When I was pregnant with my first child I, along with, I am sure, many others in that position, rushed out and bought the having-a-baby-bible ‘What to Expect in the First Year’. I read, digested, cogitated, bought yet more stuff and felt mildly prepared.
Then, to make sure, I attended NCT ante-natal classes. Both of these educators were at pains to point out the fact that I was bound to get very little sleep with a new born in the house. In fact one exercise at the classes saw us mapping out what a typical night with a new born might look like. Apparently all the participants grossly over-estimated the amount of time we would actually spend asleep and we had to redo our ‘maps’.
I went into complete denial. I distinctly remember thinking ‘Well that won’t happen to me’.
I was completely, totally, stupendously and comprehensively wrong.
Recently I purchased a book entitled ‘Please Get out of My Life, But First Take Me and Alex to Town’. It is about teenagers. I got half way through and denial hit again. I have stopped reading. I have put my fingers in my ears and am singing ‘I can’t hear you. I can’t hear you, la la la la la la’. Clearly all this stuff will not happen to me and my family.
My eldest is 11 and now classed as a ‘pre teen’, whatever that means. Apparently this set of children have their own foibles, their own behavioural issues, their own forum subset on parenting websites to assist those afflicted with such beings.
However whatever the term, this period of childhood is certainly full of change. First born has not yet morphed into a grunting, monosyllabic, spotty hunchback as immortalised in the famous Kevin sketch but I can see flashes of the teenage years to come. He fluctuates between petulance and extreme neediness. On some mornings everything I have the temerity to ask will be met with a surly ‘No’, even such mild an enquiry as ‘Did you sleep well?’. On others he can be full of chatter, keen to engage me in his views on the day ahead over his Weetabix. I have yet to master the art of figuring out which mood will prevail when I enter his room to draw the curtains and greet him on another morn.
Other things are more constant. His siblings are universally annoying, especially his younger sister. He has started to speak in a language I don’t fully recognise. He will not hold my hand in public. I am becoming more and more embarrassing. Things I tell him are only believed when his peers or someone with more brain (a teacher) confirm them. He is quick to temper. He believes I interfere, am too strict, too draconian in my views on electronics, expect too much, do not provide him with all the various freedoms he craves.
And yet I can still hold onto some quiet moments when he is relaxed in my company, at ease, willing to share his thoughts and feelings, discuss politics, show me magic tricks he has perfected. He still wants to hug me, in private, he still requires tucking in at night, to be read aloud to, to cling onto the childishness of Christmas.
And now those times seem even more precious. The beginnings of him pulling away are kindling. And I do not want it to begin.
I want to turn back the clock to his toddler years when I felt claustrophobic from the pawing and was never allowed to go to the toilet alone. I want to go back and relive them because now I would relish those intimate periods when he literally felt a part of me, as if he wished he had never left my body and wanted to climb back in.
Time has flown. If the book is right I will probably loose him for a time, when friends and girls rise up the pecking order, and I become almost an irrelevance, consigned to providing a full fridge and clean laundry. He will spend more time locked in his room or roaming with his mates. I know we may be lucky (denial again) and retain a decent relationship throughout but even so the fundamentals will change.
I have, possibly, a couple of short years left when I am more important to him than anyone else in the world. I can only hope that the fact that he is more important to me than life itself will eventually mean we weather whatever storms are ahead.