When Liadan Hynes’ marriage fell apart she had to work on adjusting to the new reality. In her weekly column, Things Fall Apart she explores the myriad ways a person can find their way back to themselves
When my daughter was little, one of the things I looked forward to when she was older was movie nights. I had it all planned in my head, how I would make a tradition of a family movie night on the couch, Friday nights, all under rugs, etc. Whenever she was old enough to both sit through an entire movie, to stay up late enough to do it.
You comfort yourself with this kind of stuff at the times when, much as you love them, it feels like your child may never sleep for longer than forty minutes, and that not on you.
And then I separated from her father, and of course lots of things I had imagined didn’t come to pass. But movie nights, funnily enough, did. For she is now old enough, to sit through, to stay up.
Things get easier
When you have a child, and you are in the middle of each of those intense phases, it can become hard to imagine that they will ever move on, that things will ever be different (by which I obviously mean easier). That they will one day sleep for longer, eat non mush food, not scream throughout all attempts to wash them, use the sippy cup, ditch the nappies, sleep (whisper it) through the night. Because the days with a small child can pass at a glacial pace. Dealing with grief can be similar. When you are in the middle of it, it can be hard to imagine things will ever be different. And then suddenly you realise weeks have gone by and you haven’t had a grey grief day since you cannot remember when. And that your energy levels seem to be levelling off and up; you get tired, but not every-fibre-of-your-body/can’t-get-off-the-couch tired.
Or, in the case of parenting, you find yourself having regular movie nights with your small five-year-old. Who now dresses themselves, fills their own (non) sippy cup, and last week climbed into their bath themselves (you are against that one – slippiness!!!).
And you realise that this is something you looked forward to what feels like aeons ago. And that while you might not have felt it at the time, phases have passed. And achieving this, let’s call it parenting milestone, makes you look about and realise how many phases have passed.
How much easier things have gotten, so slowly you almost didn’t realise.
We do movie nights now. They are one of our favourite things to do. Sunday evening, five o clock, work and socialising done, dinner on in the kitchen. We argue over the best spot on the couch. As the adult of the house part of me feels I should lay claim to it, but when you are a single parent the democracy or hierarchy of the house can be different.
So we pretend to bicker over the best spot, before I inevitably give it to Herself, we get our rugs settled, and we watch our favourite Christmas movie, something we’ve been doing since September.
A glimpse of the future
There’s something about sharing a TV event with your child that tips the balance the slightest bit, ever so imperceptibly, into this being a relationship between two people, rather than a parent/child (this is not to suggest people think we’re sisters parenting, rather a glimpse of the future where much of your time is not spent chivvying them). What’ll we watch Mommy? It counters all the put on your socks, tidy up, get your coat side of parenting.
The other night, I turned on the TV and a Poirot came on. ‘Hang on Mommy, I want to watch this,’ she said. Then, ‘what’s a Poirot?’ I grilled her intensely for five minutes. Who put you up to this? Was this Grandad’s idea? Her uncles? All Poirot haters, all aware it is my favourite show. I assumed it was a joke, one of her beloved tricks. But no. She’s unable to keep a trick secret for more than twenty seconds before shouting it out gleefully. This was all her. She had been struck by the (I would say blindingly obvious) appeal of the ITV afternoon special.
A future where we sit on the couch watching Agatha Christie’s together opened up before me. Worthy of permanently giving up the best spot on the couch.