Monday, 15 November 2010
Rearing children can be tiring, it can be hard, but it can also be intoxicating. I learnt this on two occasions, all in one week.
First, witnessing the Tank's face crumpling when Big Daddy tickled me. Tickling reduces me to a squirming victim, and on seeing her 'Ma' as a helpless girl must have ellicted filial devotion. The Tank wanted - or so her expression said - to defend me from my 'aggressor.' Klefti, our dear departed Greek dog (for those who have been following my blog for a while), would have done the same. Children and dogs are very loyal creatures.
The second occasion of parental intoxication was when the Tank said 'Mummy' for the first time. Not 'Ma!' her appellation since the end of August, but Mummy. The proper word. The word that one day may be preceded by 'I love you,' Mummy. It hit me right in the gut. Yes, I am a Mummy. The Tank's Mummy. It is only when one's children confirm the fact, I realise, that it feels really, truly real. Of course I am also Magpie's Mummy, but she is yet to say it and thus confirm this fact in all its metaphysical glory.
On the birth of my girls, when a childless friend asked me over dinner with slight disdain 'so have you fallen in love, then?' I answered the question with awkward dismay. 'No, it's love, but it's a different love. It's not being 'in' love.
Everyone hears the myth that this is what happens as soon as you give birth but of course it's not comparable. It's a huge, irrepressible love that makes you want to be a knight in shining armour for your children, always there to save and protect them. For many, myself included, it gives your life meaning you never thought possible.
I didn't get butterflies and lose my appetite (quite the reverse)
I didn't suddenly feel horny all the time (quite the reverse)
I didn't dash out to buy underwear and take a fresh interest in my appearance (quite the reverse)
The same childless friend who asked me about being 'in' love also asked me if I pined for my babies whenever I left the house, and was it all I could think about. No, no, no, I didn't and it wasn't! I wanted to think and talk grown-up stuff with grown-ups. Playdates with 'mummy friends' are for talking breast v bottle and swaddling v sleeping bags, not evenings out with old schoolfriends, for God's sake.
I love the hell out of my children, but I also love, nay, relish a bit of grown-up time now and then. I'm sure there must be some poetry out there that encapsulates the true sentiment of parental love, but it isn't like a spell that is cast on you and that lifts you onto a magic carpet. Yes, of course there is magic involved in watching your babies turn into toddlers, toddlers into children and children....into....teenagers (ok scrap the last bit). But ultimately it's an often tough, occasionally exasperating but mostly rewarding reality.