It’s not quite 11am. Wes left for work six and a half hours ago. He’s not due back until the children are in bed.
Since he left I’ve changed four nappies. Two of them rotten. Joel has alternated between hysterical laughter and flat out screaming tears. With no discernible cause for either. Elvie has smeared her room with the contents of two tubes of toothpaste. She’s weed all over the floor. And taken an hour to decide that she will, in fact, get dressed.
Some days it’s all too much. It’s not even lunchtime.
Obviously I’m dealing with it brilliantly. Not even remotely cancelling the promised arty-crafty session and hiding on the sofa with the laptop whilst trying to ignore their constant noise.
Thank goodness there’s nursery this afternoon.
April has been tough. Wes has been working all the hours, and all the bank holidays. There’s been a three week break from nursery, and all our regular toddler groups. Three weeks. Seriously. Three weeks. For Easter? It may as well have been the summer holidays. With worse weather.
I coped for a while. But the combination of bored children, tired mummy and very busy daddy never ends well. This time has been no exeception.
We’ve had shouting, utter meltdowns, wild disobedience and a lot of ‘time on the step’. I’ve been the one sitting in the corner, rocking, begging for everyone to be quiet and leave me alone. Just for two minutes. Please. For-the-love-of-all-that-is-sacred.
It hasn’t all been awful. There have been egg trails, accidental magical mystery tours, a beautiful bonfire-lit easter morning garden service and plenty of giggles amongst all the chaos. Elvie even picked me some flowers. (Don’t tell the council.)
But sometimes it’s hard to see the positives. When your three year old is stubbornly refusing to be a decent human being and your toddler won’t be put down. It can really get on top of you. Apparently giving your children away is against the rules of Freecycle. Can’t blame a girl for trying.
Last week I reached the point of actually-beginning-to-lose-the-plot. Which is always fun.
Thankfully I have a husband whose approach to life is somewhat calmer than my own. Who can look me in the eyes, discern my barely-functional state and call base camp.
Base camp was Wes’ idea. Months ago. When we were trying to put our family dreams and values down on paper. I like things on paper. Makes them real. With the added bonus that you have the possibility of laminating / shredding them at some point in the future. Depending on how they work out.
He figured out, rightly, that our lives are chaotic. That’s just the way they are. And most of the time, that’s ok. But sometimes it tips over. Passes the point of coping and free-falls down towards misery and depression and I-just-want-to-run-away.
He’s better at spotting it than I am. I tend to be stuck tight in the moment and the feelings and the fear that it will all be like this forever.
So we have a deal. Whichever one of us spots the impending crazy can call base camp. Which is our way of retreating, very intentionally, to what feels safe and simple and secure. Where we cancel all the things that don’t really need doing, and spend time being with each other, as a family. No agenda, no pressure. For as long as it takes. Until we’re ready.
Sometimes that looks like not getting out of our pyjamas, watching lots of telly and eating takeaways. On Sunday it looked like jogging bottoms, roast dinner and the most enormous pile of shredding, as I tackled our non-existent filing system. Let’s just say we’ve kept a lot of crap. And we’re grateful that our neighbours let us use their bins while they’re not around.
After Sunday’s base camp, things feel better. A bit. I’m no longer in a panic about how anyone would find our life insurance details to provide for the children if we both dropped dead tomorrow.
It’s going to take more than a day to leave camp. We know that. Wes has booked all the bank holidays in May off. We’ve got his parents coming for the weekend to help out. I’m doing some mindfulness sessions. And planning to clear out our loft. Get rid of some our physical baggage, in an attempt to lighten our emotional load. Joel has even taken up yoga.
We might not be around much over the next few weeks. There’s a fair bit of hunkering down and hiding and being intentional to be done. But we’re ok. It’s a good thing. Base camp is a great place to be. It’s healthy and it’s safe and we’re in it together. I love it.
Feel free to join us.