Photo by Lili Gooch
Up early, well before the alarm. Good, there is never enough time in a day.
Quick shower (it’s so much easier to do this before the boys wake up), dress, make coffee, sort out laundry, put on washing machine, empty… damn, we forgot to put the dishwasher on last night.
Let dog out, wash dog’s bowl, feed her and clean up her mess in the garden.
Second mug of coffee, computer ‘on’. Hopefully a full hour or so of work before the boys wake.
Hear partner getting up, he showers, dresses and comes downstairs. Clanking from the kitchen, too much clanking – the youngest is woken up.
Footsteps as he gets up and leaves his bedroom – they stop at his brother’s door ??? ‘Get out of my room and leave me alone’ I hear screamed moments later. Really? 5.50 am and they are already fighting.
I stop work – nowhere near finished.
Youngest comes downstairs, nothing more than a frown to my ‘good morning’. He has ‘that’ look in his eyes, it’s going to be be of those mornings.
Clearly he has not slept well, he is grumpy, he is defiant and as the morning unfolds he challenges everything and he pushes the boundaries as far as he can.
Partner has prepared breakfast and laid the table, he puts the bins out and sorts out the recycling, he then takes the dog for a walk, checking messages and emails as he goes.
I get the boys school clothes ready and make their beds. I tidy the house from top to bottom as I make my way back to the kitchen. I empty the washing machine, start dryer and unload dishwasher – why use the ‘quick wash’ function when it never does the job, half the items are put back in.
Breakfast is finished and I clean the kitchen and reload the dishwasher.
I set out homework and the boys sit down with me, it becomes clear that the youngest will not engage. He is simply not listening and is continuously distracting and antagonising his brother, the brother is taking the bait and is fighting back. I start to lose my temper and raise my voice – even though I know it will only make things worse.
I’m feeling disrespected and I can feel my anger rising – think therapeutic parenting, think therapeutic parenting I remind myself. It’s not working, I snap and immediately regret it as the youngest visibly closes in on himself. I leave the room before I make the situation worse.
Partner leaves for work after we have discussed what we are doing that evening and what needs picking up for tonight’s dinner. ‘Stay calm’ he says as he walks out the door, which of course just makes me more angry.
My phone bleeps, my first work message of the day. I realise I forgot to plug the phone in last night and I have to search the whole house for the power cable, I discover the oldest has charged MY iPad with it in his room – where screens are not allowed!?!?
I attempt to get back to my work on the computer, but the boys constant bickering makes it impossible.
I let them have screen time (mostly for my sake) and at last there is some calm. I rush through my work to get it finished and prepare what I need for the day.
Teeth cleaned and they are dressed for school. School work collected and bags filled, sports kit cobbled together – where the hell are the big one’s trainers? Shoes on.
The youngest one’s mood is not improving the slightest, everything he says is full of attitude and just on the edge of rudeness (or is it over the edge, but I just don’t have time to admit that?), it is taking every bit of effort from me not to lose it.
At the last minute I realise that I haven’t unloaded the dryer. Damn – not dry, the whole wash is going to be creased to hell by the time I get home tonight unless I take it out and hang it out all over the kitchen. That’s always a good look – and now we are running late and both boys are nagging me about it.
I very briskly walk them to school and the boys fight the entire way. The youngest walks off immediately we reach the play ground and he barely looks back as I shout ‘I love you, have a nice day’, so much for our usual goodbye kiss.
I get my first business call of the day as I am walking away from school, which is actually quite useful as it helps me avoid eye contact with other parents who I don’t have time for. I have to rush to make my first appointment, I am not looking forward to what I am sure will be a hectic day at work.
11am my phone rings, I pick it up and my heart skips a beat – it’s the school. I’m surprised as they haven’t called for well over 5 months now. I answer and I am told that the youngest is ‘not having a good day today’, he has been difficult and disruptive and they are concerned that it seems to be escalating and could get out of hand (as it has many times in the past), they wanted to make me aware of the situation in case I needed to come in. Just what I need today I think, I really thought that they had this under control.
I say that he had been in a difficult mood that morning and that he had been quite challenging. I start to say that he had gone to bed a little late yesterday and was up early, he was probably (not that it excuses his behaviour) a little tired because we had…
and then – and only then – the realisation.
…because we had Contact yesterday.
Contact with his other siblings, the brothers and sisters he doesn’t live with, the brothers and sisters he sees just twice a year, the brothers and sisters he misses so very much.
The ones who remind him of his past life, who highlight the differences between him and his peers. The ones who make him feel vulnerable in his new family – who make him feel like his new life could be temporary after all and that he could be moved on at any moment like each of them have been and just like he was twice before his 5th birthday.
How could I have been SO damn stupid!
Of course he is unsettled, of course he is being difficult and challenging us, challenging the school, challenging the world – of course, of course, of course.
He always is after contact and who can blame him for that? All morning he had been crying out for our love, for our reassurance and for our understanding – in the only way he knows how.
How on earth could I have missed it?