Yesterday evening, thirteen hours into my day with my two young sons, I sat, slumped on the closed toilet lid watching them in the bath together. The three year old, long and slender, pale, the water only covering his bent knees; The ten month old sitting stoutly, portly and stocky, his two lone teeth shining in a goofy grin, the water rippling around his Buddha stomach. The baby smacked the surface of the water with his sausage like paws a few times and looked shocked at the water hitting his face – and repeat. The eldest talked his younger brother through the bath process – showed him the sponge, talked about the temperature of the water etc.
I sat half coma-like, half in panic attack alertness to ensure that both of their heads were kept above water – the same state I spend most days of motherhood.
It’s been pretty bleak lately in our household. Depression and anxiety has drawn in and I’ve not really been treasuring too many moments of being a mummy. To be perfectly honest I have been fantasising about working, about being away from home; home which lately feels so far from the word. My house feels like a prison, a trap. Four walls with me trapped inside for twenty four hours just trying to keep plodding along, keeping the boys alive, clean, changed, fed. And again. And again. And again.
In my dirty tracksuit, my hair undone, no make up, looking utterly shocking I ran the bath, carried through the motions: “keep them clean, keep them fed, keep them happy.” I slumped on the toilet seat and thought about what next. How many hours till the next thing?
Suddenly my baby boy stood upright on the bath mat, he let go of the side of the bath, looked me square in the face and very surely but slowly clapped his hands together. He had never clapped before.
I let out a shocked squeak alerting me I was there. “That’s it! Well done!” I laughed. This spurred him on and he continued with more excitement. I clapped back to show him he was doing it correctly. The eldest stood upright too, trying to get in on the action. “Look mummy!” he shouted as he clapped maniacally at me. “Yes darling, wow! Well done!” I said back, playing along, mustn’t play favourites – even though he’s been able to clap for a fair few years now.
So there my two sons stood, upright, bare, in all their glory, staring at me with dancing joyous eyes, clapping enthusiastically, and there I sat clapping back at them, grinning, beaming, us all laughing goofily. We laughed harder and harder and clapped longer and I felt a little sun crack through the clouds.
In a stage of life where there are no appraisals, no promotions, no one there to reassure me I’m doing a good job – I’ll take my sons’ slow clap. A bit of me felt it was my youngest telling me he really loved having a bath with his big brother. I’ll take their praise of me – at the end of the day, all that matters is their approval; their slow clap.