I spend a lot of time with children. I didn’t mean to. Like a lot of things in our lives, it just happened. I used to drop our two girls off at school. That was good. Then we went sailing. From Milford Haven to the tip of Spain, down to Madeira, the Canary Islands and then across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. Getting used to our girls’ company all day long was.. interesting. Challenging. Days in pyjamas. Breaking up fights. Causing them. Rolling around in the good times.
Two years later we’re still at it. Some things have been a surprise. The first is that I understand our girls. Duh. I used to get stressed with their meltdowns. Now, spending so much time with them I see things more clearly. This means not having to ‘understand’ the root of their feelings. Newsflash! I spend a lot of time with you. I already get it.
The second is other peoples’ kids. The slightly embarrassing truth is that other peoples’ kids used to make me nervous. I’d happily dump my kids at other peoples’ houses – ahem, I mean playdates – but I’d get the hives at the idea of having other kids over. Now? Kids come over. They’re interesting. Watching my kids interact with them is a pleasure. After periods where the girls didn’t have regular playmates, when we were sailing and life was uncomfortably transient, having kid-contact now is like a cool glass of water.
Delphine is still partial to playing with Barbies. In London this week visiting our family, my aunt found a Barbie box in the attic. These are Delph’s cousin’s Barbies. Barbies she doesn’t play with anymore. But when Delphine’s cousin saw them, her eyebrows raised. Especially at the Elsa doll. Somewhere along the day, the girls made a decision to swap. A soft toy of Delph’s for her cousin’s Elsa. The first I learned about the deal was when the negotiation had hit a wall. Her cousin wasn’t happy. She wanted an extra toy.
My humble opinion was this: ‘If you swap, it should be toy for toy. Not anything extra.’
Both kids nodded. They went upstairs and a few minutes later, they reappeared. A new nail polish my mum had bought for Lu was now in Delph’s cousin’s hand.
‘She’s going to have this too,’ a slightly sheepish Delphine said.
As if on cue, Lu walked in the room. Her eyes were drawn to the little purple glass. Her voice went between the shocked and unbelievable. ‘That’s my nail polish.’
I cleared my throat. I smelled war. I focused on the two negotiators. ‘Why didn’t you accept the first deal?’
There was a shrug. A quick smile. Immediate acceptance followed by renewed, pursed-lipped conversation in the corner. Lulu whisked her nail polish away.
This is my life. Exciting, hey? Children. The same life as grown-ups. Except the glass is more transparent.