During the day I have all kinds of spurious ambitions. I fantasise about an evening where I will be inspired. I will finally sit down and sipping from a very good glass of red wine I will write my novel. Or I will get to grips with the international news and educate myself on the crisis in Syria. Or I will start kundalini yoga lessons. It is Friday evening and we are doing our usual routine after standing outside the bedroom door for an hour whispering “mummy’s here, go to sleep” then cleaning up all manner of debris. We are gooning brain-dead in front of the TV.
P has recorded the Lance Armstrong interview and I have no energy to notice what kind of sound or pictures are flicking in front of me, let alone to care, so we are watching. I prise myself up once to get a drink (nothing more exciting than tea though I’m afraid) but for the rest of the evening I’m transfixed in a sort of TV watching stupor.
Towards the end, the caffeine in the tea must have slightly revived me because I do seem to have taken in various facts about this whole debacle. There is something about banned substances, blood transfusions, something to do with a drug beginning with the letter E… I am not and have never been interested in the tour de france but I must have been paying attention a little.
Well enough to have a heated debate as it turns out.
There is a man right here sitting on my left who is interested, very interested when it comes to anything bike related and the tour de france is the annual climax for any enthusiast’s calendar. He points out to me that Lance was only doing what everyone else on the tour does and therefore should not take the entire blame.
“This is a media circus” he says
“So what if it is?” I argue back (I may be a mere uneducated tour de france innocent, in fact I think it’s absolutely dull to watch so I know I’m on dangerous ground messing about with a man’s hobby like this, but hey, I have an opinion and I’ve cycled under the influence of banned substances before – noone offered me truckloads of cash for it or a book deal or nothing!)
I continue: “He enjoyed the media attention when he was a hero, but he’s just a nasty arrogant man who cheated in order to win and made millions out of it”
He says everyone was at it and that Lance just went along with the norm because otherwise he’d have had no career.
“Why didn’t he talk more about that, eh? What was he supposed to do? He had an amazing talent. He was the top of his sport, but it went with the territory, was he supposed to pack it all in and be a window cleaner or something?”
“Well, I guess it’s a shame that his sport was so dirty, but it was still his choice to be corrupted. I don’t think there’s any justification for giving yourself that much money and power through corruption.”
I am aware that this is turning the corner from discussion to argument and frankly, I’m surprised at myself. Firstly because P is a master at the wind-up. I have known him for 13 years now and I am always trapped by his amazing talent for playing devil’s advocate.
“I don’t even think you believe any of this what you’re saying!!!” I shout.
Secondly I’m surprised at myself, because underneath the stink, I know I couldn’t give a flying monkey what Lance or any other cyclist injects into himself at the end of the day. Or whether he peddles for hours with test-tubes of urine hidden up his rectal passage since I have no interest in this sport where ultimately the crowning accolade is to wear a yellow t-shirt! Woo hoo. I apologise to all who are avid lovers and may be offended by my flippancy. I know it’s super important thing to loads of people and you have to train yourself til the brink of death, the absolute endurance test etc etc, but really? I don’t see the point.
If everyone is injecting a cocktail of hormones and drugs then it may as well be a bunch of cyborgs as far as I’m concerned. And I say as much to P. Big mistake. He goes on about ultimate sportsmanship, intense training, where do you draw the line? Should everyone be on a diet of lentils? Doping in every sport….
“Ok, ok I get it, I’m gonna make you an “I LUV LANCE” T-shirt” I say
I really don’t care and as he talks about the history of cycling and physical forbearance one thought keeps going round in my head “Don’t even answer, you don’t want to talk about this any more”
Then involuntarily I get fired up and I retaliate with a whole load of anti-capitalist stuff about huge wealth and celebratory status and the corruption of power.
P manages to stick a corker back at me that we are ourselves just as much to blame for our collaboration with corruption on a world scale when we choose to buy unfairly produced beans in the supermarket.
Then it’s just another quarter of an hour to drag through the tangent of Bill Clinton and onto ghost writers, J.K Rowling and all her multimillions and then finally I think we’re done for the evening.
How did that happen? I was exhausted before we started all this.
We flick the TV back to the normal real-time channels.
Voice of Holland Kids is just finishing.
“Shit, you made me miss this! I love this programme” I say
It’s a sensation sweeping Friday night prime-time. It’s a foolproof tear-jerker formula. No parent can watch without falling prey to it’s spell. I could have done with the catharsis. Instead my evening has been ruined by all this grown-up arguing.
Tomorrow no TV I promise, I’m thinking up titles for my novel.
P and I are arguing, well in point of fact, we both maintain that we are not arguing but that the other is. We are extremely grumpy. The baby has a fever and is awake constantly throughout the night and A has a hacking cough that wakes her up. For the last couple of nights she’s slept in with us. Her coughing wakes the baby when I’ve just got him detached from my boob and back into his cot and likewise his crying wakes her up in between coughing fits. Last night at about 5.30 I finally remove the baby from the bedroom and stumble next door into A’s bedroom so as to stop him waking everyone else. He cries but I force him into a huddle and pat him gently til he stops and gives in to another hour of sleep. I drift off my legs bent up and cramped against the end of my daughters minibed, and I wake up amazingly refreshed! As long as you get to sleep at the end of the night for an hour or so your body tricks you into thinking you’ve had a nights sleep! What a revelation. Worse are the nights when the kids keep you up from 4 and that’s it. Don’t be fooled, no amount of love for your children can override the sleep deprivation and keep you patient and calm on those mornings. We are all bad parents.
Before I had children someone once asked me to predict what would be the biggest challenges about being a parent. I said
“Accepting bad behaviour”
“Allowing my children to be themselves”
Little did I realise that the answer was a lot simpler. The biggest challenge is coping without sleep.
In our house sleep has become like a form of currency between P and I. We have invented a system. I get up on the school mornings, and P gets up on the other mornings. On our morning to get up we both bark and complain looking at the clock. It has never been said in so many words but I’m sure we both have the same thoughts when the kids are wide awake and the clock has just ticked past 6, we secretly direct rage at the other who we are sure had the luck of it being closer to 7 the day before when it was their turn. Today was Saturday and the morning waker was P. When I got up after an amazing lie-in at 8.30 he went back to bed. The baby was also having his first nap of the day and rudely woke up crying so that P was again roused from his sleep. I eventually took the baby downstairs and P continued sleeping til lunchtime. The weekends tend to be basically just a rota of who gets to be asleep. So from 8.30 until almost 12 I am letting him sleep the morning away while I try to keep A busy with the lego with a feverish snotty baby clamped to my leg.
At around 11 I am having a mental conversation with myself,
shall I send the kids in to wake him up?
God I’m so annoyed with him
No I’ll let him sleep, he’ll be so happy and amazed at how long he’s slept, and then we’ll all have a pleasant day being calm and rational with each other
No but this is torture, how dare he still be in bed, I’m sure I never get to do this
Don’t persecute yourself, just go and bloody get him up! It’s about time he came and helped with the weekend
I’ve toed and froed about it all morning and now it’s practically lunch time, so just to show everyone how heroic and good at coping I am I’ve wiped the snot off my legs, plonked the baby in the high chair to stop him climbing up my pyjamas and into the oven and I’ve started making the cheese on toast when P finally comes downstairs.
I’m trying to look all unflustered and cool but I am perplexed when I notice that he still looks grumpy!
“It’s too difficult, I couldn’t really sleep”
Ok so now I think I’m going to punch him in the head, all illusions of a pleasant weekend family day are shattered.
What a luxury it would be to over-worry about “allowing my children to be themselves” and to make mistakes, blah blah, this all sounds like a lot of touchy feely babble. I’ve got a whole ton of books on parenting sitting on my book shelves unopened. My eye suddenly scans over the debris of ketchup, juice and scattered paperwork on the table and rests on a book lying horizontally on top of the shelf.
“How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk”.
Brilliant title anyway.