It’s not often I get a chance to talk to my kids about real life stuff, but every now and again we’ll have a serious chat about their futures, their feelings and life in general. As a single parent, my brain is stuffed to the brim with post-it’s in an attempt to remember everything; notes for outings to be filled in and sent back by a certain date, soccer clothes to be cleaned by tomorrow for a match, will the kids recognise last night’s supper if I disguise it with melted cheese etc. It’s a never ending goods-train of thoughts with no destination. Often I will lie in bed with all of this going on, and whilst attempting some order of things I’ll stop and think one thought only. Imagine if I could choose to just do nothing. Nothing at all. Just lie there squinting at the paint on the wall. Then as I’m wallowing in the calming thought of life-of-nothing-to-do, I realise that doing nothing will at some point require me to do something about the whining. Eventually after two days or so of nothingness, the nothing part will extend to food, clean clothes, and jobs available to someone with only 3.5 years of schooling. I’ll have to get up and do something, and the simple act of buying a loaf of bread and wondering what to put on it, will start the cycle again. So as it goes, in the hopes of getting them to avoid history repeating itself, when I get their attention, and the opportunity to teach a valuable life lesson presents itself, I do, and I think they appreciate it. As far as I can tell I think they understand the value of the wisdom dispensed by someone who’s been through the hardships and hasn’t (regularly or noticeably) taken to the bottle.
Of course it would be easier to realise the dream of a still-life, if I was not permanently cash strapped. Getting myself knocked up at the tender age of 21 whilst on a gap year in London to figure out if a career that appealed to me had even been invented yet, would be a disappointing blow to my future earning potential. Also, therefore, any future help with single parenthood in the form of an au-pair, nanny, driver, is severely hindered by my cash flow currently being more like a bit of stagnant water in a disused drain rather than an actual flow. I mean I do have a fairly decent job, a nine to fiver that requires little experience, a lot of patience, and a savings account with a choice of bank card featuring Hannah Montana or Ben Ten. But it takes up all my time, including one weekend morning, which means quality family time can’t be had for love or money for months at a time. Also, it’s not always the family time I expect it to be. Take last weekend for example, after being wracked with guilt for having borne my sons into a life of no X-Box, and lately few real conversations, I took them to the (free entry) Simonstown Navy Museum. Finally, we could get out of the house and to a fun and not obviously educational outing that wouldn’t require me to milk every last inch of it to get my money’s worth. Well, the only thing it did for me was make me wish I had a daughter. Seriously, try as I might I cannot muster the slightest bit if interest in a rusty cannon once used on HMS Thingy in past war times. Or the bamboo cup used by Able Seaman Whatisface (I’m not making that up…ok I can’t remember his name, but the bamboo cup from 1942 WAS there in the glass case!) Now I’m in no way denying the value of such a place. Honestly, there was not a word of an argument between the two of them for over an hour, and that has no price. And from a historical point I bet someone could list its uses. Just saying though, a list of sacrifices a mother makes for her sons entertainment would be a mile longer.
So a few nights after that day of been there done that family fun and sacrifice, and after a day at work of public humiliation by my boss falling just short of actual town square stoning (thwarted only by the fact that there is no town square) I thought it would be a good time for a ‘life lesson’. “Don’t let anyone crush your spirits” I lamented. “Work hard at school to ensure that you are never ever stuck in a position where you spend your days paying for someone else’s beach house while you earn minimum wage” I insisted, breaking last week’s discussion on ‘Rules Of Basic Etiquette that Also Apply To TV Dinners, by using my fork as a visual aide. Both kids seemed to be really listening. Engrossed even. They were staring right at me, in a way that made me proud to be their mother, so I continued..” Just be kind to people, you know? Kindness is next to Godliness” I was getting caught up and mildly hysterical in an evangelical kind of way, and just as I was about to suggest they practice this kindness on each other to see how rewarding it can be…the youngest child, with eyes still fixed on me, slowly leans over to his brother and using the minimal amount of mouth needed to form words, mutters “this is one of Mom’s pep talks”, then slides back to an upright position still staring straight at me with eyes that are now easily recognisable as being consciously held open as opposed to intent concentration. The oldests hand immediately flies to his mouth to smother a grin. “Have neither of you heard a word I’ve said?” They nod in unison ’cause I’m using my quiet scary voice probably, but I know I’ve lost them. Feeling misunderstood by my own children and not a just a tiny bit sorry for myself, I excuse them with a loud sigh. As they’re about to leave the oldest turns around and says “Mom?” “Yes?” I look up hopefully, waiting for the affirmation that something was taken in, a small lesson was learnt, my words meant to be repeated to future generations, aren’t falling on deaf ears..Ok, that’s aiming bit high, maybe just an acknowledgement of the effort it takes to bring up two sons, even more so when you’re doing it alone…”If there’s nothing to do next weekend, can we go back to the Navy Museum?”
Sigh. So much for the value of wisdom. “Pour me a glass of wine and Ill think about it.”