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For years, I have been calling Z my heart. Recently, in a bid to spice things up he has taken to calling me my kidney and on special occasions sweetpancreas.

I have always been playful and mischievous (my regular pasttime is still to make prank phonecalls to Z at work, at least once a week) and I am childlike in many ways (I love shiny things, I clap when swept up in a fit of enthusiasm, I bounce slightly when I am especially gleeful, and I can be Petulant with the best of them). In other ways though I feel ancient and serious as stone. There are facets of my inner child that are almost lost to me.

Perhaps this is because my outer child stopped being one aged 8.5 when my father died and everything I had known splintered like glass. What's the point of Barbies when the Reaper walks by your side and turns every word to ash? What is the point of gossiping about boys and kisses when there is a war on and all you can think about is how the world is Random and Cruel and it is Best To Be Prepared but no one else cares about having Emergency Plans or Why Terrible Things Happen to Innocent People.

Children can sense difference in others and the bubble of silence I walked in, the sadness I carried in me leaked from every pore and isolated me as effectively as leprosy. Play became alien, and pointless. It's what foolish people did in safe worlds. Survival was my game, and it didn't brook lightness. And it permeated me, it stuck to me like a second skin and years later when I tried to shrug it away it still left plenty of abrasions and dents, like skin after a burn.

Finding my inner child after trauma was difficult. It involved an intentional forgetting of what I had learned about the world, and I could never do it completely. I found it difficult to connect to other children, difficult to find a language that wasn't awkward or tinged with sadness.

And when my own child came into the world and pushed me in thousands of ways, I felt the broken place in me. I didn't know how play with him and that made me sad and intensely anxious.

Partially this was to do with him. For the first three months my son found the world a singularly unamusing place, and most attempts to engage him in play led to him writhing around in some form of despodency or rage. Rare were the games that would make him crack a smile and I found it demoralising. Considered it an illustration of my inadequacy and his rejection.

But mostly it was me. It feels as though the business of having a child is all about overcoming mental barriers of one kind of another (beginning with disguist and ending with the bonfire of your old life and treasured inhibitions). You can feel like an absolute plonker spending hours of your day talking to someone who doesn't talk back, or parroting back every early Ah-Goooo and Gah. I'm sure radio commentators make a much more natural transition to this aspect of parenthood, but for me keeping up a steady stream of bright chatter was more of an adjustment. (In fact, I've been assessing the cost-effectiveness ratio of simply setting up Matei with a parrot, maybe teaching it to also gently peck at him whenever he approaches plants/lightsockets/the catfood/my earrings).

But slowly, slowly I have been learning how to let go and play with my son. Largely this involves getting out of his way as he entertains himself by waving things around, and trying to put them inside other things, and rifling through drawers and boxes and handbags and then clapping at his efforts extravagantly. But I'm revelling in being able to make him laugh - how putting on my head something that doesn't belong there is a baby joke that never gets old. Or letting him present me with an array of things to chew on - that one is a routine I am very fond of because often we can conduct it while I am having a nice lie down. On the other hand I rarely get tired of putting things on Matei's head and if it weren't for his sensitive ultra-allergic skin he would have been sporting a whole range of fake beards and extravagantly curly-tipped mustaches. In fact, I am thinking of buying him a pipe for his first birthday, which ought to be a win-win situation since he enjoys putting objects in his mouth and I enjoy exploiting my family for comic effect.

Somedays, when confronted with the prospect of spending long stretches of time alone with my son, I still panic and freeze, because I'm afraid I won't know what to do. But more often than not when I think of something - such as having elaborate crawl chases through the house, while making ferocious animal sounds it's a piece of pure joy, like stumbling upon diamonds, like remembering a piece of language you used to know.


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 10th, 2008 07:23 pm (UTC)
which ought to be a win-win situation since he enjoys putting objects in his mouth and I enjoy exploiting my family for comic effect.
Hehehe. Brilliant.
Nov. 11th, 2008 01:59 pm (UTC)
I think it will be so cute. Although maybe worrisome for Social Services. I might have to attach a sign to him that says "This Pipe Is Unloaded".
Nov. 10th, 2008 08:06 pm (UTC)
Your writing moves me. Your first two paragraphs i was smiling and happy, thinking of the you i know, and paragraph three dashed my heart to the ground and told me of a childhood of despair and dismay.

I am glad you're getting that back; re-learning. It's beautiful.
Nov. 11th, 2008 02:00 pm (UTC)
Thank you. :)

Nov. 10th, 2008 10:11 pm (UTC)
Keep remembering that language, and it will come back to you more and more! Thank you for sharing your heart with us.
Nov. 11th, 2008 02:01 pm (UTC)

Thank you for being a nice audience
Nov. 10th, 2008 10:12 pm (UTC)
Oops! That above anonymous commenter was me!
Nov. 11th, 2008 11:01 am (UTC)
I find a lot of the time when it's just me and E I don't know what to do with her and I get that panicky feeling. If I think about it too much I decide that I am a completely inadequate mother. Perhaps this is one of those things we all feel but nobody talks about.

Nov. 11th, 2008 02:03 pm (UTC)
It's a relief to hear you say that. I generally tend to assume that other people just find it so natural and easy to play with their children. Also, welcome back. Always nice to see your name about and I look forward to more news about E.
Nov. 11th, 2008 11:25 am (UTC)
sporting a whole range of fake beards and extravagantly curly-tipped mustaches

Photoshop? Might make a good Christmas card picture... Tickets Presents please!
Nov. 11th, 2008 02:04 pm (UTC)
I hadn't thought of Photoshop, although Z is much more skilled at it than me.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )


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