Sometimes having children can be like watching a time-lapse video. It takes my breath away how quickly phases seem to have passed when looking back, despite feeling like a hundred years when you’re in the thick of them…colic, explosive nappies, into-everything, tantrums, negotiations, picking-your-battles, sleep please please fricking sleep. How can this day NOT BE OVER YET? In those difficult demanding days life can feel like a heady cocktail of wishing time away, and mourning its loss once it’s gone and you hadn’t had the chance to say goodbye.
For example… learning to talk. You can’t wait for them to be able to communicate, celebrate joyously when the baby yabber blabber turns to actual words, deliciously cute words such as “genklu” which are absolutely understandable (ok, maybe to only you) as being ‘thank you”…until the day you realise you have lost it forever when you say “genklu” to your child only for them to say “it’s THANK YOU, mummy!” in the tone of an eye-rolling teenager, at 4. My 4 year old currently calls the Natural History Museum the Hattral Mystery Museum…and I never want this to end.
It’s easy to become marooned in a habit of mourning and lost goodbyes, without properly greeting and welcoming new phases in life. I was listening to a programme on radio 4 talking about dealing with change, and how transition times in adult lives can lend themselves to sorrow and depression…that what we basically feel in these episodes is a sense of lost control. This loss of control is like an emotional regression to the frustration felt when we were babies/toddlers, experiencing no autonomy in terms of how anything in our lives is run, having the bends and not being able to voice how it’s making you feel (it is SO unfair how mummy doesn’t let us eat drain cleaner/draw on the curtains/shave the dog!). So it started me thinking about how acknowledging each stage coming to a close and how positively embracing a new phase, however challenging, is a way to ensure we can forge through the storm and stay upright.
My littlest is starting school this September. Before I can fully register it he is shedding his toddler cocoon and is now a boy… up, up and away. I gaze at my 7-year old and I’m aware of pre-empting feeling a latent sense of sorrow as he moves beyond his boyhood into pre-teen, anticipating the mayhem of the baby years slipping into that timeless pool of memory, clutching at them desperately before they’re plucked away.
Since turning 40 I’ve been feeling a sense that there are now things that are properly lost to me as opportunities … Maybe I won’t ever become a Wimbledon Champion after all….maybe it’s too late to learn how to blow dry my hair properly… maybe I won’t ever learn how to do the perfect eye liner ‘flick’… Realising that, even though I don’t want any more children, I’m somehow suddenly not far from entering a stage in my life where that decision will not biologically be mine to start with. I’ll feel better when I’ve started running regularly, sorted myself out professionally, when I’m living in my ‘forever home’, when I’m not so tired, when I have more money to have more time to have more patience… eternally suspended in stasis, in looking back or looking forward.
I noticed I was looking at the past and the future as separate countries to the one I’m living in. And actually it’s the same country. Same postcode even. Here and now. Rather than allowing myself to feel sorrowful about the long kiss goodbye to each stage in life, it must be more positive to reframe each episode of this journey as a new hello, otherwise you’ll miss it entirely. So, hello 40s. Hello primary school years. Nice to meet you, welcome. Here we go…