Everyone talks about how life changes when you have a child. They laugh knowingly about the sleep deprivation that’s coming, about the children coming first and you going into the place of last priority in the family as a parent.
What is less talked about is how having a child or children let’s you re-enter the world of enjoying and appreciating childhood and childish things. I can stop and stare at a squirrel with my baby and then exclaim in delight when I see that there are three of them. I can loudly shout or sing “Echo! Echo! Echo!” as we all walk through a tunnel or under a bridge. I can stop to watch street performers which I would very rarely do on my own. I can re-read the classic books that I loved as a child. I can kick leaves, talk out loud in the supermarket, splash in puddles, eat Haribo and watch Mr Tumbles (sorry to you haters- I think Justin Fletcher is fab!)
Then one day, it is suddenly the case that you have no child standing beside you. You’re out again and there is no one to talk to and no one to share these things with. Who shall I tell now that I just saw a nee naw flying by? (Do I need to explain that? I’m not sure!) If someone in the supermarket grabs the last loaf of bread I want just as I reach for it, do I now have to keep it in my head that I think she was a bit of a rude lady? A friend of mine was saddened this morning as she saw school children singing in a local shopping centre. She was out without her little girl and had a very sad moment of wanting to stand and watch whist her baby watched with her. Enjoying it on her own wasn’t good enough anymore. Here she was, out by herself with the rare chance to go and get a cup of coffeee or nip to the loo, or to go into a shop and try something on, but it wasn’twhat she could do that was on her mind, but the absence of her baby and what she now felt she couldn’t do. She said it beautifully when she said that her child’s separation anxiety was nothing compared to her own. Sometimes this is just so true.
I experienced the absence of being in a child’s company once both of my older daughters were at school , but then I reset the clock by having baby three and I am now back in squirrel-echo-neenaw-Mr Tumble land. I know to appreciate it because I know that it goes. The lot of a parent is to be in the bittersweet place where we want our children to grow, learn and be independent and then at the same time feel sad and a bit bereft as a stage passes. And the emotional pull of a nursery or school start, when we give them to other people to be taught and shaped is palpable.
I do look forward to pleasing myself more, but I have a funny feeling that when I can, I will wish for these days back too!