Very soon my adventures in single parenting will be over. For this year at least. My husband returns on Wednesday and won't leave again until an unconfirmed date in 2015, by which point my new Spanish, live-in granny/auntie substitute will be safely installed in our spare room and my life will be transformed.
What I have learnt is that single parenting is just awful. Awful, awful, awful, lonely and terrifying. And that's when everyone is well and happy and it's not raining. If anyone is ill or not sleeping well, then - fuck. You simply go insane with anxiety and exhaustion.
I'm sure there are people who boss it. I know women who are on their own with one or more children from 7am to 8 or 9pm every day and seem to stay sane - but even that I think would send me round the twist.
But strangely enough the women I know who do the most intensive parenting - their husbands work hard, are away a lot - are also the ones with the pristine houses and sunny, positive outlooks. Maybe it's because they're like that anyway that they seek out this arrangement - I don't know. But they always seem superhuman to me.
I am, already, not the parent I would like to be - even when things are good - and when I am on my own I fail even my own very basic tests of okay parenting. I once vowed that my children would never eat their dinner in front of the telly. Ha ha! Except for every meal they have any weekend I am on my own. And some weeknights, too. I once vowed that I would never let a child take a bottle to bed and suck itself to sleep with it. Ha ha! Except for every night that I was on my own in the Spring, concluding in Sam's raging sleep/bottle association.
For two weeks before his most recent trip away, my husband was at home, with nothing much to do - and it was like paradise. Really, it was like the Garden of Eden before the Fall. He took Kitty to nursery every morning, he threw Sam dangerously high in the air, making him scream with joy, walked him about the kitchen holding him by the hand and toted him the five flights of stairs to his bed for his lunchtime nap. He was there, first thing, if I just wanted to go and have a quick shower. He was there, at bath time, if I wanted to skip the start and do a few things downstairs.
Anyone with a husband (or wife) who travels a lot will know all about the exit row and re-entry row. They are the rows you have in the 24-48 hours before a spouse leaves and the row you have when they come back. There's always one. The longer they're away the worse they are. Anyway, I tell you this: it will be worth all the exit and re-entry rows I've had this year (lots) in order to have my husband back again for a good long while.
If only that Sam eats more in front of Giles in order, I think, to impress him. And Giles does not suffer from the manic anxiety that I do when it comes to feeding our children. He returned 3 weeks ago from investigating the "Paleo" or "Caveman" diet and decided that our children must have offal in their diet. I sniggered into my 11am Ferrero Rocher and said quietly "Gooooooood luck!!" but sent him anyway up to Meat NW5, our local butcher, where he purchased a lamb's heart, some bacon, calves' liver and two top-quality beef burgers and turned them into "offal burgers".
I insisted that these were trialled at lunchtime, when a flat-out refusal of food doesn't have the disastrous consequences that it has at bedtime. Kitty was circumspect but Sam poked it down, with an enthusiasm that I haven't seen since he first tasted Pret's Carrot Cake, and then licked the plate. I was stunned and humbled and ashamed.
Offal burgers, or "Dad's burgers" are now a new, exciting and permanent fixture on our strict seven-day rotating meal planner.
Please do not feel that you have to attempt these. Giles thinks that children eating a high-fat, high-protein, high-offal diet will make them geniuses and live forever, but there are plenty of people who think this is perfectly nuts.
2 best high-quality beef burgers
weigh them and then take equal weights
a small handful of soft herbs - parsley and sage for e.g.
2 small handfuls of medium Matzoh meal
1 Mush up the burger meat in a bowl
2 finely chop or whizz the heart and liver and add to the burger meat
3 add the herbs and matzoh meal
4 form into patties and fry gently for about 8 mins each side