me is bad for the complexion. Who knew? Anyway, the combined forces of visiting family, no internet, flying halfway across the world and the ensuing jet lag have put a spanner in the works the size of a small cocker spaniel. Never mind the unnecessarily cruel third week of Christmas holidays (who the f*** decided that was a good idea?) which have rendered me completely incapable of escaping upstairs to the inner sanctuary of my office for the past week.
But here I am. At last. Amidst tears of frustration and exhaustion around about Tuesday night, I claimed the weekend as mine and mine alone, to sort out my crap and get my life back on track again. My husband was surprisingly compliant (I think he may have feared for his life or my sanity, or both) although judging by the look on his face earlier today as I breezed past him with my third cup of tea and left him to the mercy of our three year old, I think he may have regretted it.
It’s always the same. Term time lulls me into a false sense of security, that I’m not mainly consumed the rest of the time by the business of running a family and living abroad. But as holidays loom and packing lists emerge, it becomes increasingly obvious that the task ahead is not easy. By ‘task’ I mean what other people refer to as ‘vacation’. I’ve spoken about this before, at the other end of the year, when we were on the road for six weeks or so and visiting several different continents. Of course this time it was only a few weeks. “Piece of cake!” I hear you cry. I would be inclined to agree with you, but of course Christmas brings it’s own special kind of bonkers. Trust me, going on holiday for a fortnight in the sun at a 4-star in Alicante is not quite the same as trying to recreate a home from home in a place that hasn’t been your home for twenty years and counting. It has to be done just right, so that your little one doesn’t question the existence of Santa (“But how will he know we’re not in Dubai?”) and of course that the relatives and friends all get their pound of flesh (oh how I wish that were true, then I could have eaten even more food) and so that everyone within the ring fence is fed and watered and has lots of things to do to keep them interested but not so many they are overwhelmed. (Decent TV and internet would have helped with that, I dare say)- and that the boy gets his fix of fuss and attention from his adoring fan club before we up and leave them all behind for another six months.
Which of course brings me to The Return Home. Never mind the fact that I got back on the plane more exhausted physically and emotionally than when I had left. The next bit was even more fun. Husband went back to work the morning after we landed and then the true cold turkey began. Not more leftovers, but the bit where the boy and I have only each other for company for an entire week in horrific post-Christmas isolation while everyone else gets on with their lives. Post-travel fall out of the worst kind.
It’s been interesting. After the brief meltdown mid-week, it got better when we both realised that shouting was definitely not the answer. I am not sure who came to that conclusion faster, me or my pre-schooler, but it’s a small victory that we had two days of blissful harmony that included a supermarket trip, a doctor visit and soft play, and there were no tears and no rows and it felt like I was somewhere near being one of those nice mummies after all.
But I have failed, utterly, to get anything done. I think part of the improvement in my relationship with my attention craving, chocolate-withdrawing, overly-stimulated-by-relatives child was due to resignation on my part of getting anything done at all before the end of the week. Once I’d given up all hope things seemed far easier. Maybe that’s what women mean by ‘having it all’ – ‘all’ being by definition a very personal expectation of what you hope to achieve in life. If you hope for very little for yourself, it seems you may be in luck.
But today I have excelled. The PTA agenda for Monday’s meeting is drawn up and ready to go. The Christmas photos are downloaded. Property management issues both here and abroad are now a little more managed than they were. Finances have been straightened. Spreadsheets updated. Improv team is standing by for rehearsals. Reading list books read and notes made. I am not there yet – for example the thank you letters are still unwritten and there is no food in the house except fish fingers – but the fact that I’m sitting writing this is testament to how much better I feel about the state of things than I did. Of course I need to make the most of it given I have a Masters degree starting on Monday, and Improv performances looming.
And we still haven’t hit Day Nine of return yet, which is traditionally the day when something goes horribly wrong with the boy, or our lives, the house, or all of the above. That, co-incidentally, is also on Monday. I am full of fear about what it may be, the day will be fraught with ‘what ifs’ until it is over. ‘What if’ my son has got a bug from the soft play and can’t go to school? ‘What if’ my car breaks down on the way home from rehearsal and I miss my virtual MA course introduction? ‘What if’ all the white goods in the house suddenly realise they are three years old and break down simultaneously? ‘What if’ travelling has produced a profound but as yet unseen psychological effect on me, my husband, my son? Previous years the curse of Day Nine has included acute depression on my part, as the realisation that there is no going back sinks in. Two years ago my son developed a sleep disorder and my grandad passed away, both on Day Nine. The sleep disorder came in the form of crying every hour, on the hour, all night, for two months whilst I gradually positioned myself closer and closer to the door waiting for him to go back to sleep. Tiring, exhausting and upsetting, but not terrifying. Last year starting on Day Nine was worse. He refused to eat anything for three days after a nightmare that left him screaming and grabbing at his tongue – resulting in assessment by an occupational therapist for possible autism. That was a fun week, let me tell you. So the jury’s out until next Tuesday, on whether we have truly survived Christmas intact. I am hopeful this year, that as we have travelled about less and offered a greater number of grandparents up for play than usual, that we will be lucky and Day Nine will pass uneventfully.
In the meantime I have unpacking to finish, a tumble drier to fix and visitors to prepare for. No rest for the wicked? My brother in law is right. I must be the Wicked Witch of the Middle East after all.
I’m here! I’m here! (Photo credit: Dulce Dahlia)