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 explosive nappies, 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, even more so when words such as “genklu” 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.
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 discussing dealing with change, and how transition times in adult lives can lend themselves to sorrow and depression…that what we feel in these episodes is a sense of lost control of our lives. This almost regresses us back emotionally to the frustration and desperation felt when we were babies/toddlers, experiencing no autonomy in terms of how anything in our lives is run, experiencing the bends and not being able to voice how it’s making you feel (it IS so unfair how mummy doesn’t let us use the power tools!). My eldest started school this year and before I could fully register it he has shed his toddler cocoon and is now a boy… up, up and away. I gaze at my 1-year old and I’m aware of pre-empting feeling a latent sense of sorrow as he moves beyond his babyhood into toddlerdom, anticipating these baby years slipping into that timeless pool of memory, clutching at them desperately before they’re plucked away.
I’ve just turned 40 (wtf?), and have been feeling a sense that there are now things that are lost to me as opportunities… am I ever going to be “successful”? … will I ever feel proud of the way I look, rather than looking back at photos and wishing I had appreciated how foxy I was then? … maybe I won’t ever learn how to blow dry my hair properly… maybe I won’t ever find the perfect mascara… Realizing that, even though I don’t want any more children, I’m entering a stage in my life where that decision will not biologically be mine to start with. I’ll feel better when I’ve got properly fit, 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.
But then, 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. So, hello 40s. Hello primary school years. Hello toddler years. Nice to meet you, welcome. Here we go…!