The Graduate

An example of how Motherhood can be so, so lonely

I get up at 5.30. I swim, I shower and I dress.

I wake the children and spend the next forty-five minutes co-ordinating breakfasts and packed lunches and the retrieval of shoes and socks in a manner that balances encouraging their independence, maintaining my sanity, and accomplishing the task in hand: getting them out of the door on time.

If there is any time of the day that magnifies the kaleidoscope of our familial relationships — conflicts, joys, triumphs, mundanity, solidarity, happiness, despair, our inability to lay our hand on the one thing we need at the one time we need it — it’s mornings that precede school runs.

At this time of day, I am omnipresent, omniscient and omnicompetent. I am white noise — always there, strangely soothing, yet barely acknowledged, unless things reach a point where I need to assert my wrath.

At this time of day, I am the god of our small things.

The boys leave the house. We could have travelled in all together today, but I don’t feel particularly inclined to battle rush hour traffic, even as a passenger. Anyway, the boys are steadied by the morning routine that culminates in a kiss on their cheek at the front door before they find their seat on the school bus.

J and I share a cup of tea and then we journey in the same direction as the bus did.

We chat about whatever it is we tend to chat about: logistics, reflections on J’s workday yesterday, ideas for his workday today, and his usual concerns about what I will do with my day. “We’ve got the graduation ceremony, that’s 2 hours,” I say. “But after that,”, J enquires, “what will you do with your day after that?”

We arrive at J’s work, conveniently located opposite the boys’ school and I head to a cafe equidistant between the two. I enjoy a creamy, lemony, beany breakfast concoction and I enjoy the peace after the morning’s mayhem.

At 0845 I head over to the presentation hall at the school.

The 11-year-old is sat on the stage with his peers who are all dressed in too big robes and mini mortarboards. He catches my eyes, his face lights up at seeing mine. I reflect that light right back at him. It shines from somewhere deep within and I feel it radiate out of all of me.

I sit down in the plush, theatre-style seats, one eye to the stage looking out towards the 11-year-old, and another to the door, looking out for J. J arrives and takes his seat as the speeches and performances commence.

If the morning routine gives an insight into family life, a primary school celebration assembly does the same for school days: uplifting, enlightening, chaotic, surreal, moments of brilliance, in parts so boring I want to claw out my eyes. And always, always my child the brightest thing in it.

He does a speech on his own, having not being there long enough to have paired up with others. He is brave and funny and all annunciation. His slight form, alone on that large stage pulls at my heart uncomfortably, just as it did when he was 4 and he walked away from me into that classroom for the first time.

Just like his very first day of school, I sit by watching with a sense of enormous pride in him but also a feeling of intense loneliness. It’s a loneliness that flows from my mind like iced water, filling every void within me with stagnant cold.

My eldest has adapted his expectations of his last days of primary school in such a perfectly human way, missing his UK friends but also enjoying this day, this time, for what it is.

I, on the other hand, cannot move beyond pining for my school-mums back home. I don’t feel comfortable enough in this unfamiliar environment to show the inevitable emotions that accompany this sort of occasion. I don’t know the other mums well enough to share a smile, a comforting hand on their arm, a tissue.

I am homesick.

I push the sickness away. I clap and smile in the right places. I take photos and pass on thanks to teachers. After the show, I show my faith in my child by connecting physically and verbally with him in a way that I hope is not embarrassing to him in front of his peers.

Like all of us daily-deities watching over our little humans, I balance always being there with barely being there at all: it is this that I do with my days.

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