Standard Issue writers have been penning a letter to their younger selves. This week Sarah Ledger has some excellent advice for her 34-year-old self.
It’s me, Sarah, writing from 2015. I’m addressing it to July 1998 so before you read it, check your calendar. If this has arrived any earlier DON’T read it. Fold it up. Put it back in the envelope. Resist.
I know we’re not good with temptation but, seriously, this advice is worth listening to. The spoilers I’m about to reveal will only make sense if you’ve reached 34 (spoilers? Work it out. More than that, say ‘spoilers’ in 2001 when someone gives the ending away and you’ll have invented it).
I know you’re right in the middle of a huge decision so I’ll get straight to the point. Leave him. You’re right: he doesn’t love you and you don’t love him. Negative equity is a feeble reason to stay together and there’s more at stake here than cash. Yes the market picks up, but your patience – or his – might not last the distance.
You know that fantasy about taking photos on a windswept cliff and asking him to take just one step further back so you can get him and the horizon in the frame? He has that fantasy too. Even though you savour the imaginary satisfaction of watching him bounce off jagged boulders and disappear into the boiling sea, those thoughts aren’t good for either of you.
You won’t feel like this forever and, although I can’t guarantee that one day you’ll look back on this and laugh, there will be a day when you’ll look back with barely a flicker of murderous rage.
Staying together for the sake of the kids is a better reason and I know that’s what’s bothering you. You’re not sure you can survive as a single parent; you’re not sure if it’s good for you – or for them. The truth is, Sarah, it will be hard. When Jessie’s jammy little fingers prise open your eyelids at 5am there will be no one else to turn to.
You’ll spend a great many early mornings with a pillow over your head drowning out The Hoobs; you’ll be on your own driving round the Skate Park at midnight when Tom has switched his phone off and has gone to his mate’s instead of coming home. And when his mock results come in with only one letter off an anagram of BUGGER you’ll wonder if you’ve ruined his life chances by bringing him up separately from his dad.
Every other evening – for about five years – you’ll shuttle between after-school club, Brownies, gymnastics, bass lessons and rugby without even a moment for a cup of tea. You’ll be permanently skint.
And what about them? Will they miss him? If you’re honest, you know they miss him now. He doesn’t come home much does he? That’s because home is not an easy place to be. At least if you leave they’ll have some space to make their own relationship with them. But let them.
Try not to be angry about him in front of them. This won’t always be easy especially when he texts you to tell you he’s flying to Venice for a long weekend while you’re searching the Asda ‘Whoops!’ section for nutritious ingredients to sustain a family of three. But the restraint will be worth it: they still love him. They don’t want to hear what an arsehole he is; they’ll think you’re the arsehole for bringing it up. Don’t rant. Don’t tell them: “You’re just like your father”.
You chose him to be their father. Whatever else was going on in that absurd moment you decided he was going to be your partner, you recognised potential in him and that potential is gloriously achieved in his children. They are smart and funny, poised and beautiful.
There will be days when you’ll be stranded in a sea of scattered Lego and incomplete homework in the shadow of a tottering pile of ironing, searching for a lost reading book and matching socks while a tiny person refuses to eat her toast on the grounds it’s been cut in the wrong geometric shape. There will be scribbles on the wall, paint on the duvet and muddy footprints everywhere. But try not to shout. Cut the toast into triangles and wipe up the footprints with a damp cloth or – even better – ignore it and enjoy the bits that matter.
Before you know it they’ll be grown up and away, one in Newcastle, one in Nepal (I won’t tell you which one goes where but I bet you can guess) and even though you have your own life to get on with you’ll wish you’d had them little for longer.
If I’ve timed this right you should be packing tomorrow. Take the front room curtains and the china. Stay away from cake. I’d wish you good luck but I know how this turns out: you don’t need it.
Love, Sarah.843 Views
Champion soup maker; of a surprisingly nervous disposition. @sezl & sezl.wordpress.com