Just listen to that wind. There's a gale blowing and rain is being hurled at the window as I write this. Sometimes I feel cosy being inside when it's like this but today it feels different. It's what my English teacher used to refer to as 'sympathetic background'. I feel as if I'm right out there in the rain because the rain is right here in my head.
There's a gale blowing in my mind blasting rational thoughts along until they stick to the walls, soggy and disintegrating. I'm swaying each and every way and it's keeping me off balance. On the wrong foot. The rain - well, apart from the obvious analogy with tears - I am soaked through. Weighed down. Cold and miserable.
We need the rain. The reservoirs are empty, I'm told, and there will likely be a hosepipe ban this summer so I'll be trudging back and forth from the water butt to water my plants. I remember 1976 when we bucketed bathwater down the garden to the vegetable path across a brown and frazzled lawn; right now this must be the wettest drought on record. Still, my grass likes the rain. It's luxuriant at the moment. Pity it won't stop for long enough so that the kids can play on it.
Relentless beating of the rain on the windows. Drumming on the roof. Gusting in the eves. I might make a coffee. It's distracting me.
I am having a really bad week. The children are being awful and I, no doubt, am being awful back. I'm trying so hard but Elizabeth keeps telling me how much better Daddy is than me, and Katy has taken up the mantle of Tantrum Queen once again. I thought we'd hung it up at the back of the wardrobe but no, it's dusted off and donned and she's come over all stampy and shouty again. We've had the mummy and daddy of screaming fits today because she didn't want a jacket potato, and then I cut it up wrongly, and then there wasn't enough butter on it. Today at bath time she wouldn't get in the bath, then she wouldn't get out. If I ask Lizzie to do anything she just sighs heavily and asks when will Daddy be home?
I am out of favour. I am the least-liked-parent. I can't deny that it hurts. I want my daughters to like me. There's a temptation to try and win favour but I know that it's a dangerous game. I know that Daddy is here at weekends when he has the energy and enthusiasm to be Fun-time-Daddy whereas I'm here all the time and I have to get them up, dressed, teeth brushed, breakfasted and to school every morning with book bags, maths games, money for school trips on the right days and plastic bottles so they can make whatever it is they're making out of plastic bottles in the craft lesson. I have to take them places and try to think up meals that they'll eat and scrape the plates when they won't and then bath them and brush tangles out of their hair and try to limit their time on computer games and TV and so on.
Dull-time-Mummy. Nagging Mummy. Tired Mummy.
Tearful Mummy. Hurt Mummy.
It surprised me what a punch it packed when Lizzie told me that she was sorry if it upset me, but she loves Daddy more than me. She later qualified this by saying that it wasn't really about love, but Daddy was her special friend and she liked being with him more than being with me.
She's six years old. Nearly seven. Honest? Manipulative? I don't know. A few weeks ago Lizzie and I had a run in where I definitely came off the worst. This time I tried not to react. She shrugged and said that she was sorry, that was how it was. Now could she have a chocolate biscuit or should she go and ask Grandma?
I have moments where I think I can do this Mummy-thing and most of the time I blunder through it all trying not to be too shouty. Trying to pick my battles and let the niggles go. Trying to catch them being adorable and lay it on thick rather than only looking up when war breaks out. Trying to find the energy to play or allow mess to develop and clear up without heavy sighing. I don't think I'm very good at it.
It's raining. Who wrote that song, 'Raining in my heart'? Cliche, yes. Feeling a little rained on? Yes.
I'm doing my best. I'm not perfect (and neither are my two girls). I love them to the end of the world and back and I would lay down my life for them. I get so cross with them. I get cross with myself for getting cross. I'm doing my best but just as I crack one developmental stage another comes hurtling at me like a juggernaut and I haven't got any instructions to consult. What do you do when your six year old tells you she thinks that Daddy is the better parent?
Yes, I am jealous. And if the truth be known more needy than I'd like to admit. My daughters need a mother but I need them as well. I need to be loved. I want to be liked, but I can't do everything they'd like me to do or allow everything that they'd like to get away with, can I? Katy told me today that everyone always bosses her about and it makes her sad (for sad, read stampy). She's five years old and arguably the bottom of the pecking order. We do all boss her about. No wonder she says NO NO NO NO NO sometimes, and says it loudly. If the only thing she can control is whether she gets out of the bath then from time to time she'll bloody well stay in there, won't she?
Poor little love.
Hard to be five. Hard to be six. Hard to be forty-one. After yesterday evening I bet my long-suffering mum would say it's hard to be eighty as well. I'm quite sure I'm more trouble to her now than I ever was when I was young.
So what then?
Lord, I'm tired. I'm hurt. I'm soaked to the skin and cold and shivering. I'm out here in a gale and it's getting dark.
'I will say of the Lord, "He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust."'
Psalm 91: 2
My Lord, you are my refuge. I am looking for shelter from the storm. Let me in?
'O Lord, my strength and my fortress, my refuge in the day of affliction.'
I am afflicted. Not like Job, afflicted, I suppose (though I must say I reckon I've had more than my fair share of health problems lately. Dentist tomorrow, follow up hospital appointment next week...but you know all that). Problems are coming thick and fast. Anxieties, disappointments, unpleasant surprises. I feel like all my raw places are being poked with a sharp stick at the moment.
I haven't much strength left. I need yours, please. And a fortress - that's where you go when there's a battle on, I think. Sounds good to me. Somewhere safe. Somewhere I can hide.
'The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe.'
I don't know about righteous. I don't feel very righteous. A bit of a failure, really. Today I have tried my best but the children have tested my patience and I had to leave the room earlier rather than stay to be kicked by my youngest daughter. I might have kicked back.
Righteous? If righteousness is knowing that I have reached the end of me and I need you to drive for a while then I am running into your tower and I'm looking for safety right now.
And then this. Leaped off the page. Actually, off the screen, in this day of Biblegateway.com. A word from you, to me.
'How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.'
|Under the shadow of your wings.|
Oh my God. My Daddy. Unfailing love. I love my girls so, so much, but it's so hard and then that love falters and wobbles and I need topping up so often. I empty myself out for them and they hurl it back at me and my instinct is to withdraw and not offer anything more. Even to hurt back, and yet it makes no sense because they're only little. Your love never fails. It never grows dim no matter how frequent my tantrums and how often I tell you that I love something else more than you. And then, like Lizzie, I qualify it, saying that maybe it's not about love, but I just enjoy spending time with something else more than with you. Does that make it any better?
Do I hurt you like Lizzie hurt me?
This morning I came and sat with you for a little while. I didn't feel you there; I didn't get a word, or a feeling, or a sense of you - I just know you were there because you said you'd be there. I came because I wanted peace. I don't come very often, do I? And when I do it's because I want something. I am more like my small daughters than I'll ever know.
I know that you love it when I do drop by. Why don't I come to be with you more often? Because I have other things that I choose to do. Is that hurtful?
I'm sorry. I'm just the same as my daughters. We are all your children, aren't we? Five, six, forty-one. All flawed and selfish and full of complaints. And yet... how priceless is your unfailing love, O God.
You offer me a safe place.
Under the shadow of your wings. Like a baby duck snuggled up to mummy duck. Or daddy duck, if he's more fun.
Ahem. Sorry about that.
Lord I am crawling under your wing. I can feel the warmth of your body and the strength of the muscle in your powerful wing. You cover me with your feathers and the predators can't see me. I'm feeling bruised (physically - after all that kicking) and emotionally. I'm feeling inadequate and overwhelmed and its still pelting down with rain and I never feel very cheerful when the days are dark and cold and wet.
In here I feel warm and safe. Loved. Protected.
How priceless is your unfailing love. People take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
I don't want to come out again until the rain stops, please.