Monday, 14 December 2009

true stories

The other night Snookie needed calming down and I was trying to think of a soothing story to tell him.

He had watched a particularly disturbing episode of In The Night Garden when Mr Pontipine’s moustache had blown off and was being buffeted around the chimneypots by the wind.

I was cooking dinner at the time but heard his voice from down the hallway and immediately noticed the distinctive sound of fear – something rare for Snookie.

Usually if he cries it is in frustration at not being allowed to do or have what he wants at that moment. This is a recurring theme, no doubt for all parents of children this age, and is the usual cause of his distress. I have been given two schools of thought on this – one is to distract him and the other is to validate his feelings. Unfortunately the two schools, as you will notice, are in complete contrast to one another so I bounce rather alarmingly between one and the other hoping that something will eventually stop him howling without causing too much damage to his psyche.

But on this occasion, the sound was different. It started quietly and hesitantly and then built up crescendoing eventually to a full scale ‘Maaaammmmmmyyyy’ as he ran down the hallway and straight into my arms.

The Engineer had been on hand when the moustache scene unfolded and had apparently provided shelter for the first frightening moments but ultimately sanctuary had been sought, and hopefully found, in the arms of mum.

Such was his distress that it took a good few minutes of hair stroking and very tight hugs before he could be persuaded into the high chair for the now overcooked dinner and even then the image of the mysterious moustache flying about the chimney pots was still clearly with him.

So this was how I came to be telling him a story in an attempt to replace the tape with a new soothing one, hopefully erasing the scary picture for good.

Sitting in the semi darkness with the still flushed little boy gazing up at me expectantly I cast around for ideas for a story which was bright and cheerful but sufficiently captivating to ride out the adrenalin rush of the Night Garden drama.

“Well, you know how we have that big tree in the lounge with all the lights and shiny balls on….

“… and you have seen all the lights in the shops and in the streets…

“… well this is called Christmas and it is the time when people get together and sing lovely songs and have some nice food and give each other presents …

“…yes and it is all to celebrate the birth of a Jesus. It is Jesus’ birthday you see, and so we all celebrate for him because he was… he was…”

I found to my amazement I could not say it. In one step I jumped straight out of my life, my schooling, my upbringing, the weekly attendance at Mass, confession, the Easter vigil, transubstantiation – the whole nine yards.

I could not tell my son, who I went to great lengths to have baptised into the Catholic faith so he would not go to Limbo if he died, that Jesus was the Son of God.

‘..a very good man,’ I finished.

By the time he had fallen asleep minutes later, I walked out of his bedroom relieved of my Christianity and consequently my responsibility to pass on all the same rituals and dogma which shaped me.

I am still not sure if this is a Good Thing or not. I will certainly continue to tell him about God and feel I can back up that story with strong evidence and good examples. But despite it being rather awkward, what with the seasonal timing and all, I just don’t think I can sell the Jesus part at this moment.

And it might not stop there.

If the desire to tell my son only true stories has managed to unhinge a lifetime of suspended belief on which my religious faith has until now rather precariously rested, let’s face it, it doesn’t bode well for Santa Claus.

Nevermind. Don’t worry about me. Give me a light sprinkling of snow on Christmas morning and a couple of verses of Adeste Fideles and I’ll be right as rain.

Saturday, 5 December 2009

comfort and joy

I looked out of the window just now and felt a huge wave of joy. I am sitting in a cafĂ©, about to have the best cappucho in town, it is a beautiful day, my lovely son and husband are together at home about to go out and explore the local sorting office and I just saw a pregnant woman walk by and thought ‘Thank God I don’t have to do that again.’

Did I mention the joy? I should. I should not forget to tell how being a mother, or at least being Snooks’ mother, has brought me such indescribable joy. I assume it is the same for others. People don’t often mention it. Very English. We don’t talk about joy much. But I have seen it on the faces of some of my mumfriends. I didn’t know them before we all had our babies but I am guessing that that face-splitting, skin-flushing, eye-illuminating smile is a new feature.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t say I was never happy before Snooks. I was, certainly so, and would no doubt have continued to be, at times, had he not been given to us.

But this joy – I don’t believe that anything, a book in print, losing three stone, the dream house – that anything else could bring it.

I say ‘given’. I know we did all the necessaries to bring him here, and if you do that sort of thing often enough, nature generally does the rest. But it still all seems very hit and miss somehow and I only ever allowed myself the hope that we would have a baby. I never planned to. That would assume more control than I ever felt I had over the event. So that is why he feels given. He is a gift to us, to me really as I pushed him out of my body, and I just hope that I can look after this gift, this perfect little human, with the care that he deserves.

I called him an angel once, you know like you do when you are canoodling and you have fallen madly in love again. The Engineer happened to hear and corrected me. He is not an angel, he said, and never will be. But he is a perfect human being. It still moves me. It is interesting that I am more moved by the thought of him being a perfect human being, with all the flaws and confusion and conflicts that that involves than by the idea of him as an angel – something I can’t be and can’t imagine being and can’t be with.

It reminds me that we will both fail, but that we can keep trying always to be better. Isn’t that what being a human being is about?

When Snooks was born, a friend counselled me away from playing Saint Mum - always kind and attentive, never angry or impatient or sad.

“If he grows up thinking you are perfect, how will he cope when he is not? And how will he find another woman to match it. Don’t do that to him.”

Did I mention the joy?

In my book, the season of goodwill is upon us. For me, it starts with December. The cards get bought and posted, the decorations go up and the tree is bought and decorated at the first opportunity. None of this saving it all up until Christmas Eve business.(What was that all about? My parents were teachers and I am reliably informed that during the school run up to Christmas, no teacher can bear to go home each night to the same pantomime.)

This will be our first Christmas together when Snooks is able to understand some of that pantomime – at least the present and mince pie part.

He is already very pleased with the daily opening of the advent calendar window and has so far noticed the moon, the sheep and the candles of the emerging nativity scene.

The challenge may be bringing home to him the reason for the festivities – to understand how the birth of a baby brought peace on earth and joy to men and women of goodwill.

Well it took me long enough.