It’s a funny thing, this guilt business.
People say to me, sometimes, that I am bound to feel guilty about what happened with my eldest son but that I shouldn’t because I did everything I could for him and gave him every opportunity. Their words are really reassuring. They are so reassuring that, looking back, I can see that I have no reason to feel guilty, that his problems are far more deep seated than anything I could have put right. But to say that I don’t feel guilty doesn’t feel right. I feel guilty for not feeling guilty, as surely a good mother WOULD feel guilty, it’d be the natural reaction to the situation as that is why everyone offers me that reassurance that I have nothing to feel guilty about.
That’s not to say that I haven’t done things which I’d do differently if I had my time again… except that I probably wouldn’t as I think they are all-too-human mistakes. I can’t imagine parenting without doing or saying anything that wasn’t the textbook response or a response that was regretted. I’ve always set my sights on being a “good enough” mum, knowing that sometimes I’d fall below that standard and get it wrong, but also hoping that the times I exceed that standard and do a really good job will balance that out.
Today, though, I feel guilty for being overwhelmed by my own kids’ problems when, in comparison to many, they are so insignificant… also for getting so frustrated with the Smudgelet when I have almost limitless patience with the children with whom I work. Why am I so overwhelmed by the news that the Smudgelet is showing signs of something which is not insurmountable and would explain a lot, that this time people are actually listening to my concerns and doing something about them instead of dismissing them as inconvenient or exaggerated, news that actually doesn’t really change anything and simply puts a slightly different label on them. It’s irrational to feel guilty. But sadly guilt doesn’t follow rules of logic, does it? And I can’t help getting worn out and exhausted by handling events like last night’s on a daily basis.
There we were, sitting on the sofa together watching TV while I sewed a name label on the case of his new (and very trendy) sunglasses which I’d just bought for him to take to Scout Camp tomorrow. The pinger sounded on the oven to remind me that the chips needed turning over, so I extracated myself from under his legs (I was sitting, he was lying with his legs over my lap), put the sewing down half way through, raced to the kitchen, turned the chips, raced back, put myself down under his legs again and resumed my sewing and televiewing with the word “Right..” (meaning, right, now that’s done I can get on with doing what I was doing and enjoying).
Immediately from the Smudgelet “What do you mean, right?”
“I mean, right, now that the chips are cooking again, I can get on and get this sewing finished and watch this programme with you for a bit longer”
“No you don’t. You were going to say something important and you’re not telling me.”
“No, I have nothing I was building up to saying. I just meant that I could get on with things without interruption for a bit longer”
“You didn’t. You were going to say something and then you changed your mind and I want to know what it was. What aren’t you telling me?”
“You don’t need to feel paranoid,” (was my slightly frustrated reply), “There is no deep and significant meaning to my saying ‘right’, it was just a word I used to change from one activity to another. There is nothing I was about to say to you apart from asking you whether you’d want tomato sauce or cheese on your chips.”
“I hate this, you’re not being honest with me. You’re always doing this. It’s all very well saying that you didn’t mean anything but I don’t believe you, so you might as well tell me what it was you were going to say”.
I suggested he go into his room for a few minutes while I sorted the tea out, seeing as it was a no-win situation yet again. He goes into his room. I go to take him his chips and, yes, yet again he has climbed out of the window and run away. Last time, a week ago, it was because I’d refused to have an argument with him (he was in the wrong – had done something really naughty (naughtiest thing he’d ever done, I think) – and I tried to keep the discussion calm and not lose my temper so he ran away. Honestly, teenagers… who’d have ’em?