9 and a half weeks. That’s how long it’s been since the O/H broke his leg falling off his mountain bike. After the initial blog post about it all, including the “so dreadful its comical” loss of the planned summer holiday two years in a row, I’m only now able to sit down and write a follow up.
The fact is, I’ve been too tired, or too bogged down with domestic drudgery, to write. I didn’t know what to write without either sounding too cheerful one day or too glum on another. As most of you will know, I don’t blog in the traditional way – I use Facebook for updates on what is going on in my life. I blog to process and reflect on life, to express myself creatively through words, and I simply felt unable to do that till now.
So here I am. We are just over ¾ of the way through this 3 month ‘life adjustment’. Light is very much at the end of the tunnel: we have a date to remove the pins (19th October) and the O/H can start to exercise his ankle by wiggling it about every few hours. Things are so much easier: the children are settled into school, including my daughter at her new secondary school, my husband’s foot is not so sore, he’s working from home and has found his routine.
So how are we doing?
Well, my husband, who’s suffered from depression in the past and occasional present, has done amazingly well in my eyes. He’s remained accepting of the situation without getting bitter or too low about it. Yes, he’s definitely had his bad days. Although he’s not a complainer when he’s ill (none of this ‘man flu’ business), he’s just rather prone to grumpiness. But who wouldn’t in his situation, I ask you?!! Being an introvert has helped enormously, it has to be said. If I had to be interned in my home for 3 months, I’d have gone spare.
Our son and daughter have also taken it remarkably well, my youngest son especially. When asked if he had a good holiday by the optician he replied “Yes” quite brightly, and I don’t think he was being polite. All he wanted to do was get to the beach (we managed that by booking a last minute hotel stay in Sandbanks, Poole), play football and chill out at home. When you’ve just turned 9, you still live very much in the present. When you’re 11, this clearly starts to change.
I got a glimpse of this whilst she was packing her things to go to Sandbanks.
“Exactly how many nights will we be there?”
“Two”, I replied.
She went very silent for some time. The reality that we were going to have a very short holiday suddenly hit her. It was only then, 3 weeks in, that she realised what dad breaking his leg meant. After a while she said “I don’t think S (her brother) understands. Nor do my friends.” My heart went out to her, but I reassured her we’d have a short but sweet time, and I was right. And by the end of the school holidays, I reckon she’d had a good time. Plenty of sleepovers and trips out (including seeing the fantastic show Bugsy Malone at the Lyric Hammersmith) coupled with having dad around more than normal made for a good time.
And me? Well it’d be ridiculous to say its not been hard work. Nor trying at times. Or stretching. In fact, I’m pretty worn out and fighting what I realised has been the hardest thing about this, after the lack of getting away from it all: boredom.
Yes, boredom has been the toughest thing about this episode. Not that my kids are boring, far from it, or my husband (although his silences can be interesting) but I realised that the sheer constant domestic drudgery is what was getting to me.
You see, the timing of the O/H’s accident meant that I effectively gained a stationery toddler and became a quasi-single mum during the summer ‘holidays’ whilst losing the holiday part. Thankfully, the kids are old enough to be sort of helpful round the house (with a lot of cajoling from the boy) and are fantastic at entertaining themselves on their own but the responsibility for every meal, piece of laundry, loaded dishwasher, changed bed, dusted surface, picnic, ideas for day trips or playdates, and every car journey was mine.
And my biggest problem is myself. I’m a tasker-extraordinare. Some kind of diligence beast in me is always nagging at me to get things done and tick off lists, which isn’t always a bad thing, but in a situation like this, its a killer. I end up with no time to myself. You see I’m the sort of person who gets energised by ideas found in books and newspapers and lively adult conversation, who enjoys nothing better than a good novel, a painting session or dancing a jig, and fully relaxes when getting away from it all beside the sea or any natural environment, a place where I, and we as a family, relax best.
But, having said all that, there have been some wonderful surprises that have emerged out of this. I’m a firm believer in good coming out of bad and this is no exception. For the kids, Dad being here for every evening meal is unusual as his work in London usually prevents that. Being around to listen to stories of their day or stuff they’re struggling with is precious. There’s been unexpected kindnesses from a friend who I’d never have expected such kindness from. The ‘care package’ that an old Uni sent me last week which made me cry. I’ve had several meals cooked by church friends (oh the joy!). Wonderful Granny has been on hand whenever she could. The O/H has lost weight (how did that happen?!) and the most unexpected one, absolutely no arguing with the OH about how long it takes him to do domestic chores – when you have no expectations of them being done, you can’t be disappointed 😉
As for what I’ve learnt, well, I’m adding to this list every week (who stops learning?) but here’s the main ones (in no particular order):
- The timing of when your husband breaks his leg is crucial to how you’ll fare as a carer. Note to O/H: next time, break at leg after I’ve had a holiday, in term time when my friends are around and not weeks before your eldest starts secondary school.
- If you want your husband to lose weight, ban him from the kitchen. I wouldn’t go so far as breaking his leg to ensure this, but it’s quite amazing how predictions that he’d put on weight have been pleasantly dashed by the reduced ability to open the fridge and graze.
- Some people totally surprise you with their kindnesses. People you didn’t realise were such good friends and who take your children off to London or Milton Keynes for unrivalled fun or even just the local river to hunt for crayfish.
- Facebook is my friend and enemy. I mean, I honestly really do love seeing my pals having a lovely time on holiday, but after the 25th posting of beach/sea/lake/tanned bodies, I started to lose the will to live. Yet without it I would’ve felt totally isolated
- Running a competition on Facebook amongst your friends for last minute hotel recommendations is THE best way to find a holiday in hurry. Especially if the prize is a bottle of wine 😉
- Having a two night break in a hotel right on a sandy beach is the best ‘second best’ holiday you could come up with. It may have cost us an arm and a leg (forgive the pun) but it was worth it.
- Never put a man in a wheelchair that’s too small for him. It’ll squeak like a chorus of parrots singing out of tune, and disturb the peace of the entire neighbourhood.
- Choosing to smile when you don’t feel it like can actually change how you feel. Well, a lot of the time, honest 😉
- Children are very adept at adapting. And as they turn the corner of childhood into adolescence, there’s a kind of awakening into the adult psyche – they can see beyond the short term and so start to grasp the implications of things.
- A beard can, indeed, becometh a man. I’ve never liked beards, but since one-legged shaving was one thing extra the OH could do without, I’ve come to really quite like the result.
- Being a slave to dirt, dust, mess and balanced meals makes one a very dull carer and mother.
- Single mums and mothers of children with special needs are total heroes. End of story.
- I have a resilient, wonderful family who, overall, are a delight to be with (forgetting the daily toilet humour from my son)
And lastly, but never least, I am aware of how much we have to be thankful for: a roof over our heads, food on the table, a job that my husband can do at home, a bed to sleep in, peace in our town. For so many thousands of refugees, this is far from reality. We live in comparable paradise.