Monday, 19 December 2016

Under Age

To my surprise, when I had small children, I discovered I loved having them around. This was a great relief, as I'd never really aspired to the condition of parenthood and had been worried beforehand that it might not be my cup of tea. But perhaps that was precisely why I did love that whole chunk of my life so much - I had no great expectations about it, which meant no visions of sugar plums waiting to be firmly dashed.

Strangely though, even though I did love my children when they were tiny, I don't miss them at all, now that they have grown up.

I realised this when I was on a train recently and two small children flashed past my seat.* They were yipping and laughing, slightly breathlessly, each trying to reach wherever they were going before the other.

Their excitement had a brightness. It was as if two radiant sparks of energy had just flashed through the carriage. I was reminded suddenly of the days when I shared my life with equally vivid beings.

As quickly as they had appeared, the two unknown children vanished. They were like comets, appearing out of nowhere and then gone in a flash.

But comets are silent. Small children are never - or only rarely - silent, (and if they are, you should probably be worried as it generally means they are up to something that is quite possibly dangerous). So, although they were out of sight, their voices trailed behind them.

There was more laughter and then a yell of protest, followed by a thud.  I thought it might be the sound of the littler of the two tripping - or being tripped - and falling onto the hard ridges of the corridor floor.

Whatever it was, it heralded one of those incredibly speedy changes in the emotional weather that is the major reason I don't miss small children living in my house. For the next ten minutes, from the direction the two children had been dashing, there came a succession of enormous, wildly unhappy wails.

Pets are less tiring.

But that's not really it. Really, I suppose, unless you are incredibly patient, when it comes to having children, once or twice is probably enough.


*Incidentally, why are chairs in trains and theatres and planes and so forth always called seats? Is a seat a fixed object, whereas a chair can be shifted about?


  1. I think that the only way to cope with the constant presence of young children is to get in 'the zone' and make the best of it. Also, they redeem themselves by, at times, being utterly enchanting. However, now that both of my sons can entertain themselves, I find that my tolerance of small children has dropped sharply. Also, I don't love other people's children.

    Regarding the seat/chair question, it's one of those strange things that one knows instinctively but struggles to articulate. I would say that a chair is domestic, for one or two people, while a seat is in a public space for a constantly changing selection of occupants.

    1. I quite like children now - before I was a mother, I never did at all. I don't like the ones who try to be the centre of everyone's attention, although I feel sorry for them as I think it is their parents who have led them to believe they are the most fascinating creatures in the room (not that I'd advocate the approach my mother took with me, which was to tell me I was quite revoltingly pushy and had embarrassed her beyond belief if I ever uttered a word at social occasions).
      Do doctors and lawyers say "Take a seat" sometimes? I suppose their offices are what someone in the LRB might call liminal, between or overlapping private and public space, (overcome with joy at having used such a ridiculous word). My scripture teacher used to say, "Take a pew", which I thought a nice touch