It’s the big ‘life’ stuff: Love. Laughter. Fun.
This morning, I taught my two little girls to dunk their croissants into small bowls of hot chocolate, because nobody breakfasts like the French. I’m also teaching them to read and write and count. All that’s important, but my children are teaching me things that are considerably more important than any of these.
The first thing that my children are teaching me is play.
When I was a child, play was a restricted activity. It had to be quiet. It had to be separate. It had to be cordoned off like a crime scene. It was mainly consigned to the garden, beyond the orchard. That’s where I spent a bulk of my time as a child. On my own too. Nearly all the play I remember was alone. Sometimes I’d hook up with kids who visited their grandparents next door, but that was only the odd Saturday. Most of my play was me alone in the play room, quietly changing Barbie’s clothes and performing organ (stuffing) transplants on my teddies. As soon as I could read, that’s pretty much all I did. When I was with adults, I was expected to be quiet and sit still. And that’s what my mother still boasts about today – ‘I could take you anywhere. You always sat nice and quiet, and looked pretty.’
I think that has had an effect on how I do life now. I’m no psychiatrist, but I still tend to sit nice and quiet in a crowd, do my best to look pretty, but as the years tick by, and life marks you as it does, the ‘pretty’ part is a thing of the past.
All those years I wanted to roar, express myself and be heard, but didn’t. I was trying desperately to please my mother. Little did I know that there is no pleasing my mother. And thanks to that quiet childhood, I don’t have a roar. Well, I bloody well want one.
My daughters can roar. They play differently. They scream and squeal at bubbles and balloons. They race around the garden and do roly-polies on their beds. My mother tells me I let my children behave like wild animals, and I’m sure others do too. I don’t give a hoot. My children can play. Most importantly, my daughters can roar.
They’ll be able to roar as grown ups too. They’ll have a voice; they’ll make themselves heard; they won’t be scared of disturbing the peace as I am.
And neither of my daughters are pretty – they are stunningly beautiful. The more their eyes shine with fun and love and excitement, the more beautiful they become.
Sometimes they get told to pipe down and give Mummy’s ears a rest, and that’s okay too. But sometimes I take them to the playground or the beach and let them go for it. It’s about trying to strike a balance, and I’m sure I’m not getting it right, but I’d rather be too loose than too tight. And sometimes I join in – and that’s when my learning to play happens. And, my God, but it’s fun! Laugh out loud and roll on the floor fun.
The second thing my children are teaching me is how to love.
Love is … (wow – am I actually going to try to define it? Yep – I will give that a go). For me love is sacrifice, and being happy to sacrifice. It’s giving, and being happy to give. For me it’s work, and being happy to do the work. For me it’s intimacy, and being happy to be intimate. It’s unconditional, completely so, no ‘out’ if it gets inconvenient or unpleasant for a while – so love is a commitment to being unconditional, and being happy to be committed
to an asylum. (Although, if it’s abusive or toxic, get out!) All this I have learned from my children. I didn’t know any of that before I had kids. My children have taught me that I really love to love. And, I find that I’m good at it.
This I have found the most difficult lesson, and is potentially the most life changing. Not so long ago, I found the love they have for me overwhelming. It’s in the amount of time they want to spend snuggled into me physically, the look in their eyes when we share a funny moment, the way they tell me they love me in not just what they say, but what they do, all the time. It was difficult for me to accept, and I wondered: what’s going on here? Why is this uncomfortable?
With the risk of sounding like a broken record about my childhood, love was lacking at times. Not all the time – there’s some happy memories in there
somewhere. But it is typical that when your parents choose an addiction over you, (which is how the child sees it, I know it’s more complicated than that) you don’t feel loved. So I guess that’s the bottom line: I grew up not feeling loved – that was the norm for me. It became okay along the way.
The effect of this is well demonstrated when I look at my romantic history. To all the men who have said to me: ‘Rebecca, you are a bloody gorgeous goddess of a woman. I love you. I want to be with you’, I’ve replied: ‘You’re weird. What’s wrong with you? I’m having none of that!’ Then, to all the men who have said, through their actions: ‘Rebecca, you’re okay. I’ll treat you like crap for while if you’ll let me, until I get bored,’ I’ve replied: ‘Gee thanks! I love you! You’re wonderful!’
Hmmm… a real problem and a trend that seriously needs reversing.
I’m very okay with the time that my girls want to spend snuggled into me physically now, and the way they demonstrate their amazing love for me. I find that being loved is becoming my ‘norm’. And I really, really, really like it. A lot. Love being loved. It’s fab. More love please.
So, in order for me to move on to a healthy, nurturing, happy relationship with a member of the opposite sex, I need to put something I’ve learnt into action. To the men who say: ‘yeah, you’re okay; I’ll treat you like crap for a while’, I need to reply: ‘You’re weird. There’s something wrong with you. I’m having none of that!’ And to the men, or rather the right man, singular, who says: ‘You are a goddess, I love you. I want to be with you’, I need to reply: ‘Gee thanks! I love you too! You’re wonderful!’
Doesn’t that make better sense? It seems obvious, eh? Well, it hasn’t been, unfortunately. But, it is now, thanks to those two beautiful rascals in the other room watching Frozen, singing along and laughing their heads off. Loudly.