This issue, our extract is from Elaine Feeney‘s As You Were, which deals beautifully with the Venn diagram of parenting that is happiness, sadness and mortality…
I never planned to have my children so quickly. They came along. My grandmother often said, once they get in they have to get out. There’s only one way out. And after they came along, the act of parenting was so brutal.
It was the happy/sad/worried.
Sad with the manic stress, sad with the rejection, sad with the crippling brutality that having mortal children brings with it. Happy with the small everyday OK. Happy when we laughed. Poo. Dick. Fart. Willy. Stupid words that made them tear up laughing. The routine. Happy with the smell of their necks in bed at night, asleep. Superhero movies. Soccer. Happy when the day went OK when nothing was too good or too bad. Happy for a non-event day, but then the long twisting before sleep, that comes when their mortality punches you again. Or the nights they make you promise that you won’t die until they are old, and it’s a terrible promise that you can’t possibly keep.
Stressed with the other parents that parenting brings into your world, especially the judgy ones. Ones you never asked for. Ones you’d ordinarily run a fucking mile from. Social situations you would never go near. I left most of that to Alex. I ignored them. School parents. Hanging around the gates in tracksuits, sippy coffee cups and large sunglasses. I am good at ignoring people, like a mime artist. I’ve even done this to Alex. The ignoring.
I was outside Boots’ pharmacy once and spotted him out of the corner of my eye, and then in the sharp turn of an instant, I completely avoided him. Freeze. Then the moment passed, so that to suddenly shout his name would have been so terribly awkward, the delayed wave, grimace. So I ignored him. My own husband. I just kept walking. Later that evening we had roast chicken. He had stuffed it with plums, I remember because he apologised for burning the plums and I said it didn’t (really) matter, that the plums gave flavour and made it moist.
His parents had accumulated all their life, cars, children, potted plants, life-insurance policies, golf clubs, secrets, savings plans, short/mid/long term, enemies, safeguards (boarding schools, first-aid books, home insulation), lamps, crystal, deep pile carpets, Rolex watches, diamonds with big claw settings, holidays, frosted-glass doors, perfect gardeners, jumpers to throw
over your shoulders when a breeze came, best lawn feed, fridge cleaners, everything matching, no books, no clutter and because of their drive to accumulate things, he wanted nothing.
And in this way we were opposites.
But we had things in common, and we promised when we were old, we’d search each other for them.
As You Were by Elaine Feeney,
€13.99, is published by