I found myself thinking about my various small cousins last night, probably because of the pictures I have on my wall that they drew – of our family cats, Caramel and Blackjack, especially beloved of M; and another ginger cat, a couple of robins, and a very elegant horse. These are courtesy of M, who is six, and E, aged nine.
Anyway, from a distance, I found myself feeling incredibly protective of them. E and P, the youngest two of four children, aged nine and five respectively: I can’t imagine being one of four children, I can’t imagine not being the oldest of two reasonably civilised girls (other than the odd ‘I didn’t bite her, I sank my teeth into her’ moment, thanks C…!), I can’t imagine having brothers of any kind. And then there’s M, who is an only child, very quiet, aged six. I found myself feeling this terrifying rollercoaster of feelings for them. Fiercely loving and protective and maternal, all of a sudden; I wanted to protect them from all the things that have happened and will happen to them, whisk them away to Neverland, make it all OK forever. I know I can’t, shouldn’t, and have no need to – they’ll all make it, children do. It’s not really the point I’m making.
No, what I’m really here to say is that I found it really bizarre, feeling like that – a whole rush of hormones and emotions which was completely beyond my control. I suddenly began to understand how it must feel to be a parent, to have to learn to accept that there are things you have to let go of and allow your children to manage themselves, you can’t turn their world into Neverland, cushion them from everything, keep them happy, because they won’t be happy like that. I suddenly thought how odd it is to be a human being: we think we’ve got it all sorted, we feel like everything we do is the result of considered thought, but actually we’re only just in control of the way things go, and truly we are animals like any other.