The Grey Hairs of A Mother

“Mum!!!!” I rolled over slowly, still deep in sleep wondering when I set my alarm clock to six in the morning. I peel my right eyelid open, to see that my alarm hadn’t actually gone off.
“MUM, MICHELLE IS TAKING MY STUFF AGAIN!” No it wasn’t my alarm, it was just my kids that was waking me up more than an hour earlier than I needed to be. I rolled over again to check if Matt had heard the girls yelling, but either he did and was acting as though he heard nothing or he was still actually sleeping and had somehow grown immune to the noise of our kids and knew how to drown them out within his unconscious. With a headache creeping ever so slowly over my brain, I slowly sat up and took a deep breath in. It was times as such when I felt as though crying was the best thing to do. Had you ever been disturbed from your sleep that it almost brought you to tears? That feeling that you just so badly wanted to return to that peaceful unconscious you were in, but something constantly kept nagging at you, waking you up? That was how I felt now. With sleep slipping further away from my clutches, and annoyance taking its place rapidly, I slipped my feet into my brown fluffy slippers and went to go and check on my daughters who had decided to wake up the whole neighbourhood in the early hours of the morning.

Slowly trudging in the hallway, my matted hair in a messy bun, sleep still in my eyes and a headache, I get to Michelle’s room and see both her and Michelle conducting a violent tug of war on a black jumper. Each daughter tightly grabbing an arm of the jumper, whilst they both tested each strength by pulling the sleeve towards themselves, hoping that the other would fail to remain strong enough to hold onto the sleeve and let go. Taking yet another deep breath, I slowly stand between the girls, feeling sorrier for the knitted jumper that was sure to be slacker now than when it was originally purchased.
“Girls, it is only just gone past six. What are you doing fighting over a jumper?”
“Michelle stole my jumper!” Katy screamed, tugging at the right sleeve, hoping Michelle’s attention had diverted enough for her to win the war and get the prize. Michelle tugged back and looked at me.
“Mum it’s mine! Katy’s lying, she stomped in here this morning like some animal –”
“I AM NOT AN ANIMAL!”
“Well you’re yelling like one.” James, their younger brother said as he walked passed the open door rubbing sleep from his eyes. A small chuckle escaped my lips, making Katy throw an icy stare my way. Putting my mother cap back on, I sighed and rubbed my temple trying to decipher who I bought the bloody jumper for.
“Okay, well firstly, you both don’t wear the same size, so what size is it?”
“Medium mum! You know that’s my size!” Katy shouted to me, making me wince as her voice pierced my ears and ran straight to my brain.
“NO! I wear medium too. Check any of my jumpers, I get medium!” For crying out loud. I shifted my weight onto another leg, wishing Mike would pull the girls apart and let me get some more rest.
“Okay, Michelle, Katy – it’s too early for this. If you both aren’t going to settle this like grown ups then give me the jumper and I will hold it until further notice.”
“No…Katy get off the jumper!” Michelle tugged violently again, causing Katy to stumble forwards. Katy retaliated pulling the jumper just as hard, having the same result with Michelle as she stumbled forward. Tired of seeing my daughters ruin a perfectly good jumper, I get between them, releasing their grip on the sleeve and taking the jumper into my hands. I lifted the jumper, assessing the damages and grow even more annoyed. They had both been pulling on the jumper for so long, they could literally both fit inside the jumper or even cut it in half and get a tailor to knit another jumper. I raise my eyebrows and look at both Katy and Michelle who stood scowling at each other.
“Okay, you both have successfully ruined this jumper, so no one is getting it. Next time you sort it out like bloody adults, look at the size of this now, it looks like double XL, not a medium.”
Katy stormed out the room and went back to her own room, slamming the door – symbolically screaming that no one should disturb her and if anyone did so they were sure to feel her raft. I looked at Michelle who stood silently pouting, being the younger sister out of her and Katy, she tried to play the young card far more often than necessary. I shook my head, reiterating that she was not getting the jumper, causing her to frown. I left the room, far more awake than I should have been at six in the morning and made my way to the kitchen in order make myself a cup of coffee. There was no way I was going to get anymore sleep now, so I might as well have gotten my day started.
I walk into the kitchen to see James sitting by the dining table eating toast with a cup of orange juice.
“Why is everyone awake now?” I mumbled under my breathe, turning on the coffee machine.
“What d’you say mum?” James said, one toast in his hand and half another toast in his mouth. James was always a little creative. He was my only child that seemed to find humour in everything. I remembered when I had gone to his parents evening and his teacher was explaining ways in which James could be better behaved. When he was asked what he thought he could do to improve his constant chatter during the class, he shrugged and said, ‘I can try, but I am young miss, I am bound to talk, it’s in my blood’. I tried to suppress my laugh then, but when I saw the frown on his teachers face and the absolute truth on James’ – I couldn’t help but chuckle. No matter how much I tried to be strict and firm, James was my only child who could get a sly giggle out of me.
“I said James, why is everyone awake?”
“I don’t know. It was Michelle and Katy that woke me up.” I rolled my eyes and sighed.
“Your dad didn’t even hear any of that, he’s still sleeping.”
“I bet he did. He told me that he acts sometimes, acts like he can’t hear us winge so that you can sort it out.” Before I got to respond, Matt walked in rubbing his eyes and yawning.
“Don’t lie to your mother James.”
“That’s if I’m lying… and I’m not.” He said continuing to eat his breakfast. I look at Matt who’d grabbed a mug and started pouring coffee into it.

“Really Matt?” Matt looked at the mug and then back at me as if to say he was unaware of what he just did.
“What?”
“I didn’t get the coffee started for you to just come and take it.” He rolled his eyes and sat on by the dining table.
“Why you up so early?” He asked James, as I poured the rest of the coffee into my ‘favourite mum’ mug and took a seat beside James.
“Michelle and Katy were arguing…again.” He said looking as annoyed as I did a few minutes ago when I was called to haul them away from each other.
“Over what this time?” Matt asked me.
“A jumper…they both claimed it was theirs.”
“It was mine.” Michelle sang, bouncing into the kitchen, stealing one of James toasts whilst sitting on the seat next to Matt. “But we all know how Katy gets. So we both didn’t get it.”
“Watch it Michelle.” Matt warned her, getting up to make more coffee. The more years I racked up in my time as a mother, the better I was at telling when a day was going to be longer than necessary and then when it was just going to be a downright pain in the arse. That was today. These days I avoided like plague, the kids acted like they hated each other, Matt’s breathing would literally piss me off and to make everything worse, I would get a full-blown mummy headache throughout the day. It was just too much for me to deal with, yet something I had to deal with on a daily basis.
“James don’t you have history today?” Michelle asked chomping down on the toast.
“Yeah – Oh shoot! I forgot my homework!”
“Forgot it where?”
“At school.” And the miners in my head resumed their work by beating on my skull.
“Christ, that Miss Maple is going to call us in, again.” Matt moaned beside me.
“I know right, I won’t attend another meeting.” I whispered to Matt who had managed to sneak out of the last two meetings I was called into for James’ lack of homework.
“I don’t blame you, we’ve got to sit him down, he needs to start doing his homework.”
“I don’t even know when he gets homework.” I said softly as both Michelle and James had started talking, trying to conjure up a lie that he could tell his teacher.
“Neither do I.”
“Christ, we aren’t the greatest parents.” Matt chuckled, planting a kiss on my cheek. We tried as much as we could for our kids, but just like any other parent, things slipped through the cracks. It was tough being a superwoman, I wasn’t even half of that, so I couldn’t even imagine how others managed to do it all and still have time for themselves. That instantly reminded me of the roots that were now reappearing in my hair, or my nails that had outgrown its time period and needed to be seriously redone. Matt saw the way in which I had begun assessing myself and kissed me again on the cheek.
“You look beautiful.”
“Ew dad, that’s twice this morning, aka two too many times.”
“It’s love.” Michelle cooed, whilst James rolled his eyes.
“Alright guys, get ready for school and KATY, come down and have breakfast.” What I loved about Matt was that even though I was left to solve the arguments, the visits to school, the parenting (basically), when Matt decided to take charge, he did it so well that it made me wonder why I hadn’t asked him to do it earlier. The kids seemed to just listen well to Matt, whereas they knew how to sway me – I wasn’t proud but sometimes it just made things easier. After James had finished eating, he rushed upstairs into the bathroom, whilst Katy stomped downstairs and into the kitchen.
“Morning to you too.” Matt said smiling.
“I’m not in the mood dad.” She said looking down with a frown on her face.
“What’s up princess?” Matt sat beside her as I made her some toast, egg and bacon for breakfast. It was better if Matt handled Katy. It wasn’t like I couldn’t but I felt as though if there was one child I struggled to understand, it was Katy. Constantly blowing hot and cold with me, I never seemed to do things right with her. I couldn’t blame her, it was the same way I was with my own mother, but having it done to me just increases my sympathy to my mum. It must not have been easy with me being distant all the time, sometimes it feels as though there’s no bond.
“Helen!” I jump out of my thoughts and turn towards both Matt and Katy.
“See she wasn’t even listening.” Matt signalled me with his eyes as if to say that I had royally messed up again with Katy. Trying to play catch-up on whatever I had just missed out on, I turn my attention to Katy.
“I’m sorry Katy, what was you saying.”
“It’s not fair that Michelle gets away with acting like a brat. That was my jumper, I was going to wear it today as it’s mufti-day, but she’s ruined it!” Her eyes watered and I looked at Matt, who looked straight back at me. This was us, every single day. Buckling over parenthood, never truly getting it right, but managing to do just about a decent job. If I didn’t know something, I hoped Matt did, but in all honesty, we were both as unaware as each other. You don’t become an expert with more kids, you just learn more as more kids mean different behaviours, different feelings, different emotions. I lower the cooking gas and sit opposite Katy, who now had a stray tear down her cheek.
“I’m sorry Katy that you didn’t get to wear the jumper. But you and Michelle need to learn how to get on, how to share. I don’t know whose jumper that was and I don’t even care. You both should have solved that issue way before I had to come in and do it for you. Now –” I said interrupting her, as she looked ready to start speaking. “I know you wanted to wear that jumper, but for today, can you find something else and then on Saturday we can go shopping so I can buy both you and Michelle new clothes.”
After a few sniffs, Katy nodded her head. I gave Matt a quick look of reassurance, he returned my quizzical stare with a small smile and a brief nod. We had done it again, we’d somehow stumbled through parenting and managed to do it right. I smiled back at him and went back to making breakfast for Katy who had remained quiet, but had looked much more positive than when she stormed in.

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

 

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Runaway Girl

We hadn’t known what hell was until our mother had brought him to our doorstep. Mark. Mark was the devil’s name and would forever be burnt into my mind after everything he had put us through. Even as I lay here, I know deep down he cannot take the blame for the torture both my baby sister and I were enduring. I had somehow dragged her into this mess and allowed this devil to clasps his arms around her without a fight.

To even think we had experienced the worst. The men mother had brought around the house before Mark was beyond lower than low. But Mark was a new breed of bad. Completely different in all aspects and this was what had started the pain we now suffer. He wasn’t verbally abusive to us like how Kenny was. Neither was he as physical as Dean had been with my mother after a drink or two. It may seem surprising, but Mark was more of a father than I had ever had. Things turn into a blur when I try to remember how everything truly began.

 

  • May 2012

It was late in the night and the last time me and Belle had saw mother was when she had stood just in front of the door claiming she’d be back in a few minutes. That was at 12’noon, it was now almost 9’oclock and she still hadn’t returned home. It wasn’t as though Belle and I weren’t used to it. It was normal for her to leave at early hours and return home late at night, smelling of alcohol and other things that always made my nose scrunch up whenever I got close enough to her to take her to bed.

Belle sat on the couch coloring Velma from her Scooby-Doo coloring book, whilst I began cooking lunch. Which normally meant anything that could be cooked and worked well was what I normally prepared.

At the age of sixteen I was a mother to my baby sister Belle. I had realized depending on my mother was wasted energy. She’d either be too intoxicated to care for either of us, or be too preoccupied with company to even remember she had daughters. Belle was only eight, so she wasn’t fully aware of how she was being neglected by our mother, but I was attentive to the way she failed to be a mother to us and I knew it wasn’t an epiphany I wanted Belle to go through just yet. So by any means I was trying to prolong this realization by shielding her like a protective older sister.

After rustling up and eating our ‘make-shift’ dinner, I tucked Belle into bed, not wanting her to see mother stumble into the house around midnight like she usually did. I didn’t want Belle to witness her older sister stripping her mother and taking her to bed, so when she woke up she was in her bed and not blacked out on the corridor floor. Belle looked up to me as I tucked her blanket around her.

“Dara where’s mum?”

Half of me wanted to shrug, because I truly didn’t know where she was and it was exhausting thinking about where she could be. But instead I gave her one of the many lies I told her during our childhood.

“She’s at a friends house, then she’s going to grab some groceries for us.”

Belle looked at me, long enough for me to wonder if she realized I was lying, then looked towards the ceiling. She grabbed a handful of her blanket and spoke without giving me eye contact.

“But she’s been gone for so long!” I gave her a gentle kiss on her forehead and moved stray hairs away that fell onto her face.

“Belle don’t you worry, she’ll be here soon. I’ll tell her to give you a kiss goodnight when she comes in, deal?”

Belle nodded, obviously not convinced with my explanation, but I hadn’t given her room to voice her doubt. I turned on her lamp and turned off the room light, blowing her a kiss before shutting her bedroom door. With a sigh, I trudged back downstairs, awaiting my mother’s arrival. Knowing eventually she’ll stroll in. It was only once when she’d left the house and hadn’t returned until the next day. I can vividly remember the way I worried, thinking she was face down in a ditch, or that she’d actually forgotten she had kids. It was always a dark joke between myself that mother had forgotten she had children. But during her absence that night, I remember thinking how she could have actually forgotten about Belle and me and if only I knew those personal jokes could have actually been a reality. She eventually stumbled in the following morning, claiming she wasn’t aware of the time. No apology, no sign of worry that her kids were alone for more than 24 hours. Instead she walked in the house nonchalantly and headed straight to bed. The anger that boiled within me that day was uncontrollable. She hadn’t even cared for our wellbeing. I was sure to take Belle and myself to a care home that day. However when she awoke, she’d given Belle a fluffy toy that Belle, till this very day, clings onto and had gotten me earrings. It was her way of apologizing and I had accepted it. It was rare for us to receive any gifts from our mother, so when one came around, I was sure not to throw it away.

 

But sitting here, watching the time go by reminds me that no matter how many small gifts she throws our way, will not excuse her lack of maternal skills. Midnight was around the corner and there was no sign of her return. I’d somehow dozed off a few times, awaking to the sound of the television and looking straight at the clock, sighing when I realized it was later than when I initially slept and that she still wasn’t back. Just as my patience began to wear thin, the locks on the door began to unlock slowly. A few giggles were heard on the other side of the door. I stood waiting to catch my drunken mother, when the door opened and a tall man had his arm around her waist. Frozen, we both stood watching each other. My mother’s head swung left to right as she grew limp. The man watched me stand before him in what seemed like horror, then gave me a small smile and closed the door behind him.

“Could you help me with her, she’s drank a little too much tonight.”

I ran to my mother’s side, putting her left arm around my neck as the man started walking towards the living room.

“It’s okay, I can handle it from here. Thanks mister for bringing her home.” With a startled look, he watched as I took my mother into the living room. I sat her down on the couch and pulled her shoes off. It must have startled him how a sixteen year old was caring for a more than able thirty eight year old woman, because even after her shoes were off, he still stood in the corridor with awe written all over his face.

“I said thanks mister, but you can leave now.”

“You’re a special girl to take care of your mum like this.”

“Well, I have to do what I have to do.”

“Hmm.” He nodded his head and watched as I did the routine check on mother. I made sure I didn’t remove any clothing off of her, as I couldn’t really understand why the man still hadn’t left.

“I respect what you’re doing for your mother. She’s a good lady, under all the drink and addictions. She wanted me to stay the night, but I wouldn’t want to intrude. Let her know she got home safe because of Mark and she got to bed in one piece because of you.”

With that he left my mother and me alone in the living room. The front door opened and then shut soon after. This was the first time I’d met Mark.

 

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun

Have you ever?

Have you ever had to analyse your emotions ten times over, just to make sure you’re not behaving or feeling emotional for an irrational reason? Have you ever had to question your own mind-set, because everyone around you doesn’t seem to grasp your way of thinking? Have you ever felt crazy because you just can’t understand whether what you feel is reasonable or not? Well I have, and it drives me insane. Why must I feel as though I am the one who has blown everything out of proportion, the one who took everything “too far”, the one who just always seems to destroy the mood with her reactions? I tell you it could make any sane human being feel crazy. Just because people fail to understand the way I process things why must that make me the odd one? I remember years ago when I studied psychology, I was learning about conforming. One thing that stuck in my mind was how incredible it was to see how people would conform to the majority group, just because the numbers were high. Even if the question was as simple as what is 2 + 2. We all know the answer is 4, but if the majority claims the answer is 5, we begin to doubt our own judgment. That is exactly how I feel write now. As I sit here, pen in my hand, scribbling subconsciously on the plain piece of paper before me, I wonder whether because people cannot understand me, I can no longer understand myself. Hence why I have to analyse everything I do ten times or even more.

It’s beyond frustrating when you find yourself in this cycle. Where you feel a way one minute, but instantly question it the next because maybe the majority is right about me. Maybe I am a little irrational. Maybe my thought process is abnormal. Or am I now conforming to the majority? Who says the minority isn’t right? Why can’t the way I think and feel be right and everyone else be wrong? It makes me chuckle slightly as I sit scratching my head, thinking about whether I’m sane or not. A mother of two, is up alone in her study room in the early hours of the morning questioning whether she is sane or not, is a headline that I can’t help but chuckle to. I should have my shit together by now. Almost thirty-five, two children and a husband and yet here I am, wondering whether I’m losing it or maybe it’s everyone else who’s losing it. What irks me is that there is no one I can discuss this with, oh well I could go to my counsellor (whom no one knows I visit) and explain it to her. But, then I might just feel even crazier that I’ve had to go counselling in order to reassure myself that I’m not crazy. Ha, the irony. There’s no freedom, there’s no escape. I’m constantly in limbo with my emotions, constantly going from zero to a thousand, because I’m not sure whether I have a right to feel the way I do or not. And it’s a tough battle. It brings a lot of dark nights, silent cries and fake smiles, because everything just doesn’t seem to add up in your mind. And having two children and being a role model for them, gives me no room to even have time to fail. So I hold everything in, make sure only me, myself and I, see this confused version of me. I make sure all the tears have run its course before I see my children, I make sure the internal battle that I face everyday, is kept at bay when I kiss my husband good morning. I make sure the crazy has gone into hiding when I see my family, because it’s bad enough that people look at you like your crazy, but when you looking at yourself and seeing a crazy person stare back at you – everything goes downhill from there.

 

© All Rights Reserved by Sarah E. Balogun