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Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Bad cop, moi? Oy vey!

To most of my friends I am a scatterbrain. Those, who know me well, also know that I have a talent to remember the most useless pieces of information that will be never put down to test or impress anyone.

Among those "golden nuggets" of useless information was always the knowledge that, given the choice, children prefer parents who don't tell them off.

 It was useless, largely, because I failed to take any notice or make the most of this advice.

Instead, I had a bust up with a 6-year old today, who, after our usual morning squabble over a half-chewed hamster and scatterings of minuscular lego particles on every flat surface, uttered what must be the most horrid line of all most horrid divorces: "I want to live with Daddy! He is Nice and doesn't tell me off like You Do!!"

Struck by the whole-heartdeness of my daughter's statement, I stood aghast and unprepared. "Whatever you do, you'll always be the bad cop" a friend's advice on being divorced bolted through me, as I shrank inside in despair.

I knew these things happened, but mostly to other people. Coming from a broken home, I knew better how not to alienate children or screw them up with the "guilt' thing. So, the advice was useless. Until this morning, when it caught me off-guard and drained by the battles, losses and general feeling of self-worthlessness that came with divorce. This was so unfair!

"Fine!" was the best I could come up with, avoiding my daughter's eyes. I was losing the argument and she knew it.

37 years of age, bilingual and a writer, I failed miserably to come up with a better solution when faced with a little girl still dressed in her nighty and standing in the middle of the kitchen with her arms crossed.  Ash-blond streaks of her hair were muddled with tears and her hazel-green eyes were wide open, as she watched my reaction.

"You can go and live with your daddy forever, if he is so lovely and please don't bother coming back!" I shrieked at my own ridiculousness, I was saying all the wrong things!!

Up, in her bedroom, I watched my little girl toss her pink 'n flowery belongings into her pink 'n flowery "trunky" (suitcase), as she packed to leave for "Daddy's place". I knew there was no point in trying to stop her - she had my stubborn streak.
She is also very smart (not my streak), so I'd have had to come up with a very good reason as to why she shouldn't leave this stressed mad, eternally exhausted and unadventurous mummy that I was, but logic was failing me.

Finally, I did what I knew best and what felt right: I wrapped my arms around my girl, pressed her little body to my chest and whispered "sorry, my flower" into the silk of her hair. She drew herself closer to me and half-whisered, half-giggled "I am sorry too, mummy"

We sat on the floor, next to the open "trunky", rocking gently to "twinkle, twinkle..."and whispering our promises to never ever leave each other.

I know this was just a taste of troubles to come and, with time, I will probably find an answer better, than "fine". Until then, "sorry" and "I love you" will have to do.

And if all fails, I can always play the ultimate trump card of every Jewish mother: guilt, of course... "Don't worry about me, I will probably be ok alone. After all, I only raised you and gave you the best years of my life"

I'd better start taking notes from my mum.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

FWF and the other SSs

FWF's (Friends With Families) gatherings are still a sore spot (SS).

Even when they're my FWF and I knew them well before we all had families and became decent. Actually, that's what made it so uncomfortable. We all started from the seemingly similar lifestyle, jobs and aspirations. We even began to date, got engaged and married within the same year.
Following the timescale, we entered the pandemic stage of broodiness (as can be seen from the age similarities among our kids) and settled down. And it looked like all, but me, managed to remain happy with this arrangement. Or they were putting on a damn good show.

Catching up with old friends is always a treat and the only thing I regret in the end is that there is never enough time to talk about EVERYTHING and ask ALL the questions.

Well, today I caught myself thinking "Can it really be only half past six?" and "how do I kill the next two hours stuck on coffee and next to a happy couple?" I didn't know them well enough to throw casually in the "I am going through a divorce and feel crap, is it ok to pretend I am not here?" bit. And I couldn't really share the joy of them finally moving closer to a xxx  private school which their "little Molly" simply adored, because she didn't have to put up with the riffraffs of the nearby state school.

I was bored. Maybe with sufficient amount of amphetamine and wine I would have joined in with their silly enthusiasm. Or if I was with a husband, I could've dragged him into the conversation and asked to "just nod at the right times", while I popped out to abuse the fore-mentioned substances.

But I had none of those. And, unbelievably, neither did I want to. Because that would've just made me cope and I've come to realise recently that it's the coping bit that drives many of us quietly and slowly insane. Not living life, just coping with it.

It wasn't really a struggle as such to be the only single parent at the party of 30+ FWF. But it sure was daunting. It was a different ball game requiring new coping strategies and behavioural patterns to survive in this "happy couples only, please" environment, without feeling bitter or twisted. It's like coming to a party where everyone speaks the language you no longer understand, and nobody speaks your new language. What's the right protocol on bitterness and twisted-ness in these circumstances? Tricky...

Still, it was comforting to see my old friends at the party and to know them well enough to keep the questions tirade flowing, while avoiding talking about myself. It was also refreshing to simply enjoy the celebrations of my dear friend's big day, rejoicing in her life's milestone, rather than commiserating about mine. It just wasn't the time or the place to feel miserable. It was time to live, not to cope.

And to hell with the small-talk. "The only thing my soon-to-be-ex husband and I have always agreed on was state education. Our children go to a state school and you know wot? I love their bleedin Essex accent!... Now, if you'll excuse me, I am going to get myself a drink"

And before the happy couple had a chance to small-talk on miseries of divorce and state education, I made my way swiftly to the kitchen and found my friend in there. Perched on a bar stool with her birthdays-only Manolo Blahniks shoved carelessly under it, she filled her glass with champagne (which judging by the sliding make up, wasn't the first time) and rubbed her feet. I smiled. She smiled back and sighed. I sighed too and perched on a stool next to her. Still silent, she poured champagne into my coffee mug (I was glad it was empty), put her hand on my shoulder and said:"I know this must feel shit right now, but you'll bounce back. You always do"

We hit the "remember that time, when..." part of the evening. The hours flew by, as we cried, giggled and gossiped in whisper (or so we thought), before we realised there was no more noise around us. Intrigued by the silence, we went looking for vanished party guests and suspiciously quiet children. We found most of them scattered around the house on sofas, armchairs and rugs, fast asleep and blissfully exhausted. At least, the children were.

And when we each gathered our lot of tired and chocolate-smeared munchkins, I knew, that single parenthood wasn't all my life was about. I was surrounded by the love and warmth of my friends, who genuinely cared.

I was single, but I certainly wasn't alone.

Happy Birthday, Valerie xxx