Showing posts with label growing up. Show all posts
Showing posts with label growing up. Show all posts

Wednesday 3 August 2016

Game on

"Come on Mummy, you can do it!" Could I though? Could I really? It turned out I could. Hop, skip and a jump along the towpath, ignoring the stares of the more sedate grown-ups out for a walk. That's all there was to it. Yes, I know, we are not talking about rowing across the Atlantic here, but for some reason I seem to have lost the ability to play with my children. Now the summer holidays are upon us, I am struggling to re-discover my inner child.

A boy's feet with a crab in a bucket - crabbing!
Recovering the lost art of entertaining the kids!
A whole year of working freelance, finishing off my novel and squeezing out the odd blog post has left me devoid of play skills (and I mean the physical, get-down-on-the-floor, act-like-an-idiot mode of play). When my kids were little, I wasn't too bad at it. Apart from that first culture-shifting moment at a Monkey Music class in Earlsfield, where I realised that parenthood now required me to sing ridiculous songs and swing my arm like an elephant's trunk, I generally managed to get down to my kids' level in those early years. 

Thursday 30 July 2015

Back in Neverland

I was sorting through photos on the computer this week and came across a video clip of the children from about five years ago. Oh my! Just watching them giggling together and scampering around a sunlit meadow made my heart clench. I wanted to reach into the computer screen and pull those chubby little pootles out onto my lap. Those were the days when they were the beginning and end of my world. They took precedence over everything - my career, my ambition and sometimes even my sense of self.

Two children cuddling in a garden
Rose-tinted childhood
How have all those years shuffled by so quickly? My daughter starts secondary school in September. She is on the cusp of teenage-hood and yet she can still slip effortlessly into imaginary games with her younger brother. I watch them playing together and wonder if this is the last summer of innocence. At a recent new girls' day, one of the teachers explained how he too would have girls starting at the school. "I share your joy and your pain at watching them grow up," he told us.

I am so proud at how far my daughter has come. I am also genuinely excited about the opportunities that now lie within her grasp: the literature she will devour, the mysteries she will solve, the drama of finding herself and launching that identity into the world at large. It won't be long before she becomes an independent person with dreams and projects of her own. So why the pain? Why do I look back and mourn the child that she was?

Monday 12 May 2014

Packing a bag, with love

My baby (all five foot of her) is leaving home this week. Alright, I am being dramatic. She is going away for two nights on a year 5 school trip. Still, how are we going to cope without her? Our household will seem off-kilter without her serene little presence, her piles of paperback novels and her flute-practise. Not least, who is going to feed the dog in the morning?

Beach at East Wittering
Learning to let go...
Last night I was packing up her bag for the BIG trip, conscientiously working my way down the list provided by school: fleece, outdoor shoes, shower cap, medium-sized towel etc. Check! Somehow my scrupulous folding of her clothes and the orderly placement of each item into the holdall became an expression of love. 

I remember my own mother doing the same when I went off to boarding school. No nine-year old could have been better equipped for institutional life. My tuckbox even boasted a sewing kit, complete with a tub of dressmaker pins, a sheaf of press studs and a thimble. Never mind that I had barely threaded a needle in my life. The women in my family send their children out into the world prepared, provisioned and nametaped. 

Thursday 14 February 2013

Growing pains

Hermaphrodite Mum
Three kids and a single mother

Middle Child told me at bathtime last night that he wanted to stay living with me until he was 40 years old (his equivalent of old age). This was in response to my lament that he was growing up too quickly. With tears in his eyes, he told me he didn't want to become a big boy. We are both afraid of his increasing independence and what it spells for our relationship.

This is the central contradiction of parenting: on the one hand we want our children to progress and meet all their milestones, but on the other we can't bear the idea of our babies growing up and living beyond our influence.

Don't grow up too fast, baby!
© Photographer: Rebecca Abell | Agency:
Last week I was dropping off my nine-year-old, the Quiet One, at school. Normally we say goodbye in the school hallway - public kisses are no longer permitted. I have to content myself with a wink and discreet shoulder squeeze. On this occasion, however, I popped into her classroom to remind her about some homework that needed handing in. She was horrified by my intrusion. "Mum, you are embarrassing me!"

Girls, particularly in the West, seem to grow up too quickly. I was listening to Libby Purves a few weeks ago on Radio 4's Midweek programme. One of her guests was reminiscing about attending school in India: he recalled how 17-year old girls were content to play hopscotch in the playground. That would never happen here. A slew of factors - pop culture, commercial pressures, the fashion industry and rafts of examinations - means that our children are too eager to ape the grown-ups. They cast off their innocence like a Boden party dress, in the race to keep up with their peers. Suddenly it's all about skinny jeans, Gangnam Style and rather inappropriate dance moves.

When my two eldest children were babies, I thought it would last forever. Now I see how quickly those years pass. I watch Non-Walking Toddler's progression with a crushing sense of nostalgia. And yet I am desperate for her to start walking! When she took a few tentative steps between the sofa and the coffee table the other day, I cheered her on like she was running 100 metres in the Olympic finals. We are hardwired to push our children onwards, even if our hearts protest.

Quiet One brought some friends home this week. Over sausages and chips they discussed which of the boys they liked most in the class. "Girls," I said, "don't grow up too quickly. You can always go forwards, but you can never go back to the past." They looked at me like I was talking nonsense. They were right. How can we expect them to resist the culture we impose upon them? Their budding minds are designed to absorb these formative influences. The challenge lies with us - we need to give them less screen-time, more adventures, more time outdoors and some immunity from everyday pressures. 

Parents will always have an eye to the past and an eye to the future. The trick is striking a healthy balance. When I was putting Middle Child to bed, he amended his earlier statement. "Actually Mummy, I think I will only live with you until I find a wife and build my first house." Yes, very wise, little man.

Hermaphrodite Mum is a fictional creation of Emma Clark Lam
Previous posts by Hermaphrodite Mum: