There’s nothing to give you a sense of your own mortality like anticipating your child’s birthday. Our little beastie is going to be six tomorrow and along with the annual “this time x years ago I was in labour’ thoughts (that ALWAYS make me want to curl up into a tiny ball and gouge out my own ovaries) this year her birthday corresponded with our having a painting of our beloved daughter framed. In a fit of sentimentality, I decided that we should put a letter to our adult daughter in the back of the frame, figuring that by the time she found it we’d be long gone and she might welcome a little surprise visit from mummy and daddy.
The problem is, we’re not sentimental parents. We cuddle and wrestle and bellow and fling each other around. We are the sort of family that tells each other ‘I love you’ and then adds ‘(even though you stink)’. A therapist might say we’re uncomfortable expressing feelings. And the wanker would probably try to charge us five hundred quid for this information. So given that we’d tell him/her to bugger-the-nob-off, I think we can safely say that we’re not in the market for anyone in bad knitwear analysing our family.
That said, sitting down with a blank piece of paper and a pen was surprisingly liberating. When you know that you’ll never need to look the person you’re writing to in the eye, you can be honest. Honest to the point where it’s out of character. I found myself telling her some of the silliest things ever, side by side with raw honesty and outpourings of love and hopes for her future. At one point I found myself gulping and gulping and gulping back tears. My eyes filled up and my heart wrenched. My stomach turned. And I understood the one thing that I thought I’d be able to cope with: one day she will live without me.
And I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut.
I cannot believe that in six years and the period of time that it took to gestate her that she is more important to me than I am to me. The very understanding shocks me to the core. I own clothing that is older than my daughter. And have held allegiances, friendships, loves and grudges for longer than she has been in my world.
I was laughing at Del Boy falling through the bar for NINETEEN YEARS before our daughter was born.
But I’d never want to watch David Jason sleep. Or watch him sing every word to ‘Let It Go’ with my fist stuffed in my mouth and tears rolling down my face.
A weird space/time roller-coaster has made what we were taught to see as ‘space aged’ simply and gradually ‘existing’ alongside Romilly learning to crawl, chew on the CD collection, see the CD collection transferred onto the laptop and then dismissed altogether in favour of downloads directly onto our iPhones. When I was a small person I had a tape player. Tomorrow our small person will take receipt of a teeny tiny engraved iPod. It’s a leap I barely noticed while I fed my child, watched her sleep, flopped exhausted and carried a whole life around with me while I worked, like an eternally bouncing mummy kangaroo. As the world whirled around us we both grew – she into a glorious, eccentric, sparkling child full of questions and wonder. Me into a woman, finally understanding why time is precious so you’d better use it fucking wisely and take adequate insurance out on your iPad.
Happy birthday my little shouty dancer, ambitious wordsmith, cheese-hating future astronaut and painty-faced warrior. Six years of loving you has made me see the world differently and want the rest of the world to see it with me.
I love you. (let’s watch Only Fools and Horses together)