There’s been a change in our house recently. We a are nappyless, buggyless and beakerless household. In fact, if I admit it to myself, we have been for a while. After resisting it for so long, a couple of months ago I let go of the giant heap of scuffed plastic toys that cluttered up the playroom, collected dust and got in the way of the hoover. The ones my children loved the most were often the largest, ugliest and brightest. They have always tended to leave the tasteful wooden toys well alone. So it’s not for the that reason I haven’t been able to eject them.
My youngest is growing up faster than the other two. He’s already left Thomas the Tank engines behind and loves the marketing genius that is Skylanders. He is only four, but already CBeebies is ‘so last season’ and he prefers the Japanese fighting cartoons his brother watches. He is small and slight for his age, babied by the older girls at school, but at home he is is clear that he can ride his likeabike as fast as a 6 year old thank you very much. I want to say to him ‘stop!’ as he misses out a whole chunk of childhood that my other two didn’t.
I have always worked since having children, part time at least, for a reason. I know that when you’re in it, those days at the park, sometimes completely empty except the two of you, felt like they would never end. But now I’m looking back wistfully at the small pleasures of feeding the ducks, having a plausible reason to shout ‘fire engine’ as another one nee naws its way past and the long ago sharing in the excitement of the bin lorry arriving at the house, my crowd of little faces amusing the dustmen as they pressed themselves to the window for the weekly event. Even now I still have to resist the urge to yell ‘coach full of old ladies’ when a bus load of cauliflower perms passes by. It wouldn’t go down well when at the garden centre.
Don’t get me wrong. When they were all little it was knackering -as in worn to the bone, dead on your feet, mind numbingly tiring. And sometimes, read often, pretty boring, especially on days when there were no other mothers (or fathers) to share it with. After the two hundred and eighth time you’ve helped put together that Dora the Explorer jigsaw, you could quite happily put it through the shredder.
But – I can feel the older two pulling away. I didn’t expect my daughter, aged seven,to start to harass me for earrings, bikinis, or high heels, when at this age I was still content to climb trees and run about in polo neck and dungarees (well it was the 70s). She still does want to climb trees (thankfully) but the other stuff and what comes with it – the hip hands, the eye rolling, the attitude of a fifteen year old – where did that come from?
My oldest already wants to be out as much as humanly possible. Permanently attached to a ball (cricket, rugby, football – he’s not fussy), a ball and a friend are all that are required for entertainment. Parents not needed. He comes back when he’s hungry or when his watch alarm goes off, unless he is actually requested to spend time with the rest of us.
Don’t get me wrong, the retrospectoscope is a wonderful thing. And combined with the rose tinted glasses, you’re on to a winner.
But suddenly I feel like like Sleeping Beauty waking up after the 100 year sleep. The children still – all – regularly cause me to smile and post their comments to Facebook. But I wonder how much longer I will get away with it.