‘MUMMEEEE,’ calls the Older Child. ‘Nanna’s on the phone.’ Yes, Nanna, aka The Mothership, is indeed on the line, with a list of woes as long as her arm. Firstly, it’s the cat which has caused annoyance. Cleo, whom we offloaded to Bangor in 2010, has contracted some class of an ailment, and is putting up immense resistance to getting into a box to be carted to the vet. No amount of manhandling has succeeded, and injuries have been sustained, (to my parents, not the cat). The last time a vet was involved they hired a man who came around with large gloves and an apparent gift for dealing with cantankerous creatures. He got on the best with my mum and also managed to get the cat to the vet with relative ease. The cat, however, is only the first on her list of complaints today.
THE MOTHERSHIP: I’m only after reading that last blog you put up, and I think it’s the worst yet, actually. It was Michael who told me it was up, and very embarrassed I was, when I thought of the language he had to read. (A family friend, Michael, subscribed to my blog in the early days, to give me some confidence that people actually read it. He’s a mannerly sort, and I fear it may, at times, offend.)
ME: It was a stressful time, the summer.
THE MOTHERSHIP: Hmmmm, so it would appear. I was just thinking to myself, for an English Literature graduate, as you like to keep telling me you are, could you not find an alternative for the word ‘shite’?
(She utters the word shite in a stage whisper, despite being alone, upstairs in the study and dad being in the kitchen where he is, apparently ‘wrecking’.)
ME: (IRKED): I only remind you of the nature of my degree because I never get any credit for anything.
I shall elaborate on this. My children possess, (and forgive me for having a ‘proud mummy moment’ here), quite a varied vocabulary. When for example, I expel some wind in public, they will look AGHAST and say: ‘Mummy, that is not appropriate behaviour for the street.’ (In my defence I would like to add that I check that the street is deserted first.) The Small Child proclaimed that her pasta was ‘exceptional’ the other evening, which buoyed my wilting spirit. However, when I tell the Mothership of their utterances, she shakes her head and says, in an incredulous tone, ‘But where do they HEAR it?’
‘FROM ME!’ I want to shout. ‘I speak to my children!’ And I do speak to them- we chat often, and many’s the big word they’ve heard me employ.
‘I think they hear it off the TV,’ said The Mothership. ‘That Peppa Pig,’ she uses some nice words.’
(I swear to God I am not exaggerating this for comic effect.)
‘Yes, definitely. I would say that CBeebies is entirely responsible for their vocabulary.’ I sigh.
And then sometimes, they do something truly lovely and I pass these nuggets on, my heart swelling with maternal pride.’ Look,’ I want to say. ‘I may have fucked up a thing or two but I have raised two lovely children.’
I shall offer an example. The Smaller One was in the car coming home after parkrun one wet morning. For whatever reason, my friend was in the back with her and her hands were icy and she couldn’t seem to warm them. The Small Child reached up, took off her woolly hat and wrapped it round her hands, then took them in hers and rubbed them. She did this while telling a story, instinctively, and seemingly without much thought.
My friend told me and I welled up. So did she. ‘The Small Child,’ I said, in a reverent tone. ‘She’s a dote,’ said my friend. ‘She is,’ I agreed.
It was a small gesture, but for a six year old, I thought it was significant.
I rang The Mothership. ‘Wait til I tell you what the wee one did,’ I said.
There is a pause, while she digests the story. ‘Isn’t that just lovely?’ she says finally. ‘very kind. I like it when children are kind; it bodes well. But I mean, WHERE does she get it from? I don’t think I’m all that kind myself.’ (I’d like to add that occasionally she has her moments.)
I’m still here you know,’ I said, ‘On the phone. She may have got it from me! I can be nice!’
‘Hmmm. I suppose you can dear. Sometimes.’
I could tell she wasn’t convinced.
Back to the initial phone call which precipitated this rant.
THE MOTHERSHIP: I do give you credit, for some things. I just wish you wouldn’t insist on getting animals, which bring us no end of bother. You are also, I might add, a professional, so I would urge you to eradicate obscenities from your writing.
ME: I shall endeavour to.
THE MOTHERSHIP: Glad to hear it.
I hang up before telling her that we’ve told the Small Child she can visit the pet shop if she’s good and does her reading every day. She’s after a bearded dragon now.
I am absolutely melted with Brexit, and ‘not-quite-Brexit’ and ‘No Deal’ and ‘Maybe a Deal’ and ‘who fucking knows what’s happening tomorow’. It does me good that at least the Mothership and my children are consistent. Little else is, these days.