The other night when Rupert was away and the two smaller children were in bed, Olivia (aged seven) and I had what people rather nauseatingly call “quality” time together. We sat in a rose-oil scented bath, both wearing shower caps, and discussed life’s important issues such as why people die and whether Dr McDreamy loves Meredith or his bossy wife.
Then we moved on to lesser topics such as what I wanted to be when I was a little girl. The answer is a vet for wild animals, a surgeon, an actress or a writer. Olivia liked the idea of being a vet or an actress. The surgeon didn’t appeal because “you have to hold hearts”. She liked the idea of writing a book about how annoying her sister is.
When we got out of the bath we both wrapped ourselves in white towels and started brushing our teeth. I wandered out of the bathroom towards the fireplace, still brushing my teeth. I looked behind me at one stage and there was this little girl, gazing up at me adoringly, copying my every movement. All of a sudden a terrible voice came into my head which said; “One day she will hate you.”
I had a terrible night’s sleep. All night that sentence went round and round in my head. I wondered what they will hate me for. Travelling too much? Not sharing my night cream with them? Refusing to take them to McDonald’s? Always being on a deadline?
It occurred to me that while a mother’s love is unconditional forever; a child’s is only unconditional for a very short time. As Oscar Wilde said; “Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.”
I am hoping my children will all go through the normal process of hating me when they’re sixteen and then realising there are worse people. Maybe they’ll take after me. I never went through a rebellious teenage phase, my mother was far too nice and anyway always much more of a rebel than me.
Luckily at the moment the children’s hate is focused on Maud. Maud is nine years old and is Leo’s girlfriend (despite the fact that he is only three). Or so he thought until he had the following conversation with his sisters. You need to know that Astrid is a little girl who is two years old.
Bea: Leo, Maud doesn’t love you, she’s a liar. Look at me, I’m not joking when I say it.
Olivia: That’s not nice; she’s a big girl, that’s not nice to lie to a little boy.
Bea: Yes, he’s just a little boy with his little heart.
Leo: Yes I am.
Bea: Leo, Astrid might be smaller than you, but she loves you.
Olivia: That’s good, anyway boys are supposed to be bigger than girls.
I am pleased to report that yesterday, according to the girls, Leo and Astrid “kissed on the lips”, although any talk of marriage was quickly denied by both parties.
Eat your heart out Maud.
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007