It’s as a nine year old, a ten in nine days nine year old, counts on her fingers – ‘nine plus seven so that’s ten, eleven…’ – I realise that while I still ask similar questions and she peppers her sentences with like and I watch my own baby out of the corner of my eye and we both count on our fingers – ‘fourteen, fifteen…’ – that outwardly I probably resemble an actual grown up.
‘Sixteen! I’ll be sixteen when she is nine like I am now. I’ll, like, really very nearly be able to drive!’
Girlish and excited and, like, so desperate to grow up but still able to indulge in the beauty of ring a roses and toy cars and pretend and life without all the complications and responsibilities.
New friends to play with are even better than Mummy and the child who is usually burrowing her head between my shoulder and chin as she hides was suddenly all I want you to put my shoes on now and play jumping with me now and lets place chase while I try to say your names because this is fun nownowNOW!
I take one foot and the other is taken by the nine, ten in nine days girl. Today I realised that these shoes are probably a little too small and tiny toes wriggle and squirm and limbs are all over because everything else is so distracting and I try to marry foot with shoe as best I can. It’s then that I realise that I am being looked to for advice ‘these shoes are just so, like, tiny! Look how small they are! They’re so hard to put on, how do you…?‘
Don’t be fooled kid. I am twenty seven, twenty eight in forty seven days, and I don’t even know. I just aim shoe at foot and hope for the best.
It always looks like mummys know what they’re doing right? I’m sure it’s a lie. We mostly pretend and shroud ourselves in an air of grown up mystery to make the younger feel like we got this shit when invariably, we don’t.
I am realising, slowly, that being a grown up is something that I am finding a particular struggle at the moment. There’s a lot about being a grown up that is, like, totally awesome. Genuinely, being woken up by the foghorn yell of ‘morning Mummy! I’m awake now!’ while being dive bombed in the face is brilliant, I’m the most anti morning person in the world and even I can’t not love that.
More awesome is laying contorted on one side of a toddler bed, nose to nose singing a tuneless duet of Twinkle Twinkle as I look down at her and its all beautiful and she looks up at my mouth – which does that weird I know someone is looking at me so I’m going to go all over animated and strange thing – as I form the words so she knows what’s coming next. Those moments, all clouds of mingling breath and closeness and shared giggles and ‘just one more tuggle mummy please thank you’ are just wow.
It’s been a long time coming and my god am I putting my absolute all into savouring every last second, to live in the moment for the moment and ignore everything else.
It’s the other stuff that sends me into a panic spiral, like the washing and the shopping and the cleaning and the cooking and is the door locked and the oven off and the light bulb upstairs just blew and when is that bill due and there are no clean socks again and doctors appointments and it is this week that the boiler is being fixed andandand… All that shit slays me because I am yet to work out how to allocate the headspace for everything.
Initially my days are begun with a big cup of pretend where I pretend to smile and enthuse and enjoy until (hopefully) it kicks in naturally and I can enjoy until I need another dose of pretend and repeat times infinity forever. It takes every last cell of my being to plaster on the pretend but I do it because I have to and I want to and it’s what’s important and maybe the more I pretend the more it is likely to just happen spontaneously one day like a miracle of normal. But all of the other stuff…?
It’s too much. It’s too much to see a full sink in the kitchen or a pile of dirty washing in the bathroom. It’s too much to pour the last drop of milk or to wonder what’s for dinner and how and when and who and what?
I think that’s why I need to escape sometimes.