Our dishwasher didn’t break last week. More on that later. I know, I’m teasing you. Sorry.
At the weekend I was searching my computer for pictures of the children. ‘Toothpaste pictures,’ I call them. The ones that probably wouldn’t make the traditional family album. Because the little angels are tattooed in permanent marker, or stuck midway through their attempt to abseil down the bannister. Or we’ve caught them red-handed whilst they smother the bathroom floor in toothpaste. For instance.
We have plenty of these pictures. We’ve had plenty of these moments. All of them documented in millions of teeny tiny pixels. Ready to show the children, in years to come, when they can’t understand why their own offspring are so feral. And, to be honest, because it’s way more fun than cleaning up the mess. Photos first, clean-up second. Which may be the First Commandment of modern parenting.
I wanted them for the launch party. Of the book. My book. The one about me, and the children, and the stinking, awful and occasionally weirdly beautiful years of post-natal depression that followed their births. The book that comes out this week. On Thursday. In two days time. (If you’re anywhere near Reading on Thursday night, let me know. Come along. It’s going to be a lot of fun.)
The party will be pretty. But I don’t want it too pretty. It needs some real. Hence the pictures – crosses drawn on the bedroom carpet in lipstick, heads full of sudocrem, mouths full of paint. All chosen, ready to be printed and laminated and positioned next to the fancy vintage teacups full of gin.
It didn’t surprise me that I had so many options. So many photos to choose from. What did surprise me was how many years worth of photos I had to scroll back through. Apparently Elvie will be six this summer. Six whole years. Of parenting. And depression. Six years of scrabbling around in the dark with no idea what we’re doing. Of trial-and-error parenting. Of anti-depressants, therapy, and a slow, steep climb back up to something resembling stable.
I’ve been off the tablets for nine months now. I’ve written a book, which is on the verge of launching. The children are older. Elvie’s at school, Joel’s at nursery. They sleep more. Mostly. I sleep more. Mostly. Things are definitely looking up. And yet.
And yet. Last week I was standing in my kitchen, on the verge of tears, paralysed by what felt very much like the early waves of a panic attack. Because the dishwasher was *definitely* broken. I’m pretty much the poster girl for a calm and sensible approach to motherhood. And life in general.
In fairness it wasn’t just the dishwasher. Two weeks of school and nursery holidays had taken their toll. As had the oven. Which actually is broken. And the fact that I’d completely messed up the entire day of a friend and her children by getting my weeks mixed up. Also I hadn’t slept the night before. Which is enough to tip me over the edge on a good day. I really need my sleep.
My brain had been delicately balanced all day. And when I got into the kitchen and found a pool of water on the floor, a dishwasher full of bubbles and the tablet still sitting, mostly intact, on the bottom of a saucepan, that was it. It took all of four minutes for my spiralling, hideous thoughts to convince me that I am a disaster, and a terrible person. That I’ve ruined the lives of my friends and my children and, apparently, even my household appliances.
It’s a slippery little slope. Believe me. I’ve gone headfirst down it a thousand times before. But this time I stopped. Partly thanks to the tricks they teach in therapy, partly thanks to some serious yoga breathing, and partly because I could hear from the lounge that the emergency Cbeebies was about to wear off, and Joel sounded hungry. Very hungry.
Turns out that just the act of making lunch can calm me down a bit. As can making a cup of tea. Or emptying the bin. Anything, actually, that involves my hands, rather than my ridiculous brain. By the time we’d finished eating I was ready to re-evaluate the whole emotionally-damaged-appliance situation.
On closer inspection, the dishwasher problem was threefold. Some spilt water, some badly positioned, tablet-trapping, pan handles and a frying pan that had been soaked prior to washing, in copious amounts of Fairy liquid. Not actually broken, after all.
I almost took a picture of the bubbles. I would have done, except that by the time the next cycle was finished, they’d all disappeared. My very own ‘toothpaste picture’. My very own over-reaction. My very own mess. We have plenty of those moments already. In six months, or a year, or ten years time, who knows how many more we’ll have. Whether we manage to photograph them or not.
I think that’s ok. Because we’re human. We’re family. We’re messy.
And we’re learning.
Even if this week it’s mostly that we need a new way of soaking the dishes.
*SPECIAL BOOK-RELATED OFFER ALERT!*
So, the book comes out on Thursday. And to celebrate, the publishers are offering it at a discount price of £5, and £2.50 p&p. Just order from http://www.darton-longman-todd.co.uk and quote ‘HMC2016’ to get it at the cheaper rate. The offer lasts until May 31st.