Breathe

Take a deep breath.

Last night I lay in bed and cried.

Take a deep breath.

Some nights when I try and sleep it feels like I’m adrift in a sea of concerns. The sea is wide and deep and dark. I’m alone and soaked with stress and sleeplessness. The salt taste of regret and angry words. Waves of parental failures buffet me as I float.

Take a deep breath.

People tell you parenthood is hard. I think they do. But what you never know is how it will be hard for you. With newborns it tends to be fairly obvious. You’re tired, listening to screaming, and covered in puke. But when the children get older they blossom into these spectacular little humans. With their own personalities. Their own charms, and interests, and sense of humour. Their own quirks, and frustrations, and problems.

Sometimes your children feel like that lame-ass friend you can’t bring yourself to ditch. You know, the one who always wants to catch up for a coffee so they can tell you all about how difficult their life is, and you listen and are all sympathetic. You visit their house, sit on the floor and eat ice-cream and hand them tissues. You check in on them in a couple of days. But then when you’re stressed, they’re all like. ‘I just have to tell you something. Wait my thing is more important. Listen, listen to me…
… What’s the thing Robin Hood keeps his arrows in? A quiber?’
And you feel like exploding in rage because to be honest you never really gave a shit about Robin Hood.

Take a deep breath.

I read a lovely post from Like Real Life. It was so beautiful, and I want to tell everyone stuck in the doldrums with kids to read it. It has the words we need to hear. ‘It will get easier’.

But the truth is, it isn’t easier yet.

We’re caught up in this place where we need to keep giving and giving, and our children are taking and taking. My husband and I barely have the time to breathe. We try to give each other breaks, and sleep-ins. We even stayed up too late on Saturday, watching Eurovision, just to kid ourselves that we too can have a lame-ass adult evening in like our friends.

It is hard when it is always just us. And the kids don’t sleep well enough that a babysitter feels like an option.

It is hard because M has been sick all year. And it is May. And it feels very unfair. For him, really. He’s tired and angry. And I don’t blame him, but we are tired too. And it is hard that it is just us. I’m tired of carrying this burden alone. I’m tired because it feels like such a grey area and so many parents feel this way, of not betraying your child’s right to privacy, and not isolating yourself unduly because you don’t talk about it.

I know we are lucky that it is ‘only’ asthma. But he has been unlucky in that we haven’t been successful in getting it under control since it first appeared just before Christmas. It has been two steps forward, one step back. And every night we lie in bed and listen to him cough and cough and cough.

Take a deep breath.

Maybe I’m saying something now, because we feel like we are finally making real progress with a new medication. But it is too early to say for sure. We’ve thought that before.

Maybe I’m saying something because I know so many people who struggle behind their closed doors. We only see them open it that tiny chink. My daughter’s struggling to settle in at school. My son has been diagnosed with autism. My husband finished his chemotherapy treatment yesterday. And we console, and condole and celebrate. And we don’t think about all the tears in private. All the worrying about whether it is normal to feel like this or not. All the lying awake in the dark, dark night, stressed and alone.

And yes, it does get better.

But sometimes there is no getting better. Sometimes problems won’t go away. We just have to learn to live with them.

We have to make space in our already cramped, complicated lives. We have to give and give and give some more.

So to all the parents, and people, and carers who are giving and giving and giving.

To everyone who finds themselves adrift at sea.

Take a deep breath.

You’re not alone.

I hope your seas are tranquil soon.

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