I love watching my son grow. Love it. It’s my most favourite thing about this whole motherhood business. I’m not one of those mums that mourn every birthday or move up in clothes size, wishing he’d stay little, god no. At nearly four, I have a boy that can now write his own name, do forward rolls and LOTS of different types of jumping, ride a bike with stabilisers, get himself dressed and take himself off to the loo all by himself – all things he couldn’t do a year ago and which I delight in. Kai is fascinated by his own growth too. He likes to talk a lot at the moment about ‘when he was a baby’ and show me all his big boy tricks, and mealtimes are often punctuated with him jumping down to go stand by the door frame in kitchen, where we have been marking his height over the last few months, just to see if that extra piece of broccoli made him grow a bit more. It almost feels that visible when kids are this little, doesn’t it? Just over the one night he spends at his Dad’s each week, it often seems like he’s grown up a bit more.
It’s my own growth I have less confidence in, can perceive less easily. I wish adulthood came with a door frame too, somewhere to run to just to check. I would be able to see some measure of the things I’d learnt from or developed in and have that same sense of achievement that Kai does. What worries me is that, if I did, I’d barely see any growth at all.
Sure, in the bigger picture sense I can see huge changes. I am an entirely different person with an entirely different life compared to ten years ago, of course I am. It’s the shorter term change and growth, the last couple of years, say, that I lose sight of, and, from time to time, massively lose confidence in – just like I’m doing now. I am doing better, I know I am. I’m stronger – I don’t cry so much and I don’t give up half so easily. I have much more of a persistent determination than I used to. But everything else seems so STUCK.
Maybe it’s my obsession with stories, and with being a good storyteller. I want to be a good story. I want the pages of this blog, the life that my tweets chart, I want them to tell a tale that people want to read. And stories revolve around forward motion, don’t they? They revolve around growth. That’s what people want to read about. I want to wow you with stories of bravery and hardships overcome, of endless achievements as I plough forward fearlessly, the kind of life that I seem to see in so many other people who I admire. And I get embarrassed that I can’t, that I’m still stuck talking about the same old crap, finding myself making the same old excuses. I get scared people will get bored. That’s why I hide when I hit a rough patch, and there’s a fair few of those lately. Why my blog is dying a death and I find Twitter harder and harder. I don’t LIKE this story and I don’t like telling it.
The nature of my life means the issues don’t really change, I guess that’s the thing. And without constantly reminding everyone, I think the people looking in on your life forget why. “She’s still struggling?”, they must wonder. Jeez.
Chronic illness is called chronic for a reason – it doesn’t go away. And you don’t really get ‘good’ at it. You don’t ‘beat’ it, in some glorious conclusion to a chapter where everyone stops to applaud. You get better at managing it, yes, but it doesn’t really get easier to deal with, day in, day out. And so I tend to avoid talking about it. It’s boring. I’ve said before how little I like being THAT person, whose health is the stick they use to define them, repeatedly bashing the rest of the world round the head with it.
And single motherhood doesn’t really change, either. Or, at least, it hasn’t for me yet. I’m beginning to like the term ‘lone parent’ to describe the way it feels. It makes me feel like a wolf, both weary and fierce. Nearly two years on and I’m still mourning a lot of stuff. Pretty soon the time I will have been on my own as a parent will overtake the amount of time I spent trying to do it with someone else, and not very well at that. The loss of that, and the realisation of how difficult and complicated (and unlikely) it is that I’ll manage to find that much longed-for sense of parental partnership with someone else weighs very heavily still.
The physical grind of every day doesn’t really change. I still walk miles every day. I still get up with the dawn as my boy tends to. I still spend long weeks when company with another adult can be counted in minutes and hours, not days. I still have to fight to carve out some time for myself, to try and develop the things I’m good at in the hope that I can make a better future for us both, juggling childcare, and financial worries, and low energy, and the strict pacing restrictions I have to place on myself to stop my health deteriorating. I still struggle with friendships and people and confidence and all the other introvert stuff.
Christ, this is turning into a bit of pity party, isn’t it. And see, SEE, that’s why I hate talking about it so much. Because I’m afraid, my dear readers, you lot who I try and share my story with, I’m afraid that my imaginary door frame is going to continue to not show much growth in all those areas.
I don’t know what to do. Do I just need to try harder, somehow? People are always quick to point out how much themselves and other people have to cope with, and they’re right. Is my lack of growth my own fault?
Or do I sod the big stuff, accept I’m where I am and stop making excuses for it?
I try and take comfort in the fact that those things aren’t all I am, not by a long shot. I’m still that girl that people seem to like, that makes people laugh by accident and, when I can, fills the world up with silly words and the beautiful things I try and make. I can’t tell some grand story of overcoming difficulties at the moment, but I can still tell stories of the daft things in my head, or the little things I notice, or the things I knit and draw. But on the really hard weeks, like this one, I get so buried beneath the other stuff it gets harder and harder to remember, and harder to make that more entertaining and brave part of myself heard. Nothing like pain to make you lose your sense of humour. The day I can make that funny will be a glorious one indeed.
So that’s where I am, and that’s why I’m quiet. And if this story is getting too repetitive and boring, I get it, I do, and I don’t really mind if you give up on me – I sometimes wish I could. I can’t promise you any grand achievements or revelations or that I will stop telling you I’m tired.
I will keep trying though.