In Summer there are usually peonies in vases and barbecues in the garden. There are usually evenings spent sipping wine in a twinkle lit garden and mornings spent dead-heading roses, and trawling around car boot sales across the area.
But not this summer. This Summer I have not finished a single book. Nor written a single word. My skin isn’t glowing from dalliances with the late afternoon sun and there hasn’t been meal after meal of pomegranate sprinkled salads. No. This is the Summer that wasn’t.
This is the Summer that Finley turned eleven. It is the Summer in which I failed to protect him from something neither of us could have predicted and it is the Summer in which I had to give August to my child: to bolster and boost him. To make him as certain of me as he could possibly be and to provide not just emotional support on demand but be there for him in both body and spirit.
It has meant spending every last penny I had on days out and cosy meals for just the two of us. It has meant a birthday resplendent with everything a little boy could wish for and it has meant letting him sleep next to me when he needed to and taking him to all the theme parks and for all the walks in the park with a mad puppy, that his little heart desired.
He has been indulged and I have been exhausted. My laptop grew dusty after Alfie chewed through the wire and I struggled to order a replacement and all manner of life and obligation was left hanging in the internet while the house became static, less looked after than it has ever been before, though filled with the noise of visiting children and an ongoing war between puppy and cat.
I am not myself. I have missed words, and books and writing in a way that is almost palpable. A hole you could almost poke your hand into. I have spent evenings staring into space and trying not to be terrified by tomorrow. And I have jeopardised friendships and business commitments because I couldn’t think straight. But I have done it because it is what Finley needed. He needed me to be available to lounge with, laugh with and eat pizza from boxes with. He needed to be heard, reassured and have his world feel safe again. And in order to do that, for just a short spell, I had to give him my all.
Today he is back in school, and I can have my Monday back again. I can write to you and ask you to understand, and I can stare at my screen for as long as is necessary without him dissolving into tears. I can pick up the pieces of my life, and try to put them back together while carving out a new normal for both of us. I can cook and laugh, and putter myself silly for I have so very much missed flowers and candlelight, all the routines and rituals that have always sustained me.
Parenting is hard. All to often we try to fit it into a life filled with personal desire and unbridled ambition. Our days are filled with the must be done’s and the I can’t live without’s and our children are expected to muddle along side all our dreams and mistakes without asking questions, or having their little hearts acknowledged to the necessary degree. Which is why I had to stop. And listen. And hear him. I had to make the most of his tenth Summer for it will never be gifted to us again and I had to make sure that joy took precedent over grown up responsibility.
Sacrifice then, your name is Summer. And because of you we are in a better place. Business as usual will commence immediately.