True motivations

Guilt.

I have a lot of it.

It sets in every time my son goes off to his dad’s house. I didn’t do enough with the time I had. I wasn’t kind enough, certain enough, thoughtful enough, engaging enough. I wasn’t good enough. And now he’s gone. A mini grief every time he walks out the door. If only things had been different, so we didn’t have to be apart for more than a day. So I had more chances to be better; so I didn’t have to face this vacuum that I pour all my regret into. If only he hadn’t been ripped from me for half of every week since he was only a year old; back when I was still his whole world, and letting him go felt so viscerally like failing him. How could I let his dad take him from my arms like that, just to put him in childcare? How could I be so weak? How couldn’t I fight for him? I have to make it up to him and I’m running out of time.

It’s a bit sobering to realise that script has been going on somewhere in the background and I’m only just really looking at it now. I knew it was there, but I didn’t look at it. Seeing it laid out on my digital page like this makes it so clear that it is but another iteration of old, worn beliefs. How easily I can now trace its provenance.

But, regardless of its pedigree, it’s stopping me from sleeping.

During lockdown, we had our own Golden Age – my son was with me for five whole days of the week. Everything was better. We slept well, we ate well, we went to the toilet on time, we had a great routine and we were joyful. The swirl of chaos it felt like we had been living in settled and we built a steady life. But, eventually, his dad wanted to return to an even split. I didn’t like it. Makaloo didn’t like it. He protested, he cried, and he begged to sleep in my bed in case he had ‘the dream where I wake up in daddy’s house’. I can probably count the times he’s made it a full night in his own bed since on one hand. And I can’t sleep well with him next to me, so highly attuned I am to every movement he makes; so keenly attentive to any potential call to action. I’ve tried every sleep aid I can get my hands on, but nothing chills me out enough to make it more than a couple of hours.

Yet I can’t bring myself to evict him. Because letting him sleep there, snoring, sleep-talking, sprawling onto me, sitting bolt upright in the middle of the night or whimpering gently before he rolls over; waking up at 4AM and declaring he needs to lie on top of me…it eases my guilt. And it’s impossibly fucking adorable. There are so many things I feel like I’ve been deprived of the ability to give him, but I can give him this, so I do. To my own detriment.

I don’t know if it’s right or wrong. I argue with myself over it routinely; there are good reasons to advocate for both positions. But understanding and acknowledging my true motivations is integral to making an informed decision. So I’ll keep digging until I find a place to stand that feels solid.

In an ideal world

I’m laughing at myself a little bit because I just read the first lines of my last post and realised that, even in my correction, I still only went as far as saying in an ideal world I could create the school that I want to send my son to; not that it already exists. But I guess that sounds about right. I don’t know whether it’s flagging control issues, ego or just not wanting to be left out, but it sounds about right.

As exciting as it would be, though, I am too perpetually exhausted to be doing a good job of a project that big. Oh. but wait, in an ideal world, I get a solid eight hours. I keep forgetting the brief. Still, we can take it further, and we should. That’s how we get to the heart of things – by pushing past the edges.

In an ideal world, everything we have collectively learned over our time on this Earth would be harnessed to tailor education to each of our children’s individual needs and potentials, and as parents we would be actively involved in this ever unfolding process, because the value of raising children would be elevated above what we currently consider productivity. Is that better?

It’s useful to think about what we want. What we really want. You know, outside of our self-imposed limitations. Outside of what we’ve learned to accept is possible. If we could have anything, what would it be? If you’re anything like me, you’ll have to push yourself beyond your first few answers before you get to the truth. Before you even get close to scratching the itch of your deepest ambitions. Or even begin to perceive the full extent of your vision.

In an ideal world…

It’s a good prompt.