Posted by a Contributor in March's Magazine
She stands and looks in the mirror, seeming to admire the view.
“Do you think I’m beautiful mummy?”
“I think you’re the most beautiful person in the whole world.”
(You are not supposed to do this with your children, I know. You are not supposed to use superlatives. But sometimes superlatives just slip out)
She smiles to her reflection.
“Thanks Mummy. You’re pretty with your make-up on.”
That’s my girl, I think to myself, a streak of slightly brutal honesty and impeccable timing. I recall a recent exchange between her and my own mother, who goes by the name of Nana. My mother, when entertaining her grandchildren in Leith, likes to engage them all in a rather obscure activity she calls Poundland Challenge, something which seems to encapsulate her creativity, arbitrariness and downright bonkersness.
It involves giving each child a pound to spend in said discount emporium, then appointing a ‘judge’ to assess which item purchased is the ‘best value’. This is of course insane, because children have no concept of value, and the whole thing is completely subjective. What is even more nuts is that she takes part herself, frittering away her own money, and getting massively competitive about it. And so it was on this occasion, when she argued quite passionately that her Big Spoon was better value than small daughter’s Ghost Lamp or small son’s bat-and-ball game, because she would still be using the Big Spoon in ten years. Only to be told by her darling granddaughter “you might be dead by then nana.”
Nana fell foul of my daughter’s sweet but sharp tongue again a few days ago.
“Is there going to be World War Three?” She asked me, her enormous worried eyes quietly breaking my heart.
“No Sweetheart. No, there isn’t.” I said, hoping I wasn’t lying.
“But Nana says there is.”
“Oh. Don’t listen to Nana. Nana just…” I stumbled for a way to continue. Nana just shouldn’t say terrifying things in front of small children, was my thinking.
“Says stuff because she’s old?” Pipes up small daughter
“Yes, that’s it.” I smiled an amused and relieved smile to myself. “Nana just says stuff because she’s old.”
Which is of course what we all want to believe isn’t it. That daft old nana is exaggerating, but most of us are waking anxious in the night, or turning on the news each morning with an ever-deeper sense of dread.
I remembered that night in November, when I put her to bed and reassured her – as mums we are used to soothing away monsters and trolls and sharks, but we were powerless against Trump. None of us can cuddle that nightmare away.
And I remember waking at four or five in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep, and turning on the computer to see the news in hideous shades of red and blue, and I felt the blow, rightly or wrongly, not as a child of the fragile earth or a global citizen but primarily as a woman, as a voice inside said ‘they prefer a rapist to a woman, that is Where We Are At’. And as the clock clicked closer to morning I found myself in tears, wondering what the hell I was going to tell the little person whose life is entrusted to my care, who was looking to me for reassurance.
But I will tell her she is beautiful. And keep telling her. Because every lurking monster we battle has the same goal, to make you feel otherwise. Every bully tries to make you hold all the awfulness they can’t bear about themselves.
To shove a bit of their inner ugly onto you.
And I will reflect every moment, now more than ever, that it is an extraordinary privilege to be able to put your children to bed safely at night. It marks you in a narrow bracket, a lucky echelon, and, tragically, one which we will witness getting ever smaller. As the lucky ones, I believe cherishing these blessings will give us the strength we need to resist and fight.
Because one way or another, resist and fight we must. The world is scary and uncertain and we want to hold on to it. And we hope. We hope the only thing that any of us can hope, but none of us really has a right to:
That we will still be using our Big Spoon in ten year’s time.