I am definitely not one of these women who define themselves entirely through motherhood. I’ve always been partially conflicted by two images of myself – the first as earth mother – led by my overblown hourglass frame and loving, happy personality – and the second as career woman, led by the fidgety, goal oriented, quite brainy side.
I have moments of disappointment that I don’t have more than one child – mostly because I wish I had a big, chaotic family to sit round the Sunday lunch table with – with me as matriarch of course – but instead find myself around my cousin-in-law’s table (Soph) or that of one of my best friends (Penni) – who are what I feel I should have been…. But of course there are compensations in the simplicity for the rest of my life, of having one, easy child.
I have a very smart, independent, quirky, emotionally intelligent, thinker of 9 years old. She’s also scruffy, hates clothes, obsessed with animals (currently horses), a daydreamer – and, it has to be admitted, slightly odd:-
- She doesn’t mind being on her own in school breaks and will run round day dreaming if need be. That would have killed me.
- She hates to be kissed or told she is lovely or beautiful – she thinks it is “disgusting”. Hates pink and pretty dresses
- She has this weird tic where she gets excited about a thought or a daydream or a book and will start kicking her legs and arms and rolling her eyes. (This led her last school to think she might be on the autistic spectrum)
- Whilst she baulks at expressions of affection to me specifically (she’s much better with her dad), she insists on sleeping in my bed every night.
She’s extremely hard to bend, manipulate or force – and if she has decided something really doesn’t matter – like her presentation of her work or herself, it’s extremely hard to get her to budge. She has an answer for everything.
Mostly her eyes sparkle with fun.
My friends all think she will be something. Her godfather nags me to ensure she makes every effort at school because she is bound to be something amazing if she applies herself. Another friend says he thinks she is indeed on the autistic spectrum but it is the kind of autism that will serve her as she is not that worried about what people think of her.
Whilst I recognise a lot of myself in her, mostly she flummoxes me.
I wonder about her inability to tell me she loves me or hug me very much or her hatred of kisses. Is it her railing against the authority I have over her? And I wonder about the fact that it doesn’t upset me – that I just somehow have such security in her love for me that it just amuses me – this stubbornness about expressing it.
So today she starts back at school where she mostly does very well. I’m always surprised at her glowing reports considering the lack of effort she puts into her homework. Would she do better if I pushed her further? Probably. But does it ultimately matter? I would much rather she were intelligent and inquiring rather than top in exams. I think people find their own level when they are ready – lots of my peers and colleagues flunked school but have done very well at work. I have however, through the auspices of my neighbour, as a nod to doing the right thing, got her a maths tutor.
All in all though she is the biggest and most beautiful mystery to me. And I have no idea whether my more lax style of parenting is the right thing or not. We all make it up as we go along in parenthood after all and the only thing for sure is that at some point we will screw up.