Wednesday 27 April 2016

At the zoo

Hermaphrodite Mum
Three kids and a single mum

The children came back from their dad's place this weekend full of the joys of spring. As I got supper ready, I listened stoically to their excited tales about going to the Land of the Lions at London Zoo. Apparently one of the male lions came right up to the glass partition and looked like he wanted to gobble up Walking Toddler! Imagine that? What fun! Oh, and Daddy managed to film it all on his iPhone. Wonderful. I can see it now: YouTube sensation as toddler becomes lion fodder at London Zoo. 

Male lion at London Zoo
Walking Toddler as lion fodder!
Seriously though - I am glad we have reached a point in our lives where our kids are happy to spend time with either parent. Ex-husband and I can pat each other on the back for being civilised grown-ups and managing our divorce in a mature manner...

At least, I was feeling like that until Middle Child managed to prick my sanctimonious bubble.

"You know what, Mummy?" he trilled. "Daddy used to be so grumpy when he lived at home with us, but now he's really fun! In fact, I would even say that's he more fun than you!"

And, if that wasn't enough, Quiet One joined in with: "He's right, Mum, you can be really grouchy these days."

I turned to Walking Toddler, waiting for her assessment on my character development, but she blew a raspberry instead, splattering yoghurt around the kitchen. Without thinking, I snatched up the yoghurt pot and dumped it in the bin.

"See!" cried Middle Child, folding his arms in victory. "You're no fun anymore. And you're always going on about how depressed you are."

A leaf out of Disney

In that moment, I realised that I had fallen into the trap of treating my children like confidantes. Clearly, in the absence of an equal partner living at home, I had taken to sharing my mood (and troubles) with my eldest children on too frequent a basis. For the most part, our kids don't want to hear about our daily struggles, or indeed our mid-life crises. They just want us to be strong and buoyant. We're there to hold out the safety net for them, not to take a bounce ourselves.

So that night, as I put them to bed, I made a vow that I would try to be a lighter, more carefree mum, or at least do a better job of shielding them from adult realities. 

(Still felt bitter about 'fun Daddy' though. Easy for him to take a Disney-esque approach to life - he only has to look after the kids every other weekend, if that. I'd like to have seen him singing to the birds if he'd had to clear up after Walking Toddler's sick bug last week.)

Visitor in the night

In the early hours of the morning, I became a landing pad for a small human missile. Once I had established I wasn't a poor, defenceless woman being murdered in her bed, I gave Middle Child a hug.

"What's the matter sweetie?"

"I had a nightmare! I dreamt Walking Toddler was eaten by a lion and then it spat out all her bones!"

I shushed and comforted him until he curled up on the pillow next to me. "Don't ever leave me, Mummy," he murmured drowsily as he fell asleep.

Fear and fun so often spring from the same source. As I lay there beside him, wide awake, I realised that children needed to learn about every facet of life - even the dark underbelly of experience - to equip themselves for the challenges of adulthood. I was glad that 'fun Daddy' could show them a good time, but at least not-so-fun Mummy was there to hold their hand in the black hours of the night.

Hermaphrodite Mum is a fictional creation of Emma Clark Lam

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