Before I was a parent, in fact well before I’d even met my husband, I only had one proper, if somewhat amorphous, goal: I wanted to be a happy mum, eeking out a living from teaching, writing bits and bobs and selling homemade fudge from an old ice cream van at festivals. In between all that and having fun with my family I would be walking the dog, tinkering on a piano and pottering around an easel with a paintbrush in a white house with big windows, surrounded by green grass and trees, wearing only a kaftan and dangly earrings.
So far, life hasn’t quite worked out like that (perhaps fortunately, in the case of the kaftan) but lately – and I shudder to write this, tempting as it does the hand of fate – things have been feeling pretty darn good. You never know, one day soon I could even be ticking some of those wishes off my bucket list.
Since Django changed schools, yes, there have been a few wobbles – it hasn’t and never will be completely plain sailing and there are SATS to contend with for heaven’s sake – but there has definitely been a palpable shift in his mood and (dare I say it?) his resilience. Could it be he is growing up?!
Last night he cooked tea. Not cake, nor bread, nor anything remotely involving flour or sugar. No, he made a salad. And this miraculous salad, which he made following a RECIPE (shock horror gasp), even contained ingredients that he doesn’t usually enjoy eating, like avocado and cold cooked chicken. Still more wondrous, my little Roux-boy consciously made a dish that complemented the meal I had already planned (lamb kofte and new potatoes, as it happens). He worked WITH me, in the Stickleberry kitchen, for nearly an hour with NO anger, NO controlling, NO attention deficits, NO handstands, NO keepy-uppies, NO terrible mess, NO zooming off halfway through to watch the telly, NO refusing to clear up and absolutely NO forgetting to go to the toilet. And the resulting meal was delicious too! I was soooo happy I nearly burst the seams of my ill-fitting, imaginary kaftan.
I don’t want to burst any bubbles at the same time, but the flip side is the effect Django’s change of mood/demeanour/approach has had on Red. In her mind’s eye (and often ours) SHE is the calm, wise, resilient one who knows how to behave, focus, problem-solve and COOK, dontcha know? Django taking on her sensible role leaves her some space to be angry, a space which she is taking up with gusto. Even this has its uses because she does tend to bottle things up but she is also left questioning her usual identity, and so feels doubly lost and fearful. All this on top of and because her older brother, the only one who has always been there, is no longer around at school to protect (or be protected by) her.
But we’re aware of that, and giving her extra love and time too, to counter the meltdowns. The truth is we are all in a far, far better place than we have ever been. I’m even considering inviting some friends round! Our smiles are wider and we’re breathing more deeply – and for however long it lasts I want us all to remember this feeling because like this is just how we want our lives to be.