Every morning, when I’m performing my morning ablutions, I hear a small child be dropped off at his grandmother’s house round the corner from us (they’re not really loud, we’re on the corner!) and every morning, he cries. Now I’ve seen this child, who must be about two, with his grandmother, and he’s happy as Larry (lucky old Larry, always cheerful). What he doesn’t want is for his mummy to leave him. I hear his nanny placate him with their plans, and I’ve seen his mummy extricate herself and drive off. And every time I hear or see it all, it takes me back to when Daughter was little little (considering her to be just little now that she is nearly 6).
I went back to work when Daughter was six months old, and as I’ve mentioned before, it was all very traumatic for me. And probably for Father, who was her primary daytime carer and used to present me with a record of nappies changed, ounces of milk taken and slop ingested. Strangely there was no record of the Starbucks muffin eaten when she was about 8 months old and in the joint care of Father and Sister for the day. Sister thought little of what she called my food regime and decided it was high time her precious niece lived a little. How she laughed a few months later when I anxiously asked Mother if she thought it was ok to give Daughter a little bit of fairy cake! That was when I discovered the treachery, now known as Muffin Gate. Fast forward over five years and I’m the one with the child who tries to exist solely on chocolate and she’s the one with the child who chooses an apple over chocolate as a pudding (apple for pudding? Does not compute!) and is a regular at their local curry house.
I digress. Dropping her off as a baby was hard, but not on her. It wasn’t till she was one, and we’d spent the entire summer holiday together that she took a bit of umbrage at being abandoned. Poor Mother, who was still working at this time, had to try and coax her away and entice her with the fun she’d be having with Granddad that day. And they did have fun, and I used to struggle to get her out of there come home time, but by god were the mornings hard.
Eventually it all became easier, but she still had her moments. It wasn’t about where she was or who she was with but rather about the fact she wasn’t with me. What she failed to realise is that wonderful Nanny and Granddad did far more exciting stuff with her than I ever would have done (I’m finding the years between absolute dependence and leaving home independence a bit of a challenge…) and never in a million years would I have been creative enough to build her an obstacle course of boxes and furniture when she started to walk to keep her away from the radiator and give her enough places to hold on to when she wobbled (good old Granddad), or taken her out to the front gate every day at the same time to talk to the man with the dog that she liked. Or probably a load of things they did with her that I can’t remember now.
But it’s all different now. She can’t get to Nanny and Granddad’s fast enough if there’s the chance. She asked could she phone them the other day so that she could ask if she could go round. Or if it’s not going there, it’s can she have a friend round. And no longer do I have to go and snuggle her before she gets up and play a set routine of games before she’ll get up (grabber – where I pretend to be one of those machines and try and grab her belly, tickle – if she doesn’t laugh she wins, cuddle round 1, rock, paper, scissors and then cuddle round 2). No, now I have to put the TV on and come back when I’m all ready. And it’s not CBeebies, it’s CBBC. I fear I’m becoming surplus to requirements. That’s the thanks I get for holding her non-stop for six months and giving in to her every whim because ‘she’s only a baby’.
So what I want to do each morning is open the window and shout on to the family experiencing the morning trauma: ‘this too shall pass!’ – and you might be sorry when it does.