I’ve been wondering: what does success look like?
Take a trip to the library.
It would start with me wondering up the road on a bright sunny day, listening to the birds sing, feeling carefree and spring-like. I chat to both my boys about the fun we’ve already had, doing crafts and baking earlier in the day, each of us excited that our little jaunt will be the icing on our perfectly harmonious cake of a day.
As I push SD in his wheelchair he smiles and mumbles to me, while JJ saunters along next to us joining in the chitchat. When we arrive at the library I sweep in breezily, grinning with pride, at the wealth of experiences I offer my delightful children.
Before long I’m sandwiched between my precious boys reading books like a professional children’s TV presenter. SD smiles with delight while JJ points at the book and chips in about the unfolding story. The people in the library look at us, their faces glowing with respect and appreciation, recognising what an amazing mother I am. After a leisurely time of story-telling, we collect a mountain of books, that will barely touch our insatiable appetite for reading and leave both happy and content.
But really that only happens in my imagination.
What actually happens is that I’ve promised the boys I will take them to the library all day, but with only an hour until closing we have a rush to leave in time.
As we’re about to go SD indicates he needs the loo and so a fifteen minute delay ensues, comprising of lifting, waiting, whining and wiping. Meanwhile, I run around the house frantically looking for library books that a kindly automated voice has suggested need returning immediately.
Thank goodness you don’t get fines on kids library cards.
As I finally get round to strapping SD in his wheelchair I notice JJ hasn’t got either his shoes or coat on. Fraught and frustrated I begin yelling. Eventually I give up and put on JJ’s shoes whilst hissing through my teeth that he never listens to me. My face is reddening as I glance up and look into his big, blue apologetic eyes.
I stop; take a deep breath and apologise for shouting. We hug.
Eventually the three of us hurry out the door. JJ runs off and I’m left steaming up the hill in hot pursuit, turning a leisurely walk into a frantic chase whilst pushing a wheelchair.
Together we burst through the door, instantly shattering the calm and peace of the library atmosphere and, with the timing of the London Philharmonic orchestra, SD instantly arches his back, turns his head and shouts at the top of his voice. I glance around hoping no one has heard, only to see people promptly looking away, awkward and suddenly very busy with their books. I can’t decide if they are disapproving or worried.
Despite my best efforts SD continues his protest. The volume and intensity would suggest he has inadvertently had his left leg chopped off, yet what he is actually communicating is that he wants to be read a book NOW.
SD’s ability to wait could be measured on a postage stamp.
As I try to calm my still panting lungs, sweat pours from my face and I ignore the shrieking; much to the bewilderment of our fellow library-goers. They see an upset disabled, little boy while I see a child having a full blown temper tantrum.
The negotiations begin,
“Please stop shouting.”
Screaming follows, including tears that stimulate more sympathetic glances from onlookers
“Listen to me, you can’t talk to me while you are shouting. Do you want a book?” There is a hesitation in the howling and through tears and snot he replies
“Mmmmmm bbbb.” (interpretation = yes please)
“Ok, now wait one second and I’ll find a book….”
The bawling begins instantly, once again, as I rifle through books, hurriedly seeking ones that are suitable.
“Are you going to join us?” I hopefully implore JJ, who in the meantime has settled down to read a book alone.
“No thanks, he’s whining,” comes the abrupt and honest response.
With no chairs available I kneel on the floor next to SD’s wheelchair while the screeching and wailing continues to reverberate around the library.
“Do you want to read this book?”
In a flash, silence reigns and it feels as though even the walls of the library sigh with relief.
“If you want me to read you a book you need to be quiet and say please
“Ok. One day there lived……”
As I begin, I wipe the secretions from around SD’s face with my sleeve (being a prepared mum with tissues in her bag remains only an aspiration).
After just a couple of books I feel watched and wrung out. No one in the library is celebrating my parenting. SD notices the end of the book, and as the last word leaves my lips he hurtles towards full throttle once more. Immediately I offer to put a story on his iPod so that he can hear it through his wheelchair headrest. He concurs as I fumble about to start the one thing most guaranteed to settle and calm.
I strain myself off the floor, feeling older than my years. Tentatively approaching JJ we share a couple of short books, when thundering groans begin again. I ignore it until I can’t stand the stares anymore and, exhausted, I grab the first ten books I find and try to usher both boys out of the library.
JJ kicks off, complaining we are leaving too early and these aren’t the books he wants anyway. After a fully fledged western show down, I marginally win the duel of authority with my child and a compromise is met before I limp outside, wounded and beleaguered.
Rather than appreciating the sun on my face or the flowers on our journey home, I simply long to be back at home, void of stares and expectations. Outside my imagination, I am less perfect and life is more chaotic.
It seems unreasonable expectations lead to a fate much worse than snotty sleeves and when I realise success can look messy and difficult, the more I see myself as successful.
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