It is perhaps strange that having a family should make me fearful, rather than hopeful, for the future, but having children makes everyone vulnerable. You can threaten someone’s life, and they may shrug and decide that their life isn’t worth much Threaten their child’s life, and they will do absolutely anything.
It makes every happy moment seem fringed with foreboding, constantly wondering if this is the last happy moment before my children are struck down with a terrible illness, or involved in a life-changing accident. Last week my oldest child did little to assuage my paranoia when he took off on his balance bike, and disappeared down the road. It took me almost half an hour to find him, by which time I’d called the police. I caught sight of him by the swings, on my third trip around the block, just as the police car pulled up by the playground. A lady had held onto him so that he didn’t run back into the road. Unfortunately she had found him on a path running behind the playground, hidden by hedgerows, which was why I hadn’t found him. I had already started looking back through the memory album, regretting my lack of gratitude at the carefree, if dull, life I lead. Every time I had got annoyed at his toddler habits, every frustrating trip around the supermarket, as well as those golden moments when he throws his arms around my neck, or says something in the super-cute toddler voice. His pronunciation of “babyccino” is our current favourite.
Anyway, 2015 has been a strange year to look back on. I was mainly pregnant, or slowly recovering from it all. I don’t like years in which I have a baby, because they are completely subsumed first by worry about the baby, and then by the lack of sleep. Sebastian was a very easy baby to have considering he weighed over 4 kilos, but the deformed foot made everything more worrying. I was initially convinced there was something more serious wrong with him than the fused toes, and sometimes I still worry, especially when I make the mistake of consulting Google.
I was working in the City until April, on a much more interesting project than any of the previous ones. It was quite a complicated piece of work trying to integrate exotic fixed income derivatives into the trading desk of a very vanilla fund manager. I was only doing a vendor selection for the outsourced middle office functions, but that tends to involve quite substantial investigation into all the existing systems, data attributes and processes of both the fund manager and the outsourcer. It gets you into every part of the business, is very complicated and most people seem scared of it, which is silly since it’s just a combination of perseverance and being good at bullshit. I was slightly disappointed to be going on maternity leave.
In world events, there was the shocking attack on the cartoonists in Paris, which I think was in February, and was followed by lots of moronic comment about how a couple of satirists had reaped what they sowed. Well, maybe they could have predicted that they’d be bring the wrath of all the religious nutjobs down on their heads, but we don’t these days tend to agree that people should die simply for “heresy”.
We went to Iceland in April, which was from my point of view an awful holiday. We stayed in the Icelandair Hotel by the domestic airport. As that was quite a walk into town, we were more or less obliged to eat in the hotel every night, so we spent an entire week eating pizza. I was 6 months pregnant, the hotel room was so small I kept bumping into everything, and the cold (it was minus 6 degrees some days) seemed to penetrate my bones. I cried most of the time, and was relieved to be going home, so that was a waste of almost £2000. I remember reading Conrad The Man on the Moon and dissolving into floods of tears at the abstract difficulty of containing the past, present and fear of the future in every passing moment. That kind of emotional meltdown grips me every now and then, but usually in private, like when I’m in the shower or lying in bed. Still, the Blue Lagoon was almost worth all the disappointment of the rest of the trip, and Conrad and Richard both loved the whole thing.
From May to August, I mainly sat around at home waiting for the baby to arrive. I went to lots of new playgroups, and despaired of the endless conversations about Center Parcs, or supermarket discounts (seriously), or housework. The terrorist attack on the hotel in Tunisia did elicit some discussion, but no one seemed particularly concerned that this would have a devastating effect on the Tunisian tourist industry and therefore thousands of jobs for ordinary Tunisians. That is of course what the terrorists want, destabilising fragile countries to facilitate the spread of their evil ideology. Apparently though, the only tragedy was the death of individual tourists. I suppose we always need a face, and a life that could be ours, with which to empathise.
In July, we went to a friend’s baby’s Christening in Cambridge. It was a wonderful day spent with the people I know and like, and amongst whom I do not feel out of place. I was very sad to be driving back to luddite Milton Keynes. Much as I love our house, I can’t help feeling uncomfortable here. I spend all my time more or less pretending I know nothing. My whole life seemed to stretch ahead of me in an interminable succession of singing The Wheels on the Bus. The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round…and my capacity for a single original thought evaporates.
August and September were entirely devoted to feeding the enormous new baby. I had the usual succession of meltdowns about nothing in particular. A few days after I had the baby, we went to the local shopping centre, because I wanted to finally have some sushi. As we approached the doors to Yo Sushi, I was gripped by massive paranoia that it would give me food poisoning, so we went to Nando’s, which seemed unable to find a table that could accommodate a pram as well. This sent me into some sort of tailspin (i.e. sitting on the floor in a shopping centre, wailing like a two-year-old) that involved the general futility of life with children , which was ironically resolved by surrendering to a full English in Giraffe.
At some point in the summer, we went on a fruitless midweek climbing trip to Hathersage, with Richard’s friend Nick. It was supposed to be sunny and warm, so Richard took a day off, but when we got there, it was drizzling wet and cold. So we hung about at the Outside cafe and went home again. We had a better time in September, when we went to support Olga on a cross country run, and went on a long walk around Higgar Tor. Conrad loved scrambling about on the boulders and watching the climbers. I saw a family with three children, one of whom was a baby with a big rigid frame on his legs, and his feet tied in with a bar. I assume he had club foot. The rest of the family was busy climbing some fairly overhanging rock while the grandparents looked after the baby. Then the grandfather got up and bouldered his way up about 4 metres of overhang in his trainers. I hope we’re that sort of family one day.
In October we went to Spain with Paul and Saskia, and had a fabulous time. Sebastian appeared to think 25 degrees was the ideal sleeping temperature, and I drank stacks of red wine. I’m sure the two were not linked. In November we went to Germany to visit my mother, which was marred by an awful cold we hadn’t quite recovered from, and by constant rain. We went back to where I grew up, and I realised that my memories of life in a small town in Germany have conveniently omitted the oppressive xenophobia and quite frighteningly static lives. The waitress in the cafe was the same one that’s been working there for 30 years. I guess it’s not the answer after all, Germany and all its culture and education. It’s full of really rude people.
So then time moved on a bit, I got a bit more bored, got hooked on Homeland (except that their portrayal of Iran as some sort of Arab terrorist haven really pisses me off), had some more rather unfortunate meltdowns, had a really lovely Christmas. A few hours ago, we went to see the new Star Wars movie, and came back home to celebrate my husband’s 41st birthday.
So, new year’s resolutions. Here we are.
- Go climbing once a week. Just have to find £120 a month to pay for babysitting.
- Get on my bike every day.
- Get a bit less stressed about small details that seem to creep up on me. Not quite sure how though, but try.
- …maybe crochet something? Maybe that would help.
- Don’t get stressed about the toes.
- Save money. Less Waitrose, less wine, cheaper holidays. Go camping.
- Just be grateful, life will never be this good again.