J keeps asking me this question: “how old do you have to be to leave your mummy?” He is five years old and he has already started wondering when he can leave home.
It took us a while for us to get to this succinct question as his five year old vocabulary (brilliant though it is) meant that he couldn’t quite articulate his question exactly as he intended. Consequently we went through several scenarios; the process of a child going to nursery and its mum leaving it there, the act of a baby being separated from its mum by the cutting of the umbilical cord, even exploring why we invite complete strangers into our home to babysit. If you really think about it most of these situations are a bit weird for children to understand. I mean, we tell our children not to talk to strangers and yet here we are leaving them with one at nursery or at home to be babysat by, but don’t worry darlings it will be fine, THIS stranger is okay. Anyway, J’s question has left me feeling, well, sad.
Being a stay at home Mum I know my main focus in life is to be homemaker and child raiser. Giving the children a healthy, secure, loving and stable upbringing especially in the throes of our current expat upheaval. As a consequence of being that stay at home person I believe that I am more aware of the fragility of childhood and the interactions between family members than perhaps a working parent would be. I have more time on my hands to analyse unspoken thoughts, throw away words and the naughty (or nice) deeds that daily family life brings.
One day these children really will be totally independent from me. They will pop home as the fancy (or sense of duty) takes them, which could be once a week, once a month or even once a year. When you have children you know they won’t stay children forever but I think it has only just hit me that one day they really will leave. The conflicting emotions that this prompts is scary and confusing. My daughter currently tells me that she is going to live next door. In so many ways I hope she does, but in so many more I hope she doesn’t. In actual fact we have moved on slightly as T used to tell me she was going to be a freeloader (well, what she actually said was that she was “going to live with you forever Mummy, and I’m not going to get a job, and we can look for someone for me to marry together.” Presumably the poor man would then be forced to move in with me too). In addition to living next door she has also begun to reassure me that she is never going to get married. It also appears that my regular rants about her being able-to-do-anything-so-long-as-she-works-hard-and-focuses has started to sink in as she is no longer talking about not getting a job, there is hope that she will be a contributing member of society – phew.
When both the children were toddlers, no scratch that, from the ages of about 6 months to 4 years, if anyone threw any comments about them leaving home or not staying this small forever, I was always bullet fast in my response of “yep, great isn’t it. Shame they can’t leave now.” However, now they are actual people with personalities of their own, I am starting to quite like them. I can have a conversation with them. They both throw weird questions at me that challenge me, that make me feel proud and slightly stupid at the same time. They make me laugh. They really do enrich my life. So when they get older and more independent of me, less needy, when they have a career that they love or a job that they hate, when they have found a partner they love, when they become grown ups, I just hope that they will quite like me too. That they will grow up to see Steve and I as people, not just Mum and Dad. I really hope that at the end of their childhood, they will have the desire to spend time with us, not out of an ingrained sense of duty but really because, actually, they quite like us.