I have been trying to write this post for months, but it has been left lying dormant in my drafts folder. I’ve thought about it a lot, but when it came to the writing I couldn’t get beyond the first line. At least I couldn’t until last night, when I had something of a lightbulb moment.
Here’s that troublesome first line:
“I never realised how physical it would be, having a little boy.”
I kept writing down anecdotes about why I sometimes find life with DorkySon physically challenging. He has only just turned three and is very rarely aggressive, but he is a big, strong boy. He will come barrelling into a room at full speed and crash into my legs for a cuddle. He will throw his arms around me, bounce up and down on my lap, and constantly ask for a piggyback or a horse-ride. He is my little shape shifter, constantly claiming to be a bee, or a carwash, or a fire engine.
“Gneeeeurgh,” DorkySon will say, face screwed up in concentration as he tries to squash me on the sofa. “I’m a big recycling truck!”
“But I’m not a cardboard box! I’m your Mummy,” I’ll shout. “I don’t want to be recycled!”
Right now, DorkySon is very naked. The first thing he does when we come in the door is whip off his trousers. I am putting it down to the stage of potty training we are at, where he seems to be more aware of the need to dash to the bathroom if he has a bit of fresh air around his bits. But I will admit that I am getting a bit tired of having his arse wagging in my face all the time. I am also tired of wiping wee off the carpet, cleaning snuffly little boy snotters off my clothes, and washing my hands after some rejected foodstuff has been spat forcefully into them.
I am a person who really likes my own space. I like the noise level to be fairly quiet. I like to put a book down on the table, and know that I can walk away and come back half an hour later, and my book will still be there, with the bookmark in the right place. I like to walk around barefoot without having to worry about stepping on a Lego sword or a Playmobil fire hydrant. I like being able to eat a whole sandwich by myself without having to share it. All that is quite hard to maintain with DorkySon in the house. He is sweet and adorable, but he is full-on and incredibly noisy too.
I think why I’ve been struggling with this post is that those thoughts are all very negative. It’s basically several paragraphs of me grumbling about how hard it is to live with a little boy, and in all honesty I don’t like to sound so grumpy.
But last night I had a bit of an epiphany (which now seems so obvious). I have been misplacing a lot of blame. It’s not DorkySon’s ‘boyness’ that is making me feel a bit like I’m under attack just now (albeit a very loving attack). It is not a gender thing. It’s that being a parent is a physical job no matter who your kids are – it’s grunt work – and I have to adapt to that. In some ways, I’ve already adapted a lot without even realising it.
My first sentence should have read “I never realised how physical it would be, being a parent.”
That slight shift in emphasis – moving from ‘blaming’ DorkySon for his physical nature to accepting that it’s just part of being a parent – has made me feel so much more positive. Instead of feeling a bit small and puny as the mother of a boy who sometimes knocks me over in his enthusiastic rush for a hug, I feel strong and proud to be a mother at all.
From the very beginning, when I gave birth, to breastfeeding, to carrying my baby around, to hauling a pram up and down steps, and on and off buses… none of those are things that came very naturally to me because I’d never been a very physically strong person. I was fit enough, and in decent shape, but I’ve never got much joy out of sports or exercise.
Every day I see mothers achieving almost-impossible physical feats – in the playground or the supermarket – juggling toddlers and bags and babies and prams. I see tiny wee women carrying great big boys on their shoulders, because if your child falls asleep when you’re out, what else are you going to do? I always look at those women with a huge amount of admiration, and it’s only in writing this post that I’ve realised I do all those things myself! I must be stronger than I think.
I am hugely grateful that DorkyDad is such an involved father. He has a relationship with DorkySon that is even more physical than mine is. They seem to have this almost primal need to get down on the floor and wrestle with each other; to establish boundaries, and then to knock up against each other and test those boundaries.
DorkySon will grab DorkyDad’s ear in his fist.
“Ow!” he’ll say. “What are you doing?”
“I’m folding your ear into a paper aeroplane,” says DorkySon, grinning.
The flipside of that whole roughhousing thing is that they also have the tightest, closest cuddles, where they wrap around each other in a jangle of limbs and just glow with love. I am glad that DorkyDad is there to take some of the heat off me. I am glad that DorkySon has a brilliant male role model to look up to, who can help guide him to be strong and physically confident without that ever spilling over into aggression.
If I try and fight the physical nature of having DorkySon, I am going to end up losing. So I have no choice but to embrace it. I will try to ignore his little white butt cheeks when they come into my line of vision. I will not complain about mopping up pee and pomegranate juice anymore. I will say yes to the piggy backs and the horse rides and, if I must, I will even succumb to being recycled.
That’s what it means to be a parent.
There will be plenty of time to sit and be quiet later.