“They sacrificed instinct to phoney ambition” Kate Tempest , Holy Elixir.
Our lives have become steadily intertwined so that even now, I await his determined footsteps thudding down the staircase at 6.00am. I have even moved the kettle to my bedroom to limit the sounds which might be attractive to a three year old at this time. As I write this, his feet circumnavigate mine and he mumbles, peeks and sighs at my pen to stop dancing; as if wishing to resume the dance of reciprocity we left off from last night. Instead , he stops and tells me, “I know you cannot play but can you get my ‘brooming’ car from the table. Of course I can.
Later, on a walk to the car from our home, I join his narration of our surroundings; the smelly lavender house, the house with the lady who takes photographs for important newspapers, the alternative family house, the house with the rainbows, the other house with the rainbows, the house with the lady I met at baby massage, the seashell house and the house with the fellow, ‘red arrow lookout’ man. This guy we met early in lockdown, when looking (funnily enough,) for the red arrows. I , on this occasion (as if there were many) saw them , he it transpired did not. Finally there is the house with, well another rainbow.
On this particular morning we languished along the uneven pavment lining the increasingly busy road which slopes down towards town. My little fella held my hand and in the other directed his bin lorry; across mountains and through ravines, over volcanoes and past monsters, with the ease of a three year old mind. He stopped as we near the corner of the road to which we are heading and looks down. Stooping to get a closer look at the pavement, in his default mode he shouts , “Ohhhhh look Mummy ooooo Snails”.
“Oh yes”, I marvelled and met his amazement, as indeed there were two snails which appear to be moving very slowly toward the very busy downward slope.
“Where are they going?”, he asks passing me his bin lorry. Grasping his hands together he crouches and says, “oh are they a Mummy and a baby snail?”
I squint and it appears indeed that this pair of travellers to the untrained snail eye, are an adult and a child so, “yes” I confirm, this is a Mum snail and her child.
They slide in linear formation , rather concerningly towards the very busy downward slope. True lemming style I silently muse. “Gosh”, I said, “they are going that way.”I point to the road. Picking up my concern – and the snails, he proceeds to place them on the wall of the man who didn’t see the red arrows, garden.
As if considering how they might feel about such upheaval, he places them together and says, “there- now you are next to each other. They will be safe now Mummy.” He promptly takes my free hand and we smile at each other. “Good job chap”, I say and we continue tot he car.
I am pleasantly glowing at the sense of empathy he is demonstrating through this one small act and it occurs to me that this is something which I have been exposed to increasingly throughout the pandemic, alongside the growing realisation within of certain moralistic values unrealised prior to lockdown. There appears to be a growing sense within people, of the importance of being with and helping others. On our street there has been a definite increase in sociability but more than this there is a jarring sense of empathy within me of not just wanting to help others, but needing to. A need which I am more and more certain particularly thoughout these weeks and months, has driven certain episodes throughout my life, although up until now I have directed it away from home. Now though and on this day in particular, there is a sense that this drive if you like, has been speaking to me for some years and has been in the ascendant since my youngest child’s birth, fighting for survival alongside its phoney enemy: the career.
Later, standing alongside the little chap in a field of wheat ( after many months of walking in said fields), I examine, with my new expertise, the grasses to determine which they are. “I think”, I say with some confidence to the little chap, “we have rye grass and sedge”. Yes Sedge Mummy. We smile at each other. He promptly shouts “chase me” and I do so tiredly but knowing its OK because lifes urgency is not really there right now.
Running after him, I become aware that my feelings of late are leading somewhere and whatever the enemy presents in servitude , the instinctual side of life is winning over, subtley but with a reverence only biology can muster.
The evening swings round and I listen back to a speech by Rabbi Sachs on Radio 4s Today programme. He conveys the need to be with someone and to live with others and draw upon them for support, beliefs which are blended with my own earlier realisations. I think starkly about how often we forgo our children as humans, our own children to achieve stability in our finances and careers for a future that is so far off and indeed, might not be. It reminds me of the words of my new Bumble friend (lockdown discovery) who says – “its never worth it.” Teaching our little ones that people are the most important thing, starts by letting them know that they are the most important thing so they can feel first hand the impact that this has on others. Teaching them that they are important- but as long as we can have a career and things as well is the current status quo and no doubt for many it is just about surviving. I get that. I too am David Cameron’s definition of a JAM citizen. But, for both parents to be absent for long periods is becoming more and more difficult to justify for me, particularly when I have spent the last three years exploring the importance of synchrony and regulation of our emotional state with primary relationships. I have struggled to let go – I cannot forgive myself or forget the pain of separation from him. The biological propensity to be with him is far stronger than my desire to be a successful member of SLT in a school.It has been made even stronger through this lockdown , which has demonstrated how very little we need on a daily basis to actually survive and to be content.
And so I resign. I resign so for the next year so I can be with him, I can nurture him watch him grow and ensure he is ready for school. I am a single parent to three children. I have very little income and I do not have any assets. I have built up a career and some might say that I should pursue this, that this decision is irresponsible but knowing what I know now and thinking about the future, my childrens future, I think to myself is it such a great sacrifice to live in relative poverty financially for a year in order to give emotional security for a life time to children? I think the answer is unequivocally no.
I feel to do otherwise is essentially being somewhat like the mother snail we witnessed this morning. Leading your child with the absolute best of intention into the business of the world with the goal that you should both get to the other side in one piece. Perhaps with a bit of space to think things through, that journey can be made with a little less risk to well being; by having a bit more time together and waiting for the choice to be taken away from me rather than making a choice which I will never be at one with.
So like those snails my boy and I sit on a wall and observe. As life begins to pick up after lockdown we, are staying at the same pace. We look forward, with the knowledge that we have what we need within us to make it through this year and after that he will have the resilience to cope with what ever he finds on the other side of that busy road.