Sunday, 14 January 2007

"Kids at Home" published January 14

Every mother has that moment at about day 10 when they look at the screaming bundle of supposed joy they just gave birth to and mentally calculate that there are only 18 years minus 10 days until it is an adult and will leave home.
Which gets you through another sleepless night, sure. But then 18 years minus 10 days later you wake up one morning and they’re still there. Still waking you up at 4am as they stumble home from a party, giggling with their mates who you later find dotted throughout the house with blankets thrown over them. And you realise that you are never, really rid of them.
My son did leave home for a minute last year, causing a premature plunge into empty nest syndrome. It only lasted a week by which time my two daughters pointed out that the wailing and moaning was unnecessary because they were still in the nest, so technically it wasn’t empty. Remember us?
But then he came home, with girlfriend. And while it is reassuring to have friends compliment us on the busy home we have: “always someone coming and going isn’t there? Such a mix of people, you’d never get lonely!” I’m not feeling the love.
The day I attempted to sit down and write my incredibly difficult but surprisingly engaging book and realised that I had just spent the morning cleaning up after two adult children, (I omit my son’s gorgeous girlfriend because she’s so organised and tidy it just wouldn’t be fair to moan) an 8-year-old child, a husband and our friend from Wellington who is staying for a month, was a very dark day indeed. Actually I’ll omit the friend from Wellington because he washes dishes and can cook fish with banana and coconut.
It is the curse of those who work at home that you simply cannot ignore the dishes, the washing, the mess, the dust and the animals getting run over. The rest of the family trot off to offices and jobs, universities and schools while you tell yourself to just ignore the shuddering pile of collective mess six adults and one child make in just five minutes let alone a day. You tell yourself that work comes first, not a tidy house, but the minute you say that someone pops in for a visit. That rare breed who knows that you work from home but you are really spending all day just waiting for them to entertain you with their stories which you do indeed find fascinating when you’re not working and obsessing about the mental clock in your head counting down to the moment you miss your deadline.
As I head into a new year of working from home and another house full of gifted, funny and entertaining children I’m dreaming of the following:
The day I can find the scissors. Any scissors will do whether they’re the ones I keep in the kitchen, in my office or in my sewing basket. Even the ones I hide in my undies drawer just so I an always find them. Somehow my children seek, find and eat scissors.
The day I can find one of the four phone handsets (it’s a big house) These days they seem to live in children’s beds, outside in the hydrangea bush and in the fridge.
The day I can stop cooking dinner for 10 every night because you never know whether the kids’ friends will be there. Then the kids forget they have a late lecture and there’s three of you staring at three lasagnes.
The day my friends don’t use the “children’s bathroom” and come out pale and shaking from the Ebola virus lurking within. Five years ago I stopped cleaning their bathroom in an attempt to make them learn about cleaning bathrooms. Now if we ever sell the house we’ll have to call in a Hazardous Substances Removal team.
The day you arrive home and the beer/wine/Coke Zero/bread/milk/fruit and other necessities of life that were there at 10am are still there at 11am.
The day you clean the kitchen floor and later that afternoon it isn’t riddled with spilled yoghurt, discarded shoes, bits of paper the scissors ate and a disgusted lizard which just escaped from the children’s bathroom.
And the day when I can sit in my office all day for eight hours or longer, writing without interruption from friends or family. Which will also be the day I miss my kids terribly and pine for a pair of lost scissors.

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