Look at you, so utterly absorbed in all you do, so completely within the moment, not thinking backwards or forwards. Sadly, you do now understand the concept of ‘in a minute’ ‘not now’, ‘just wait.’ It’s weird how it once seem unfathomable that you would be able to articulate speech or instigate questions, but now, approaching your third birthday, you are brimming over with why? And how? Every time you open your mouth we are shocked by the new things that spill out. You make us laugh out loud daily with the things you come out with. It only seems moments ago that you were lying wordlessly in my arms.
It’s funny to me how you know your own mind already. You have a preference for how things should be done and tell me ‘not like that, Mummy.’ And it’s always over the smallest of things, like me trying to put your shoes on, or give you a kiss. It’s like you have to have the last word, the ultimate control over everything. You’re stubborn too. There are days when you argue with me over everything. If it’s raining and I say it’s raining, you will adamantly insist that it is absolutely not raining.
Your funny walks and your funny talks, though in the wrong moment, you will hate for us to laugh at you, in the right ones, you play the clown and laugh your husky laugh along with us. Your funny faces, your spontaneity, your wildness, you have no real clue how to fit in anywhere or how to behave, but we are teaching you, and sometimes I regret this.
When I tell you to hurry up, when I insist the shoes do go on the right feet, when I take your out of your car seat on the ‘wrong’ side, when I make you sit on your chair at dinner time, when I say no to your impulsive demands for biscuits or juice, I am taming you. I am teaching you how to behave.
We are all doing it. We are all complicit in your taming, restraining you from running wild, telling you not to jump in the puddles too much or your socks will get wet, telling you have to hold hands, telling you to hurry up, come on, we have things to do…
Sometimes I watch you. Sometimes I can’t stop staring at you when you’re in a puddle and set on staying there as long as possible because there is nothing more important to you in the world, and I am tired, I need coffee, and all the bribes of hot chocolate or CBeebies have not worked, because you just want to stay in that puddle. I stare at you, at how lost and absorbed and interested you are, swirling your stick around in the water, stamping your feet, walking up and down, repeating the same actions again and again, and it hurts my heart to imagine you in a shirt and tie and blazer, forced to sit still at school.
I can’t imagine you not like this. Wellies and mud, picking up sticks and stones, not listening to a word I say, with your crazy hair and your mucky face, because you hate for me to wipe it, and how you want to climb on absolutely everything, and how it drives me crazy sometimes when I am in a hurry, and want to get on, and don’t want you to hurt yourself and absolutely know that you will. Sometimes I hate myself for telling you to be careful, for warning you of pain you have no concept of. It’s even worse when I scold you because I simply want to get home, because I’ve had enough, because I’m bored, or tired, or grumpy, because I just want one moment to myself…
I wish there was always time in this life for climbing and balancing and puddles and crouching down to intently inspect your world, for wandering off, for taking the other path, for doing something unplanned and not in the schedule, for sitting down and refusing to move, for refusing to wear your hood up in the rain, for everything you love, for everything that holds your interest. My last child, my wild child, I long for you to be forever untamed, forever entranced by trees and tigers and muck and hose pipes.
I look at you sometimes, and I think of all the things you need to learn to be. Patient, quiet, still, orderly. I think that we are preparing you for pre-school, which will prepare you for school, which will prepare you for employment, and I want to say no, no, no no! We’re teaching you how to behave. We’re teaching you how to fit in. We’re taming you and I’m sorry.