Sinking beneath the Plimsoll line


I take a deep breath to calm the quakes. The message on the answering machine explains, another week, just to be on the safe side. I think of ways to explain this to my children, that their Dad is detained in England with other responsibilities, for 7 additional measures of 24 hours? If I don't manage to talk to another adult soon, I shall be a complete basket case. I currently exist in baby sitter free zone, perfect timing.

I refuse to count the number of meltdowns during the day, as they are all experiencing considerable amounts of stress due to the upset in routine. Ten days of parent teacher conferences will mean short school days. Whilst short school days might be welcome to many children, to two other children they present as an illogical time bomb in the schedule.

My latest mantra is “No Evan!” a hasty mistake and sure to be repeated at school. In an attempt to stop them copying the growling tone of their pal at 50 decibels, I am now stuck with this new phrase in a perseverating cycle, by both boys, in the exact tone that I was trying to avoid. Why did I snap with a denial rather than lure with a distraction, again?

My 28 minute walk to school and their 55 to 95 minute walk home is making serious inroads into any available free time. As yet I have seen no improvement in their ability to sleep. The ability to walk is an A list life goal for people who may never learn to drive or may eventually live somewhere else, other than America. Even if they end up only walking to goal B, for bus terminal, we still need to keep working. We've avoided the cheaters of candy and tapped into another motivator, the promise to consider adding a dog to our household. How can we adopt a dog if no-one can walk the dog?

Intellectual lightweight that I am, I refuse to renege on my new commitment to “Trusera,” if only because I may shortly be I need of their professional services. I am sure that there are a whole category of people who find constant stream of stereo Mario voices, phrases, noises and tunes to be delightful entertainment, sadly I am not one of them.

The prospect of another week of unrelenting responsibility requires a different approach. There is no point in assuming that I can play catch up during a quiet period. Instead I must stay on top of everything continuously, not perfectly but just enough to get by. A juggling exercise just to keep our heads above water. Not all the laundry, just the greater part. Not perfect homework, 'merely' completed, perhaps. I try and think of ways to cut myself a little slack in the system. Anything to pre-empt burn out. But which bit to drop? I do what I do during the day, daily, is in part motivated by the promise that at some juncture in the future, I will be able to touch base with my better half, someone who lightens the psychological load as well as other fringe benefits.

How can I engineer a little slack? I decide to arbitrarily and unilaterally shelve instant administration. If each child could wait more than a nano second for me to oblige them, I will have artificially expanded my work schedule. I determine that a more or less blanket policy is advisable. No-one will die if they have to wait 30 seconds for assistance with pencil sharpening, opening something or toileting. I shall mentally prepare for the fall-out, endure the meltdowns, remain calm and shove the ear plugs in a little deeper.

Coffee to extend and perk up my personal shelf life, or pot of tea to calm down?

I leaf through the mountainous mail, bills upon bills, junk mail in between reams of recycling. My hands are a mass of cuts, not from paper but the lacerations from hand holding on dangerous streets, where nail clippers are a form of torture. I whip out an “envelope,” which contains a card, which contains a message, which gives me just the snippet of hope and strength to make it through until bed time.

It's just like the Cavalry, who always arrive in the nick of time.

– At

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