Writing with pencil and paper, between 2am-4pm in the night, unable to rest my racing mind back to sleep. Naoise beside me, breathing steadily, giggling in his dreams. I type here my hand written words: 

Last Monday: 4th November 2013

Helen Sargeant ©, Naoise in pram with star wars model, 2013
Helen Sargeant ©, Naoise in pram with star wars model, 2013

I rummage in the drawers by the front door, and place a woollen hat firmly down onto Naoise head. The first day of frost this winter has arrived. The pram crushes though puddles topped with the thinnest layer of ice. A bright blue day. Autumn leaves float on top of the canal. My head is heavy with tiredness as I watch the leaves sinking to the gloomy bottom.

Helen Sargeant ©, Autumn leaves on top of the canal, 2013
Helen Sargeant ©, Autumn leaves on top of the canal, 2013

Me pushing, you seated in the pram clasping a star wars model in your hands, we talk, thoughts, ideas, observations are shared. A tree casts a clear shadow on the concrete end of a garage. Sun bathes sheep on the marshy hill sides. Cobbles underfoot, geese, ducks, negotiating deep mud and avoiding wheeling through dog poo.

Helen Sargeant ©, Tree shadow, 2013
Helen Sargeant ©, Tree shadow, 2013

Break in typing: Naoise stirs, his eyes open. He says “is it still night time, you woke me up with that computer”. What was I thinking, I am totally selfish, but he has turned over, fallen back into sleep. But I stop, I feel bad that I have disturbed his peace. I close the lid of light. 

sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, 

Daylight, cold, condensation on the sky lights, 7:21 am, next door in Syd’s vacant room of guitars, typing words whilst lying down on the rug, wrapped in a wool blanket. 

We are the first to arrive for the tour of the community farm. Inside the warmth of the poly tunnel, we sit on benches, on a long table at the end of which freshly harvested emerald pumpkins are piled high. A plastic box of family biscuits, instant coffee, bags of tea, hot water flask, juice, mugs and small talk.

Naoise is so excited and livens as his friends arrive. If only you could bottle the energy of a four year old. Like Alice, I’d drink it, and I would grow into a massive mum able to take on anything her son throws at her with my amazing mental and physical strength.

Cheeky, mischievous, devious, he leads his friend away from the pack. He runs a riot away from me, hiding behind sheets of poly tunnel, squealing with delight. He will not hold my hand. He pushes, disobeys, tries my patience. The other parents with their well behaved children look on kindly with sympathetic I’ve been there before looks.

Its a wonderful tour, of eating and tasting petals, salad leaves. stroking the soft down of a rather annoyed man handled goose, oohing, arrrhing at hedgehog homes, a wormery, chickens, guinea fowl.

Between all of Naoise naughtiness or rather typical behavouir of a 4 year old being an adventurous monkey, there’s a rare moment of motherly pride. I see that his curious friend is holding an object in his hand, “DANGEROUS” shouts Naoise. His friend quickly drops the rat trap. The kindness and protection that he shows to his friend impresses me.

The last straw. Naoise cannot share today. He will not draw with his friend on the same piece of paper. He is cruel and says his friends goose is a rubbish drawing. I feel so annoyed. I bundle him up and whisk him swiftly away from the farm. He keeps apologising and pretends that he was being complementary not critical about his friends drawing. At the farm gates he holds longingly onto the wire. Sobbing over and over, “I want to be with my friends, I want to be with my friends.”

I feel terrible. Have I been impatient ? Was I too firm ? Should I have allowed him one more chance ? I feel cruel.  I don’t cope well with conflict. I’m blaming myself for his actions. I should have remained calm despite his misdeamenour’s. I’m feeling guilty. A horrid cocktail of emotions. Feelings of complete failure in my ability to parent. I wish to be confident, assertive, self assured, consistent. I’m none of these.

I am carrying him, whilst pushing the pram at the same time, his body in mine is strong, squirming wriggling, thrashing with anger. His anger gives way to upset and I hug him close. Then we both sit sad on the bench by the canal lock, eat bananas, and we cry together in commiseration.

A friend walking home with her two sons from the farm comes to rescue us from our joint sorrow, with the kind offer of sharing some chips and tea at Grandma Pollards mini bus cafe. Naoise instantly cheers, runs, skips, jumps along the path, sploshing through the muddied puddles without a care.

The mini bus cafe in the chip shop yard is an odd delight. A mannequin bus driver complete with hat is slumped motionless up front at the wheel. Chips, dabs, curried sauce, cans, meat pies, battered fish, rounds of buttered bread cut into triangles and mugs of tea, are all hurried out of the back of the chip shop and onto the bus. A feast in front of us, happy children slurping cans of sweet fizzy apple, eating. Happy adults dipping chips into curry sauce and feeling the calm pleasure of hot tea and a chat.

The sugar from the drinks and the greasy carbohydrates set us up for the last mile walk back into Tod. I’m impressed at how well Naoise walks when with his friends. They dash over the high lock footbridges with great agility. Naoise finds a black ladybird with red spots. He lets it crawl onto his finger, its little legs tickling.

On the final stretch up the steep hill in the grounds of the unitarian church, Naoise demands to be carried on my shoulders. I stumble with the weight of him above me.

We reach my friends home, and slip off shoes and trousers caked in mud. I sink into her sofa. Naoise plays a while upstairs then comes down and sits on my knee. Together we stare up at the TV screen. Power rangers, a colourful blast of action for passive eyes. Naoise loves this testosterone powered TV, with its cheap affects and masked teenage actors. I sip another cup of tea. I too am mesmerised.

We leave to get back up the road for when Syd gets home from school. As we walk I remember Monkey Magic, a TV programme that I loved to watch as a child when I got home from school. I imagine me and Naoise flying home on a buddist cloud with Tripitaka. The voice of god at the beginning of Monkey Magic says “in the worlds before monkey, primal caos reigned”. Today I experienced primal caos with my little monkey. I am sure I will never find maternal enlightenment, though chips, curry sauce, companionship and cups of tea certainly help smooth the passage. 

8:31 am, Naoise is still asleep, so I will slip back into bed and rest a while. I feel calmer now these words are written.


About Helen Sargeant

I am a visual artist, mother of two children aged 12 and 4, and co-founder of the MeWe arts collective. I intend to use this site to explore how my personal experiences as a mother informs my arts practice. To reflect upon the maternal in relationship to memory, loss, and mental health in particu…Read more

Website: http://helensargeant.co.uk

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