Thursday, June 09, 2005

Talking 'bout my girl

MY NIECE is three and a half and going through a kind of belated terrible twos at the moment.

We always congratulated ourselves that we managed to get through her second year relatively unscathed and apart from a few interesting tantrums in Tesco, Abby has been the model daughter, niece and grandbaby.

And then Aunty Claire did something bold, by introducing another baby into the equation and messing up Abby’s position as the centre of the known universe for everyone in our family.

In the first year, it all went extremely well. We were able to congratulate ourselves that she immediately fell in love with her cousin “baby Joe” and for the most part was delighted to see him wheel up in his buggy at her front door.

But then, he grew up a bit and decided he had a personality of his own. If he wanted to see Balamory then he would bum shuffle at the speed of light to the DVD player and batter it into submission. If he wanted to play with one of Abby’s toys then again he would grab, play and cry if he didn’t get his way. And generally Abby let him, because she knew that he was too young to understand the fineries of share and share alike. (He’s learning quickly now though for the sake of my sanity!)

But the worm ball (as my mum somewhat weirdly would call her when she was wee) has turned. And it’s all down to Aunty Claire to feel guilty about it.

You see as long term readers of this column will know, Abby used to be my number one priority (outside of work of course, Mr. Editor!) and I would while away many an hour sat on the floor with her playing with her “neep neep” (A giraffe which made a neep sound) or sticking my finger in her mouth trying to find teeth (I think I found the first five much to my sister’s- her mammy- chagrin).

Of course all that changed when I became a mum myself. Of course I didn’t love Abby any less and she is still my number one girl; but it was impossible to play on the floor when I had to feed the crankiest baby on the planet around the clock and it has come to the stage when he is now fairly claiming his right to my total and undivided attention- leaving the Dabster out in the cold for the time being.

With my wee man now having reached 16 months old, I’m inevitably getting asked time and time again when I’m having baby number two. Sure it would be a sin to leave my wee man an only child- wouldn’t it?

But all I can think is that if another baby comes along then my time, my attention and my energies will get stretched even further and soon it will be Joseph looking at my with soppy eyes and vying for my attention and Abby will be even further down the priority list.

They say you always have love for one more, and that’s true. Abby is still my princess and I love her with all my heart (all the way to the moon and back- as we tell each other). But while you have love for as many children as God blesses you with; do we really have the time to give them the love they need and deserve?

Of course it’s all married in with the guilt most of us working mothers feel when we head out the door in the morning knowing that the next time we will see our little ones is when we are tired and grumpy (if my editor is reading that; change those words for fulfilled and satisfied with my work) and then hold the nightly “how can we dump you in the cot so you are asleep by the time Corrie comes on” challenge.

Those who would promote the notion that we can “have it all”, say that those precious after work hours are “quality time”. If this wasn’t a family newspaper I would tell you exactly what I think of that particular statement.

Quality time is a myth for most of us and with 101 programmes on the TV constantly reminding us that how we behave with our children at this young age will shape their personalities forever more and determine whether or not they are productive members of society or psychopathic serial killers, us parents (and aunties) feel under a great deal of pressure.

Now I’m not suggesting for one second that my wee niece is on a non-stop track to becoming a lunatic but I do wonder when our children (even our nieces or nephews) fell down the priority list so that they feel they need to work harder and harder to get our attention.

We working mums and aunts like to console ourselves with the notion that we are putting food on the table, roofs over heads and Balamory DVDs in the DVD player; but at what cost to our children?

It might protect my sanity a little to escape the madness of baby talk and the endless replaying of the Cinderella story (Yes, Abby, I will marry you!) and go to the office, but I wonder will the children in my life forgive me for it when they are older?

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