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Thursday, 21 January 2010

The Quiet War

It started, as these things are prone, quite innocuously. While in the midst of decorating the bathroom, I arranged a few green books and placed Bert and Ethel beside them, then went off to do puttery things with a little pile of jasmin scented soap, before recoiling in absolute horror when I noticed a grey hair in my EYEBROW and turning my attention to plucking the little blighter out while shouting hello to Richard who had just arrived and would react in what can only be described as glee were he the one to spot said eyebrow.

The next morning I got up to find that Ethel and Bert had been busy in the night re-arranging the books, while further investigation revealed that to Finley's disgust, it was a certain Mr Richard, (who prefers things to be orderely and cannot fathom my topsy-turvy way of life) who had seen fit to dabble with things he shouldn't and as such willy-nilly interference could not be tolerated Finley would have no choice but to apply his six year old interior design skills and  inflict new order on my little ceramic book-end peoples way of life.

And so I found myself staring at this darling little configuration while performing my morning absolutions and simultaneously worrying that this was a sympton of my son's discontent at sharing a little bit of his Mummie's life with another man.
 Because, you know, these things require worrying about. You can't just go gung-ho and install a giant of a man where once there was a Daddy-shaped hole. You have to tread carefully. You have to  quiz and interview said man and make sure he is worthy of your little treasures adoration. You have to watch them carefully together for signs of intolerance on either part and lose sleep at night worrying how the patchwork quilt that is splintered family life can be stitched together to include a whole new person. Seven months on you have to quietly make sure that this new person neither spends every minute of every day stealing kisses from you behind your son's back, nor stays away long enough to allow said son to entertain the notion that large man doesn't matter an awful lot to precious Mummy, when man in question is very much loved indeed.

Three days later, while drilling holes from which to hang the new bathroom cabinet, Richard, in what I can only describe as an act of utter rebellion, inflicted this, quite dreadful arrangement on our poor fragile souls and when Finley went to the bathroom at five o'clock the next morning I heard his shuffles of giggly outrage and thus began another round in a territory war that probably only exists in my own mind.
Because Richard and Finn are friends. They play table football together and discuss Spiderman with the kind of enthusiasm I couldn't rustle up in a month of Sundays. It is his hand Finley looks for when we go out together, him he sprawls across when we watch television together, if only so he can peer at him close enough to confirm that Richard's nose is too small and his head too big while announcing to anyone that will listen  that in a certain light his glasses give him a look of Gok Wan without the earring or Chinese heritage.
But still his loyalties are divided. All of a sudden he is questioning why Daddy doesn't live in this house. Sobbing when Mark goes home. Asking to ring him at strange hours in the night. Though the relationship between Mark and Richard and I is amiable enough to tolerate an hour spent altogether while Mark teaches Finley to play chess and Richard and I discuss our day, and I am careful to make the other a natural part of the conversation when either Mark or Richard is not present so Finley does not imagine that any sense of competition exists between them.

Yet, regardless, children will find a way to quietly protest. To kick out when they imagine the natural order of what should be is threatened. To try to manipulate the harassed minds of a Mummy already racked with guilt for failing to hold her family together, and consequently, almost four years later, having no choice but to try and grasp a little bit of  grown-up happiness with someone who has her waking up daily with a smile pinned to her face at the very thought of him.
 Finley isn't a difficut child, he is an absolute darling, but childrens worlds are simple, so though he exists in the muddy water that is parental seperation, for a perceptive child it must be terribly difficult to navigate a school enviroment in which almost all the local Mummies and Daddies live together and great big boyfriends of the sort who fiddle with your Mummies books are almost unheard of!
He doesn't resent Richard, he looks up to him and enjoys the time we spent together. He just doesn't understand why we need him. Doesn't really understand what he is for, though Richard for his part is quietly patient, careful never to inflict his will upon my child, nor tread upon his tiny toes. Respectful, exceedingly kind and quietly honoured to be invited into the crazy hub of our haphazard hearts.

And so I am letting this quiet war rage on. It is for all intents and purposes a game neither of them are winning. The first in a series of battles? A game that makes them giggle. A game I have to try not to referee because they are merely muddling out a relationship between them, even when I am all but desperate to arrange Ethel and Bert in a way that suits me and has nothing to do with either of them!

Perhaps I should make it clear to all concerned that when it comes to re-arranging the household trinkets, it's my way or the highway?


Mrs. Cozy Home said...

Beautiful post and the photos are such a poignant illustration ...

The Feathered Nest said...

Oh Alison!!! This post just cracks me up!!! I think it's fun...and really quite imaginative too!! I love seeing all the different ways these two are expressing themselves ~ I wonderful how the little shelf will end up looking....hugs and love, Dawn

Anonymous said...

You know, after reading this post I am appalled by my lack of imagination. I would have arranged the books as you did, and not thought a thing about it. Seeing these different arrangements made me realize how boring I am! These photos are wonderful. Now I must install a shelf in my bathroom to hold some green books and will go in search of funky bookends. (Oh yes -- and your observations about your big and little men? You may be overthinking it. Just let it be. Don't go looking for trouble!)

Janean said...

we could "see" the story unfolding in your vignettes....very clever.

Vee said...

What a cute post! This happens all the time at my house. Some people just must have all their ducks in a row. I must say that I find Finley's open book with the figurine inside the most charming...tell him that I'm going to copy it!

Judy said...

Oh, I just LOVE this post!

Tiny clues seem to tell more than the big obvious ones.

And, I collect green books. For no apparent reason.

Anonymous said...

You're entitled to a grown woman's life. One of the things a child of divorce has to come to grips with. Like it or not. And in time, Finn will understand. But I feel for you; the guilt trips you suffer and delicate balancing act you're trying to do to keep all parties happy. Been there, done that, survived. Just barely!

I'd say you're most of the way home on this one though. Since the scuffle seems to be confined to your knick-knacks (hopefully not at their peril), rather than perpetual tears and tantrums all round. Might I suggest you start buying two of everything breakable, just in case?

Ali said...

That is adorable of the two of them and for you to understand. Very sweet. But after reading about Fin for a few years now, he has a special place in my bloggy heart. And Richard seems just perfect for the both of you. I am glad you are happy:)
Blog: Capers of the vintage vixens

Sara said...

I lost track of my favorite blogs for a long time and started up reading them only a few days ago. This post just made me giggle. I needed that today! We mothers feel guilt about everything we touch that touches our children, don't we? (And even those things over which we have no control.) I think their little "war" is adorable and is obviously done with affection. It's very fun and sweet. Thank you for sharing it.

Posie Patchwork said...

That is so hilarious!! When we were first married we had a MR Potato Head who we would move & change around the lounge room. Often he's have arms out to greet you home, other times, something more risque. With 4 children, things move about our house all the time, especially when they unapck the dishwasher. i'm talking a house with 4 girls who have different opinions on where cooking utensils should go!! Adorable post & i also have a Fin!! Love Posie

Sasha said...

Hmmm. I can't help but feel for, and hugely admire Fin's (albeit subtle, but no less profound) demonstrations against Richard asserting his 'way' in Fin's (and your) little world. I put myself back inside a small child's little head and imagine how I would feel.... He is an absolute genius that boy - and a comedy one at that, for finding such an amusing way to rebel! Little things like that really tickle me! And only a very well rounded little boy would feel confident enough in his own surroundings to feel free to do such a thing, so don't worry too much!

I say, whilst this remains light-hearted and jovially competative, it is very very healthy ;)

Maybe you could trump them both - imagine their hilarity if they both came home one day and found both the books and the book-ends gone, and something totally surreal quietly in their place..... this is the sort of joke that could run and run (and just the sort that can bond a 'family' together.....)

Beautifully observed and written post Alison, and my heart goes out to you, for I can sense what tentative steps you must feel you are carefully treading every day - one day you WILL be able to exhale!!

Carlie said...

Aw! I love the photos...good work catching them all....

And, many wishes for patience and hope and deep love for you all as you sort out the place each person should play in the cast.

And in case it offers any comfort...even when you're a married couple, small people get jealous of your attention for each other, time spent off alone on dates and even kisses so, part of this is just the egocentrism of childhood, a natural desire for assurance of love and not even just about the divorce although of course that's playing a key part too.

maryannlucy said...

A thought provoking post, thank you for sharing, it has made me think about this in a way that I hadn't thought of before.
I love the photos, reminded me of the teletubbies we had when DD was little. She would put them to bed in the evening, and find them playing hide and seek when she got up - they also used to swing from the curtains, play football, very imaginative little creatures :)

beth said...

You are a very sensitive mother and I think things will turn out fine. Finns Dad has been in his life since he was born and he is his daddy. The crying when Mark goes home may be caused by the fact that one of the people who love him most in the world is not not there as much as he would like. The attachment to Richard is never going to be the same however much he likes him and gets on well with him. That doesnt mean everything can t be nice and peaceful and that they cant be really good friends. The problems start when different people are involved in raising a child You and Mark are Finn s parents, he knows that you both love him more than anyone. The four of you sitting around and socializing might be a bit confusing to Finn though.

Amy. said...

What a wondefully deep and meaningful post way beyond the words typed or book arrangements.

Puttery Post!

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