Can I let you in to a bit of a secret? I really like my children. They are funny and sweet and usually kind, and especially since they’re back in a routine, I’m quite taken with them. When I get them in from school we park ourselves on the sofa in front of ‘Ben and Holly,’ and I just sit and sort of ‘nuzzle’ them, smelling their hair and marvelling at the curve of their cheeks. Every night, even on the days when they’ve been at their most mischievous, I go in and gaze at their faces in repose. They’ve pushed their beds together and sometimes sleep with an arm slung over the other. It’s unbearably cute.
I often call LSB over, so he doesn’t miss out on the joy. ‘Would you look at them,’ I say. ‘Aren’t they just lovely? I mean, have you ever seen such gorgeous children?’ He just nods and smiles, knowing I won’t be quite so enchanted in the morning when they’ve refused three different types of cereal.
So why then, do I only write about the bad stuff, when they’ve pissed me off good and proper?
Back in August I was out for dinner with a few girls and we were sharing horror stories about the holidays. ‘Thank f**k it’s almost September,’ we sighed, ordering another bottle of red. I had written a post about mine being particularly irksome, which one pal had found very funny. ‘I hope people realise that I’m quite fond of them, even when they are being melters.’ I joked. ‘Hmmm,’ she said. ‘I don’t know if it’s always that clear.’
I nearly spat out my Malbec. ‘Shit!’ I thought. I know I complain, loudly and often, but surely it’s obvious that I love the bones of them? Didn’t I take the career break so I could spend time at home and be a better mum? I asked another pal for her take on it. ‘You might need to be more explicit,’ said she. ‘Sometimes I detect a sense of ambivalence.’
Perturbed, I started to harass LSB. ‘You’re the best advert for contraception I’ve ever seen,’ he said, ‘keep writing the blog and there won’t be any more issues about primary school places.’
Feck away off, I told him.
The thing about children, is the paradox of it. One moment I could almost EAT mine, looking on in wonder at them, and the next, I’m yelling: ‘I AM LEAVING THE BUILDING,’ as I scarper to out the front door. The practice of parenting is just relentless, or as Anne Lamott puts it: ‘Having a baby is like suddenly getting the world’s worst roommate, like having Janice Joplin with a bad hangover and PMS come to stay with you.’ Thanks Anne, I can always rely on you for a good quote.
But if there’s one thing worse than being a whiney mum, it’s being a soppy mum. We all know a few. ‘Dear God,’ we say, ‘not another picture of that child on Facebook,’ #myheart, #myworld, #thatface and obviously, #blessed. PASS THE BOKE BUCKET. I was in Forestside last Saturday, hunting for fresh thyme for a compote (yes, I was reading Anna Jones in The Guardian again) when I met another Mum from school. We’d both delivered our kids to the same party so had a two hour reprieve. ‘Isn’t it brilliant,’ we gushed. ‘YEOOOOO !!!’ (sometimes the West Belfast husband rubs off on me.) It’s not that shopping with your offspring is hell, it’s just hard to plan your weekly dinners when one wants you to buy them a Twirl and the other is crying because you won’t buy her another shite costume for Halloween. ‘Let’s make one,’ you say. ‘You always say that but you never do,’ she cries, as you lambast yourself internally as that is indeed the case. Shopping with a side of pure guilt and misery mixed in.
Anyway, said mum and I got chatting and she said that like me, she thinks her kids are brilliant but she has a pal who posts about three horrifically saccharine photos a week and it makes her feel a wee bit nauseous. ‘I mean,’ she explained, ‘mine say funny things too, but I’m not going to bore the bastard off you about it.’
I appreciate though that I’m very lucky, because I have the grandparents I can talk to ad infinitum about my kids, and it never bores the pants of them. My mum has actually told me to WRITE DOWN all the funny things mine say incase she misses anything. Sometimes I ring and mid-sentence she cuts me off. ‘Hang on, I’m away to get a pen.’ she says. ‘I want to get this just right.’
She has a way of making me feel really good about it too. ‘They’re just so clever and well-spoken. Wherever can they have heard these things?’ ‘Well obviously not their mother with the English degree who is sometimes on the radio,’ I retort.
I know I’m fortunate. I have everything I’ve ever wanted, which I guess makes me feel like a selfish, ungrateful fecker when I feel cross. But irked I am, when I find half a cheese toasty shoved down the side of the sofa, or have a massive row on my hands because they can’t wear their trainers as they’re wet. ‘Of course they’re frigging wet. I didn’t ask you to run into the tide wearing them did I? And then to bury them in the sand!’ FFS. (That was yesterday after a trip to Bangor. It’s still fresh in my mind.)
In short guys, my kids are great. LSB is a dote. But sometimes you just need to clear the f**k out for a bit, and it’s all the nicer when you return.