When your children are born, you can’t wait to hear them speak. You hang on every sound they make, from that little gulping breath when they’re drinking their milk, to the squeals of laughter when you pull a funny face (try that with a teenager by the way, it’s even more fun, but in a very different ‘you must have a death wish’ kind of way). You wonder which one of their babbling noises will turn into a proper word. And then finally their first word is out! And then their second, then their twentieth. And it’s at around that point, that you realise they are never ever going to shut up. Ever.
It’s all really cute when they’re still in the ‘pointing at random objects and naming them in a surprised tone of voice’ phase. But the minute they learn how to ask a question, you are basically doomed. Nobody tells you that the ‘but why?’ questions kick in way earlier than you were led to believe. They also don’t tell you that you will spend the next two years of your life attempting to explain the meaning of all things that have ever existed, to a tiny, relentless and often angry philosopher, whose bum you also have to wipe.
Of course, there is an end in sight. Although don’t be fooled into thinking that once they stop with all the questioning, life will be simpler. Because next, you have to navigate through the stormy waters of ‘public announcements at full volume’. Just off the top of my head, my kids have done the following:
- Informed me loudly and urgently about the presence of ninjas in the restaurant (it was three ladies wearing burqas)
- Helpfully pointed out in the supermarket queue that I have a bum on my chest (my cleavage)
- Asked me in the very quiet doctor’s waiting room what do I think the Queen calls her vagina? And then entirely by themselves, reached the conclusion that ‘she’s posh, so she probably calls it her front-bottom’.
And these are just the ones I haven’t blocked from my memory.
Eventually though, their days at school help to channel all that energy and all the thoughts and ideas churning around their little minds are put to better use. And that’s when you get to sit through all the ‘plays’.
‘Great news!’ they say enthusiastically ‘we’re going to do a play for you!’. ‘Wonderful!’ you lie, as you watch the day you thought you were going to have, getting its coat on and saying it’s goodbyes. It’s a trade-off really, because while the kids are off writing, rehearsing and arguing over their magnum opus, you get an hour’s peace in which to drink wine. But the flip-side is that eventually, they will be ready for the performance to begin. For the first time. It will, of course, be restarted at least thirty times, whenever one of them decides that the other one has said something wrong, done something wrong, looked the wrong way, or simply existed wrongly.
The last play we were treated to, was a nativity. The cat narrowly escaped a role as the donkey, ‘Mary’ arrived at the inn and confidently said ‘I’ll have my starter first, then my main course please’ and it all ended in a harrowing graphic display of childbirth when Mary gave birth to what turned out to be a football. Naturally and predictably, it all dissolved into tears and violence after Joseph kicked ‘Jesus’ across the room and declared a goal.
Still, it’s worth knowing that all this talking stuff is fairly survivable as long as you follow these golden rules:
- Don’t let them stay the night in your bed. The very first time I allowed this with my youngest, I was looking forward to it. I thought I was in for a night of cuddles and bonding. What I was actually in for, was a night of inane chit-chat, sleep deprivation and the early stages of bleeding ears. Begging was futile. She finally stopped talking around the time the birds began to wake up. I think they sensed all the way from their nests that the very essence of my soul was ebbing away. I should have known though – this was the child who carried on talking whilst under the water in the swimming pool. Why let a lack of oxygen get in the way of a good story?
- The words ‘Mummy, can I tell you about my dream last night?’ are a red alert. This is not a drill. Under no circumstances should you agree to this, because there is only so much glaze your eyes can take. My oldest had it down to a fine art. She even reached the stage where after describing her dreams in microscopic detail for 90 minutes, there would be an actual quiz at the end to check we’d been listening.
- The words ‘Because I said so’ were put together in that order for a reason. Use them.
Naturally though, I’d go through every single moment again because all the time they are talking, there’s the chance that I might hear those four magical words that make my heart full. ‘I love you Mummy’.
Well, that and ‘I’m going to bed’.
Bring on Bedtime! (and have a very Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy new year!)