Thursday, 29 January 2009

The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

I have not had a good 18 hours. The cat hadn't come home, long after it was dark and still raining and I was scared, again, that one day he just won't come home; and I was angry: with the cat, with the imaginary people offering him better food and a nicer home than mine! Add a little girl with a cold who just can't sleep and a boy home from cubs: in a new life stage, staying out later than bed-time. The cat came home, muddy and hungry, and three eager little people needed to relieve their anxiety by actually seeing him, stroking him even though it was half past nine.
And then, just when I thought all was quiet, and I could settle down for a precious hour of grown-up time, my husband out for the evening, the house to myself, the cub is sick, all over pyjamas, duvet and pillow! With a painfully thin frosting of grace covering over the welling tears, I change all the bed-clothes, pile up the washing for tomorrow, put the first load on.

Reviewing my plans for today, I accepted that my lack of energy will not make for a good swimming trip, although they have been asking every week, 'When are we going swimming again?' I decide to take them out to the tea-shop in the gardens: we will have cake with our chapter book. An acceptable alternative treat.

Duvet delivered at the laundrette, we have our cake and hot chocolate. Little girl orders for herself and well-meaning lady tells me how good I am to Home Educate, how patient I must be. My middle son congratulates the ladies in the kitchen on their muffins and they tell me that my children are a credit to me.
We go out to run about,but then they want to go in the woods, in the mud, in their shoes, through the low branches that I don't fit under. Feet are stamped at me, backs turned on me and I am called names. Then we discover the loss of the precious commerative 50p piece, left with me apparently, or on the table, or maybe taken out to play. Two children crying, no resources left and my best attempts to make the most of a rough morning feel like smoking ashes.
And I am the child, the victim, the offended. And I let rip with blame and accusation. 'I can't rescue this, ' I tell them, 'this was my rescue plan.' Tears flow, theirs and mine, and the weight of failure crashes heavy on my shoulders.

As we arrive home, my little girl whispers a 'sorry' and brings me my slippers. I tell her how sorry I am that I yelled. I search through my handbag in case the special coin is there. I sit with my crying boy on my lap and offer what comfort I can. How will I bear it, I wonder, when his heart is truly broken? And where could I get another coin?

Minutes later we are back in the car, to the bank. Casting aside my hatred of feeling foolish, I queue up to ask if they have a 50p coin of the particular type we have lost. Kindly, the assistant looks through a few piles, offers up any with a pattern, but none are celebrating 100 years of Scouting. So we try the shop next door and move on to the Post Office. Success at last and we return home triumphant.

Douglas Adams wrote a book, 'The Restaurant at the End of the Universe'. Every night, diners experience the ultimate entertainment of the cataclysmic last moments of the Cosmos, and then are hauled back before their own end by powerful time machines. Over and again, I feel that I tumble helplessly over the edge of parenting, unable to maintain even a facade of maturity and control, only to haul myself and my family back up again. And this is the week when I had resolved to change my outlook. To seek God's grace in every little thing. But still I fall back on my own limited and flawed strength. The children forgive me (although I worry that they will end up in therapy!) and God forgives me. I just find it so hard to forgive myself.


Jane D said...

((((((Gaynor))))))) big hugs x.

Kathy said...

Reaching across the Atlantic to grab hold of your hands and say, "We CAN do this, with His ever-present intervention!" I've been feeling so very much the same (part of my blog silence, of late). I've been wrangled up with certain life events and the ongoing, never-ending demands (in midst of the those good moments)of the family. As always, your transparency encourages and gives refreshment to me. I am not and other home educating mamas everyone are going through the same thing and He IS here, granting revelation and wisdom and grace...Hugs to you.
Kathy @