The things I love to do haven’t changed in twenty years: getting eight hours sleep, dinner with great friends and, perhaps above all, reading. Fast and greedily. Anything and everything from product packaging to novels to management books via any size or flavour of newspaper, mags (men’s lifestyle a favourite), and high or low brow biographies.
But we have three children under six, and the things most compromised are of course sleeping, socialising and quiet space. Today I picked up a newspaper. Our baby crawled into the pages, ripping it. Our three year old yelled ‘TISS-UE TISS-OOOOO’ after sneezing green snot down her jumper, while the eldest demanded I drew Peter Pan “flying with his hat and red feather”.
I plan to return my earlier loves…dancing, and taking up bridge with the ambition of becoming an octogenarian card shark
My reactions swing between stoical (ish) toleration and occasional meltdowns. Regrettably, not the children’s. I try to read at bedtime but fall asleep before the end of the first page. At 3am, wide awake after soothing one, two or even three kids, I could read – but fear waking everyone else. So I lie awake, mentally drafting things like this.
Meanwhile people with older children frequently grasp my arm and tearily implore me to “treasure it, treasure every precious moment they are little”. It is easy to laugh at their rose-tinted specs and yet – yet – there are moments when the sunlight breaks through the clouds and I am blown away by the realisation that they are right.
The sheer joy of steaming, bubbled, eucalyptus-scented bath times. Walking into the park and seeing from a distance my husband playing raucous games and the children shrieking in delight. At night when I sometimes find the two biggest ones curled up together in the same bed. At dawn watching the sunrise creep over Greenwich as the baby suckles and gurgles.
These are the things that I love now. And always will, as – I am learning – these perfect freeze-frames obscure the smeared baked beans, dizzying mess and endless laundry. They remain etched in your mind forever.
But later, when our children are big, I plan to return my earlier loves – adding, of course, highly romanticised nostalgia for their early years, dancing and taking up bridge with the ambition of becoming an octogenarian card shark. I bloody love cards.