Sambal For The Soul

Starfish position, spread out in bed, barely awake, bathed in peace and quiet. Yeah, no: That’s not on the agenda for any time soon. Even the first bit would entail me buying a considerably bigger bed.

I found myself, last weekend, up and about before eight a.m. as if it were a perfectly normal thing. In my thirty-eight years of existence I have spent at least twenty years being the greediest sleep hound I have ever encountered. I almost ruined my university career by wanting to sleep more than I ever wanted to attend lectures, seminars or any of that curricular boohickey. That’s clearly not a word.

My capacity for sleep is renowned, in the circles in which it is known well; that is as true now as it ever was. I can sleep for eighteen hours straight, if undisturbed. That’s some good going, I tell you.

I suppose all it took was the introduction of some children, or responsibilities I actually took a little more seriously than my education, for me to wake up at a “reasonable hour” and take part in the life of the world. The responsibilities that day were getting my older child to her Taekwondo belt test, and then on to her own birthday party. And feeding a baby, and letting the dogs void their bowels.

Herbal smells streak from an upper window as we make our way down the street. We have to be at the Dojang for nine, so this is either some late night partying gone extremely late night or a morning ritual I cannot wrap my noodle around. Coffee is strong enough at that time of a Saturday morning.

I remember when the older one was first born, taking it in turns on a weekend morning, playing with her while the other one slept. It feels odd to say that it felt like an imposition, but it did. I was still very much a child myself, and I couldn’t imagine having my life ruled by anyone else in that way yet.

Now, the children are the focus. So much so that I can’t imagine what other people of my age map their lives around. It’s like the old Friends quote, when a palaeontologist is revealed not to own a TV: “What’s all your furniture pointed at?” Theirs are lives I can no longer identify with on any level.

Now, sleep is a thing I long for more than anything else, but know that I am unable to get my fill of. I am to be denied a lie-in until the youngest one can sleep at her grandmothers’ on occasions, much like her older sister. I’m not saying I want her to, I just want to be able to sleep ‘til lunchtime again.

Lightbulb moments come thick and fast when you’re raising children and suffering from a little bit of sleep deprivation. I find myself wondering how, given how we feel about our children, our parents feel about us now. I’m not about to ask, because I am going to experience it. I also don’t really want to pick at the scab of a child leaving home and going in to the big, bad, wild world on their own yet.

I have always found myself wondering how siblings view each other, as I have none. In my mind it conjures up a mixture of concepts, especially if there is a large age gap, covering life-long friendship and the relationship one has with an annoying family pet. I understand that our perceptions of each other must change considerably with time, but I am still experiencing it all in ultra-slow motion.

Nevertheless, we made it to the belt test with a huge amount of time to spare. I even had time to pop to the cashpoint and get a secret stash of calories to act as a breakfast supplement as my partner and I sat in absolute silence, watching several dozen children executing manoeuvres I would find rather difficult to achieve. We crunched silently, and hid wrappers up our jumper sleeves.

Spain is gain, or “No Spain No Gain”. It’s something like that, and it will come back to me at some point. The crux is that a knowledge of self-sacrifice is a necessary part of the entry fee to adulthood.

Some of that came very easily; some of it much harder; some of it I am still grappling with; some of it can wait until I am a grandparent, and I have the opportunity to hand the delightful children back at the end of the day. I remember my mother saying that a lot when I was younger, about my own grandparents. It reminds me now quite how much of a little shit I genuinely must have been then.

I see so much of my own precocious nature in the behaviour of our eldest; she never shuts up, is always trying to fill the void with verbiage, and is shockingly self-centred. She is very much her dad.

I didn’t choose to work from home, so that doesn’t count as a sacrifice. I do, however, enjoy the way that I am now here for my children far more than most of the parents I work with. I have the flexibility to take them to school – on foot or by scooter – and then to make them food for when they are done for the day. If I lost this I would be very disappointed, and my life would be poorer.

Mexico, Mexico; so good they named it once. And then gave the capital city the same name, so does that count as being named twice? The city was named after the empire which once ruled the waves there, and so the country isn’t named after its capital. How this relates to my children I have no idea.

I have no idea about so many things these days, and that was a prime example. My mind is in a state of collapse, and I have to be fine with it. It’s not a functional collapse, as in the loss of my ability to be; more of just an acceptance that bits have drifted off, and may only be seen again at Ragnarok.

Growing old does that, although I am far from old. That caveat is never listed by choice; it is an involuntary response to my fingers typing the concept of being old. My body is not as good as it once was, and I can accept that. Sinking in to a morass of not being able to remember my name will pass.

Becoming an adult is a long and drawn out process, and one I doubt is ever actually complete until it is too late to be anything else. Children, at least in my one-dimensional view, are the key to growing up. It changed me, but not in a wet, wishy-washy way; it has a lot more to do with pure exhaustion.

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