They page through Christmas toy catalogs, eyes bright and wanting, yelping I want this Mummy and Maybe I could get this? Can I have this?
I snap at them to stop with the asking. I cannot hear it anymore.
I haven’t the money. I fret about Christmas, wondering about points and freebies, hoarding small things in the closet, warning that this year won’t be as rich as I’m told about how their father has made promises of this and that. I’m sure it’s nothing more than the vague whispers I give them sometimes, but it hurts all the same.
I know that things won’t bring them happiness, that it’s all just stuff and they are no less for not having it. But I stifle tears each time I feel the knife dig into my chest with the ask.
I cannot provide.
Growing up in a household where my mother stayed home, where one meagre income supported four of us, I did not lack. There was love where money stopped, and things weren’t horribly missed. But I remember that sense of want, the swallowing of the question since you knew somethings would just never ever happen.
I never wanted this for my children. I never wanted them to know they couldn’t have something because I could not give it to them. I should be able to give them anything, or at the very least more than I had.
I could not give them a family. And now, I cannot even give them things and somedays, it feels like my love is the impossible goal even, wrung out and tired of them as I am. I cannot provide to them on any level, and the chorus of wants for Lego is slowly, irrevocably, eating my heart to ribbons.
I am their mother. I shall provide. Yet the basket is empty, only full with the tears I shed in anger for my shortfalls.
It’s the accusation from a 7 year old, the eyes that tell me “you’re failing” when we walk past decorated houses and petulantly I’m asked “Why are we the only house without decorations” and despite reminding her the decorated homes are the anomoly, I still feel raw and frigid inside, incapable, lessened.
We scrape hand to mouth. We buy secondhand things, we use others until they fall to pieces, all things of which I am proud. And yet when she stares at me with sad eyes because all she ever hears is no, I lose sight and have another vision of poorer us, a trap I cannot escape from or evade.
And I just don’t know what to do anymore.