Is there anyone else out there who feels weird when the kids have a sleepover?
When I became a mother it all slotted into place. That’s not to say I found it easy. Oh no. My parenting style is ‘The Worrier’ rather than ‘The Warrior’. I was the woman who nudged my new born awake to check he was still breathing. And if I managed to get five hours continuous sleep I would wake up in a cold sweat and then go and wake him up to check he was still breathing.
I have worried about whether my boys are getting the childhood they deserve. For the first three years of my eldest son’s life I regularly bought toys and games to stimulate his senses. All he saw for the first years was a red-faced nervous looking woman holding up a toy and shaking it. He owned every toy for infants Lamaze every made.
I held children’s parties with vigour. Twelve courses of food for kids who were just going to stick their fingers in the jelly and run around screaming for three hours. Not that I’d give them jelly. Poisonous food colouring and gelatin made from glue. No fear. And I really should have had therapy the year I hand-stitched one hundred gnomes from felt. And possibly the year I made a gluten-free Taj Mahal which was far to big to ever get eaten. It sat in the freezer compartment yelling ‘trifle’ for months.
These small, perfectly formed beautiful people have taken over my life. They stole away the girl who stayed up beyond ten o’clock and drank more than two glasses of wine. The wild woman who threw caution to the wind, drank a vat of wine and danced on tables with strange and exotic waiters.
Worse than that, I no longer know how to behave without them. I mean I cope when they’re at school. I push wet, muddy rugby kits into washing machines. I fail to wash and dry the only tee shirt my teenager wants to wear. I clean up, I wipe down. I find oats in places only my younger child can scatter them. I write. Usually about women who don’t have children or maybe one child, who lurks in the background cleanly.
We have relatives nearby now and for the first time in eons we get a few child-free nights every now and then. We managed at first. Meals in town, a night or two in a modestly priced motel. Nothing too flash or expensive.
Now we don’t know what to do with our time. Apart from the obvious. Our bedroom walls are flimsy and the kids don’t miss a trick. One of my most embarrassing moments was when the teenager banged on our partitioning wall yelling. “Keep it down in there.”
‘That’ takes all of twenty minutes and then we’d both want something to eat or drink. Something to dull the senses and blot out that picture we hold of ourselves in our head, of how we used to look.
‘That’ safely out of the way, what do we do with the rest of the time? He likes building things, I like reading. He likes messing about with his computer, I like reading. Last time the kids were away The Husband disappeared into the shed and I didn’t see him all day. I ended up watching ‘The Spy Who Came in From the Cold’ and eating pistachios.
Sad, isn’t it. But you see last time we were childfree for any length of time we lived in London. We had pubs. Everywhere. We had stamina and could drink solidly for hours without wanting to crawl under the furniture and cry. Last time we were childfree I liked shopping and had spare money to spend. The husband liked to see the things I’d bought and made me parade about in them. Now I get depressed and after a bit he feels queasy. I know people say that we don’t change but I think we do. And not just that I used to be a 10 and now I’m not.
My experiences have shaped me and my favourite experience was having my boys. Even if they did completely ruin my figure, my sense of perspective and my ability to dance on tables.
Now I could be sensible and get therapy or at least work out what will guide my life in the future. Or I could hold them close and savour every moment. Read them stories, scream their names on the rugby fields. Get up early every day to pack their lunches.
Well I’m glad that’s sorted. Is there a sequel to ‘The Spy Who Came in From the Cold’, anyone?