A, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, o, p

Naoise sweetly requests that I accompany him by singing the abc song.

The moon becomes fuller and brighter each night. Its light shines through the skylight window of my bedroom.

A house full of hormones.

Testosterone, oestrogen, progesterone.

The doors are shutting. I’m sinking into depression, or is it PMT, the withering time, nights drawing in the change of seasons or a cocktail of all of these.

I read Naoise another book to sooth him to sleep. I am exhausted. Then after books he wants a life story. I dig up another narrative from my childhood. I stumble over words. I often fall asleep at the same time as him.

Sleeping Naoise, 15/10/13
Sleeping Naoise, 15/10/13, Helen Sargeant ©

Perhaps we meet in our dreams. In my dream the other night, I was spiderman with golden thead to wrap up my victims. I worry that my children will catch my depression like the common cold. I am a walking virus of black.

Me and Naoise Sleeping 15/10/13
Me and Naoise Sleeping 15/10/13, Helen Sargeant ©

Naoise pulled my hair so hard that it felt as if every follicle was separating from my scalp. I remained quiet despite the pain. His tantrums are scary, distressing. I am astonished by there intensity and ferocity. Eventually calm descends but mid flow all is caos. Clothes that I carefully folded are launched into the air and tumble at my feet. He is on auto destruct mode. I struggled with his flaying body, to make him safe, find a space for him to thrash it out.

He is tired, but why is he so angry, why the rage ?

Granola eating plastic spider. 20/10/13
Granola eating plastic spider. 20/10/13, Helen Sargeant ©

I feel angry, but it has to be kept still, it can’t be aloud to escape, to ooze, to seep, to get out. You have to contain it, take hold of it, shape it, push it down, relinquish it. All that mother anger. All that fenced in rage.

This week I cry easily. I’m a blithering mess. I cry at the smallest thing.

Mothering is messy, viscereal, painful, complicated, complex. Its not clean and clear, madonna and child soft focus. The reality is 24 hour, no shift change. Its a constant. No clock in clock out.

One moment Naoise is presenting me with a pasta necklace to adorn my body, quoting from french “ca va bien” in our conversation as we walk to school, drawing every person that he loves, helping me do the washing up by drying each dish with meticulous precision. The next he is jumping up and down on the bed, refusing to put on clothes, get in the bath, brush his teeth, complete the most basic of daily tasks.

He is a typical four year old. The world is an exciting place, opening up, full of possibility and play. He is wild, free, unbounded.  As I help him to dress for school, he crosses his legs and says “I am a box mummy you have to open me up”.

I wish he was a piece of paper all floppy, flat, and ready to be written upon. Maybe I will write my words upon his body.

Naoise and pink shampoo, Helen Sargeant ©, 2013
Naoise and pink shampoo, Helen Sargeant ©, 2013

Midweek a profound bathroom conversation with Naoise lifts my spirits. Naoise said;

“Mummy after Sydney was born, I was still in your belly on my own, so I swam up into your eyes and looked out at Sydney when he was 1, 2, 3, 4, brushing his teeth with that toothbrush. When he got to 5, I got stuck in your head”.

Sydney does not want me to write about him here, I will try not too. I do question whether or not I should include images and stories about him here. I understand that in making my life, my families life public, this comes with a responsibility. I consider you, I hope that you see that I do.

I wonder if you will read this Sydney, because I would love to run out into the street and tell the whole wide world all about you and how proud I am. Don’t all mothers want to do that ? Are’nt all mothers embarrassing to their children ? Would it not be strange if I was not an embarrassment to you ? Is this of interest to others ? Can I be gushing here in this space ? Is this art ? Sometimes I am not sure. I am a muddy, sludgy paint palette. I am not even sure where these words are taking me, but they lead me back to my eldest son.

Sydney is an amazing talented musician. His guitar and voice fill the rooms of our home amplifying upwards as they reach the attic. He sings a ballad about a teenage father struggling to have a relationship with his son.

The song that plays out in my head is that of The Undertones and Feargal Sharkey singing “Teenage Kicks”. We are both dancing our hearts out to it.

By the weekend my mother has come to rescue my weariness. Sydney has been unwell and I am three days down on my work schedule. I have been struggling to write a presentation for the conference that I am speaking at in London. With mum around, late morning after breakfasts, baths, getting dressed and washing up, I sit down to write. Paper aeroplanes are crashing around me and the computer. Sydney is running up and down stairs wanting me to look at a pair of school shoes on the internet. Less than one hour in, I give up, I concede. Its unfair of me to expect them to understand. Its the weekend. I cannot concentrate on working now. Here in this home, they need me now, not then, not in a little while, in the present. Inter-ruption is important.

Life, home, work its all muddled up. This writing/art, it pulls me away from mothering as much as it draws me to it.

Sunday is blissful. Me and Naoise spend the morning in our pyjamas painting boxes from the recycling bin together. He paints a tiger. I paint some symbols that represent the relationship between me and my two sons. I have become a knotted spool that looks a bit like a Mr Messy character. Then we just paint, for the joy of it, together we make shapes and colours and marks on brown paper bags.

Pyjama painting, 20/10/13, Helen Sargeant ©
Pyjama painting, 20/10/13, Helen Sargeant ©
Brown paper bag painting, Naoise &Helen Sargeant ©, 2013
Brown paper bag painting, Naoise &Helen Sargeant ©, 2013

Sydney completes his history homework about all eight of Henrys wives. I joke with him that it was very selfish of him to have so many failed relationships, giving all that added homework to school children.




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

More posts by Helen Sargeant

2 Responses to “Tears, tantrums and teenage kicks versus art.”

  1. Frances Earnshaw

    O, how I love this song!

    I’m a bit deaf now, because of going to all those concerts when I was very young. Patti Smith, The Undertones, Iggy Pop, David Bowie, Public Image. All long before motherhood.

    I used to want to know all about my mother. All that is such a dark history. My daughter is un-curious about me. I sometimes feel disappointed, that she doesn’t ask.

  2. Helen Sargeant

    Oh Frances you are so cool. I would have loved to have been to all of those concerts. I am sure that Kaye will ask you one day and what great tales she will hear from you.
    I’m not sure that I asked my mum much about her life until I was in my early twenties.
    She tells me many stories now, which I love to hear. Of life before she met my Dad. I love just to hear the sound of her voice, let alone what she has to say. Her voice makes me feel calm.
    Compared to myself, she became a mum so early on in her life. By 21 she was married with her first child, whereas I had only just completed my degree.


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