There’s been radio silence recently from Jones Towers (a bit like Trump Towers without the bling) because, well frankly (look away now if swearing offends) it’s been a pretty shit week.
It started the Sunday before last when a very lovely and well intentioned football parent on hearing my mother had died this year (it cropped up as part of a normal conversation about Christmas, honest I wasn’t shoe-horning into every available moment!) said…
“I hope you’ve taken some time out to yourself, book a week somewhere warm and just go relax”
“Ummm…” is my normal response to most things it seems, “that’s not really possible with Daniel”
“Oh I’m sure you can work it out somehow”.
There speaks the voice of the majority of the world who have no idea what it is like to be the truly lone parent of a child who needs a little extra support. This parent is in fact a single parent, but single in the sense that he and his child’s mother aren’t together but they split parenting responsibility, as is quite proper. The only people my child would trust to spend any amount of time with for more than a night are nowhere near us, requiring a school holiday visit and aren’t going to take a week off work so that I can go swanning off to Clacton to find myself! And that’s not taking into account that Daniel lost my mum almost as much as I did and probably needs to escape every bit as much. In fact I chose this route to parenthood and I’m not sure I want to go anyway, so I have no idea what I’m whining about. I suppose it’s the lack of options that stung.
This slightly unsettling conversation was followed by an opposition parent deciding he was Jose Mourinho, running up and down the sidelines screaming at their kids and our linesman. This isn’t allowed under the “Respect” rules of the Surrey Youth League and each club has to provide a Respect Marshall to police their own parents. Guess who is our Respect Marshall – I get a yellow tabard with “Respect” written on the back. I call it “The Tabard of Doom”. In truth I volunteered because we have a lovely group of parents and it seemed an easy way to volunteer and get some credit for it without having to actually do anything except write a report each week consisting of “Everything was fine”.
But everything wasn’t fine. But not my parent, so not my monkey, not my circus.
Then teenage referee (whom the rules were brought in to protect from vigilante parents) called for the respect marshall to step in and sort out said parent. Oppo respect marshall shrugged at me and said,
“I don’t see the problem”
“Ummmm,” because why change a good thing if it works for you? “with respect… (Bazinga) it doesn’t matter what you think, the referree has asked you to deal with him”
So it was me or nobody. When will I learn that “Nobody” is a perfectly valid choice. Physically standing in the way of his Basil Fawlty-like loping comedy run up and down the sidelines screaming at the top of his voice (again quite Basil Fawlty-like), did have some limited effect. And when that wore off I tried a nice quiet “you have to remain behind the yellow line.” Which again worked for a while. One of our lovely parents went to speak to their marshall (note: I have passive aggressively left off the “Respect” to make my point in a very British fashion. It’s the equivalent of giving him a stern look or tutting.)
“Look can you sort him out, it’s not fair that she’s having to deal with it”
It’s not fair.
Crikey we really were going at them with both barrels. Unfortunately neither man was born in Britain and the fierce instruction passed them by.
The referree asked me to write a report, which I had to phrase quite carefully in order to leave out my metaphorical tutting and just stick to the facts, which was quite a strain.
I blame this strain for a reduced immune system which then resulted in me catching quite a nasty cold which has deteriorated into sinusitis. The sinusitis was complicated by a few challenging parenting moments originating from problems at school which I failed quite spectactularly (think silent sulking rather than calm rational discussion).
Adding the (look away again now) to the shit-storm of crapness, it’s the anniversary of my mum being given the news that her cancer was terminal and that she probably had about a month. In fact she lasted 3 weeks but lets not split hairs.
So yesterday I girded my loins to talk to Daniel about his dreadful week at school, I didn’t manage to do it without crying but in the end, the fact that I was so upset did make him listen and we talked properly for the first time this week. I talked about how much I missed his Nan and how much she loved Christmas and how I understood his desire to be cool in front of his friends at school but that it was leading him into making some very poor decisions. We talked about him being bullied at his previous school and how it made him feel and not to visit that on others unwittingly in an effort to be popular. We talked about the importance of real friends who didn’t think it was funny to get you into trouble and who liked who you really were not some cool edgy rude version of yourself, and how real friends at secondary school could become life-long friends in some cases. We covered quite a lot really and it made my head hurt (though that may have been the crying and/or the sinusitis).
Then we hugged and we both promised to try harder and we put up the Christmas tree together. My mum’s Christmas tree. That Christmas tree which she bought when Daniel was tiny and put up without fail until her last Christmas in her flat which felt as much our flat which strangers now live in. It’s a bit ragged about the edges (a bit like me this week) and undecorated but it looks at home here.
This time last year I made an announcement to friends on Facebook that my mother’s illness was progressing fast and she probably only had a matter of weeks left…
“No need to tell you all to cherish your family this Christmas because I’m sure you do, but if you are getting caught up in the stress that often comes with Christmas try to remind yourself that imperfect Christmas’s full of disasters involving the dog eating the turkey are still actually pretty bloody perfect if you are with the people you love the most.”
So taking my own advice, I am leaving the stress of last week behind because what’s really important is that I am able to spend time over Christmas with the people that I love the most. And I am truly grateful for that.