Whenever I’m talking about having children or being a parent in any kind of philosophical way, I will always inevitably reach for the phrase “We all have our own crosses to bear.” And what I mean by that is that being a parent is incredibly difficult for all of us, but in our own distinct ways.
One of the things I find most tiresome about having children is the social aspect – but specifically that thing when your child really likes another child and you reckon the feeling is vaguely mutual, but you have to deal with a parent who is either totally disorganised or doesn’t like you, or doesn’t want the children to play together, or knows that its child isn’t into your child but can’t find the balls to tell you, or over-schedules the child so it is next available in 9 weeks’ time for 35 minutes only or just hates playdates but won’t say.
So I get the nagging from the child for a playdate, contact the parent, wait, wait, wait, then either get a knock back or worse, a knock-back without suggestions for other dates (translation: “this is never going to happen, bitch“) or, worse – just nothing.
“So when is X coming round to play?” says my tiny, hopeful, innocent child. And I have to fudge it or try harder with the bloody parent or make excuses or whatever.
It’s almost worse if I am eventually successful, because as soon as the child has gone home, mine says “When is X coming to play again,” and the thought of having to go through the whole ghastly rigmarole all over again makes me very badly want to flee to a dark room for an hour.
A very small silver lining about that whole manner of situation is that eventually you reach a point where your child gives up and moves on from the obsession and you can gratefully drop the whole toxic mess. And the massive relief doesn’t make the whole thing remotely worth it, as it is so stressful and emotional and frustrating and sad. But it is a very small, 2% upside. A bit like the good thing about having a nightmare being waking-up and realising that it was only a nightmare.
That’s happened to me a few times recently, and it’s just so lovely to strike those people from your consciousness. It’s like waking up after three weeks of cold, wet rain to a gorgeous sunny day.
It’s so magical to be able to say “Okay, forget it”, to allow yourself to stop going round and round in your head wondering why the hell they can’t just bung their kid round yours for two hours? I can’t say I didn’t try with these people. I tried and tried and got nothing back.
I’m thinking about this now because I passed a mother on the street the other day who was just the type of person I’m talking about. She’s not a bad person, I don’t hate her, but I tried and tried so hard because she was local and one of my children liked her child. But the whole relationship was like heaving a massive sack of misshapen concrete objects up a really slippery muddy hill in the rain.
But then, thank god, my child lost interest. And so I could let go.
So the other day when I saw her (no, she doesn’t read The Spike), instead of stopping and doing that torturous “Hi how are you? How are they? How was your holiday?” like-me, like-me, like-me bullshit I just lifted a hand, smiled and went “Hey!” and moved swiftly on – into the distance, into the light, into the rest of my life.