Monday, 8 August 2011

"How To Make A Mama Cry"

Tomorrow the husband starts his first day of gainful employment in over a year and a half.

Anyone would think he'd be sad, given that this signifies the official end of our "Adventurous Year And A Bit Away," but actually, I think he's kind of relieved.

This being home 24/7 (mysterious last minute bike trips and music festivals aside) has really gotten to him (well to the both of us truth be told).  I think he is seriously relishing his swish out the door every morning at 8:30am, knowing that he's a free man for the next ten hours.

I on the other hand am not.  I am like a microcosm of Britain right now - what with all the cuts in public service funding.  I'm like a care worker for young delinquents who has just gotten her workforce slashed in half.

From now on any arson attempts, kitchen blender mishaps, deliberate property damage and public scenes of parental humiliation are MY problem - and my problem alone (sigh).

Yes, I know there are thousands of mothers in Britain who deal with their children alone every day while their husbands conduct meetings, lunch in Soho establishments and meet up with mates and colleagues in central London pubs after work...only are they raising a four year old terrorist and his seven year old accomplice?

In all fairness, Egg isn't so much a handful as an enabler.  He is (unfortunately) talked into all manner of mischievousness by his younger brother, and due to the forceful persuasiveness and threatening tactics of Dumpie, he honestly appears perplexed when I confront him with that good old "But you should KNOW better Egg - you're the older brother!" Anyone would think that he had no choice but to go along with Dumpie's latest naughty shenanigans.

Take last week for example.  I was climbing upstairs with my umpteenth load of folded laundry, and my nose crinkled in disbelief at the smell of acrid smoke permeating the entire second floor.   I looked around for open windows, wondering if one of our neighbours were having a bonfire. Then I remembered that we were no longer living in India and the smell of burning rubber and plastic is not terribly common in SW11.

Sure enough I found two little boys huddled over a small flame in the bathroom - burning up the cardboard which forms the centre of the humble domestic toilet roll.  Upon hearing my shriek they dropped the evidence and went scampering down the stairs, but I managed to grab Egg's shirt collar and demanded an explanation.

Truthful to a fault Egg proceeded to unearth all the burnt artifacts they'd had a go on:  a bag of marbles, a piece of a train track, a storybook and a pencil.  He also reluctantly handed over two lighters and confessed that he had caught Dumpie torching things and had been warned that his teddy might be next if he told Mama - but could have a turn lighting things himself if he didn't tell.  Easy choice it seems.

One would have thought I'd be traumatised over this, but truthfully, the previous weekend had proven much more nerve wracking and I suppose that much like growing up in Jerusalem must be like, I'm just getting desensitised to the level of danger that living in our home at present entails.

The husband and I had bid farewell to our friends on the street after a lovely afternoon wandering on the Common.  In what I didn't recognise as a foreboding sign of things to come, we suffered mild embarrassment as we tried to cajole Dumpie from through the letterbox on the street into letting us in our home, after he snuck quickly inside and put the chain lock on the door.

As cute as this was for the first minute or so, it quickly became tiresome and irritating as our friends refused to leave until they knew we were safely inside.  (Do you know how hard it is to whisper threats through a letterbox without tarnishing your reputation as a decent level headed parent to a 'spirited child'?)

We finally bribed/threatened our way in and the husband made like a tornado and was in and out like a flash - zipping off on his bike for a prearranged get together across the city.  His last words were, "I'll probably be really late," or something to that effect.

Now to fully appreciate what followed, you must be provided with the following facts.  Sometime during the previous week the boys had mysteriously dismantled all the doorknobs on the first floor and hidden them.  This was highly irritating to say the least, as more often than not the door wedges were also misplaced and we had to use great big cushions to keep the doors propped open.  (I suspect the boys were just being canny and clever - knowing that by keeping the front room door shut they could sneak telly at all hours undetected.)

Anyway, about an hour after the husband had left, the boys had already eaten and were watching a movie in the front room whilst I finished off my meal in a leisurely fashion before bath time.  I was aware of some muffled banging and screams, but of course this sort of clatter doesn't really even register on my mangled maternal mind anymore.  It's like white noise.

I finally got up to get the bedtime ritual started and threw open the door of the front room (using a pair of kitchen scissors I might add) to find that the boys had been locked in there for ages!  Egg jumped into my arms and started kissing me he was so relieved.

Dumpie on the other hand took the scissors out of my hand, tossed them back out the door then slammed it shut as I (in slow motion) lunged for the door just a fraction too late and watched it hopelessly click shut with a bang as I dropped Eggie and wiggled my fingers pointlessly against the door frame.

"Hahahaha Mama!" laughed Dumpie.  "Now we is ALL locked in here!"

Indeed we were.

With no scissors or any other implements to use to escape, it would seem that whilst my husband spent the next several hours sampling vino in a trendy wine bar in Hackney, the monsters and I would be sitting out the next eight or so hours in our front room.  Without any water or food.  Or toilet facilities.

As I frantically glanced across the room I ascertained the grim reality of our situation.  I eyed up the hearth and wondered who would be the first to relieve themselves there.  My throat already felt dry and parched. I thought longingly of my ice cold Diet Pepsi languishing in the kitchen...right beside my  mobile phone.

I couldn't help it.  I sank to the floor in defeat and started sobbing.

Egg came up to me and started rubbing my back, soothing me saying, "Don't worry Mama - I'll get us out of here - we'll think of something."  Dumpie came up, bent down with his little arms behind his back and peered into my teary eyes.

"Mama is crying...Mama is locked in," he uttered decisively, then (wisely) moved out of reach before I could throttle him in a moment of insane frustration and anger.

After almost an hour of tearing the (for once spotless) room up for anything to help us magically unlock the door, I gave up and resigned myself to a night of hell.  Eggie, bless him, refused to give up.

"Mama you said that you should never give up when you have a problem...remember?"  Ah, the poor naive boy.  Didn't he realise that sometimes giving up is but a stage on the way to acceptance and inevitability?

But turns out the boy was right.  After persuading me to move our ancient and heavy corner sofa several inches, we unearthed half a pencil, a random silicone earphone bud and some unidentifiable crumbs (earlier the husband had been charged with hoovering the front room in preparation for our guests).

Somehow...miraculously (and don't think I wasn't fervently praying aloud as I did so - making all sorts of plea bargains with God) I managed, over the next fifteen minutes or so, (despite having no engineering degree) to construct those two items into something that was able to click us to freedom.

The next day when the husband sauntered in during the early hours of dawn, I woke up (albeit from the comfort of our glorious king size bed and NOT our alcatraz of a front room downstairs) and sleepily glared at him.  He had no idea of the ballistic scene he might have walked into, had he done a decent job of hoovering up the day before.


  1. I'm so glad my kids are grown up. Just sayin.... lol

  2. Ollie, you're a really beautiful mama !
    I just discovered thanks to your blog,it's great, thanks for that :)

  3. After a busy summer brimming with the usual adventures and upheaval, I thought I'd wander over and see how you were doing. Lol, I have missed this! May I just say that reading about the antics of your two high-energy, active boys actually makes me grateful for having to deal with the vagaries of two teens. As for Dumpie, provided he chooses to use his powers for good (and not the alternative), his fertile, creative mind can take him places in this world!

  4. LOL, this really made me laugh. Isn't it great to be a mum. I think I will stick with one girl - safer.


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