Over the last three weeks I have been thinking a lot about other people’s children.
Watching the Year 6 children in their leaving assembly, saying farewell to some pre-school buddies who won’t be joining F in her reception class, chaperoning at the girls’ ballet show, spending time with my nephews, meeting my close friend’s new-born son, having other children to play….Some of these children I know really well, others not very much at all and yet for all of them, I feel such genuine love.
That’s not something they tell you when you have children: just how much your heart can expand.
I know it’s the stuff of comedy everywhere that we only like our own children and cannot stand other people’s, but I just don’t find that to be true.
Don’t get me wrong, I am no saint and I will confess there are kids out there that I find it difficult to be with but when it comes to the children in the heart of my community, it’s different.
And for those children who belong to friends, well the bond is so, so deep.
Holding my friend’s new-born, there is nothing (and I mean nothing) I wouldn’t do. Those feelings deep inside my tummy, guttural, raw, instinctive: he is part of our pride and the love is very, very real.
I have written before about the strength of the friendships we have made at school – how our children will reach for a hand, not really worrying which mummy holds it back and how for our young, the tribe of school friends really is an extension of family.
But with emotions running high, with leavers and parents fruitlessly pushing away the tears, with gasping goodbyes to preschool years, with nervous energy shining in the spotlights of a dance show, with the arrival of a new addition, forever a breath-taking miracle; I have been thinking what this means as a mum, beyond the obvious friendships that we share.
I have always felt that the mutuality of our experiences means it is easy to make friends and easy for those friendships to be instantly intense; we are tethered together by a shared understanding of what we have all been through, are going through or will endure.
Yet I think too, that when you observe a good friend’s child brimming with joy, sadness, elation, fear, achievement, disappointment – whatever it may be; you know too exactly the beat of your friend’s heart, as a mum. The empathy is so strong, that it is not enough to stand and watch with a simple ‘oh dear’, your heart is pulled too.
When I cry too I have attributed it to a sense of understanding – thinking how I would feel, as a mum, if it were my child, but I don’t think that’s right anymore, I think the lines are too blurred and that sometimes, I am crying for that child as if their mum. That child who I cannot help but love, even if I have no right to, even if I have no claim to call them one of my own.
Before I met Dan, I didn’t consider myself particularly maternal; yes I knew I wanted a family, but as a girl it was always my sister who played with babies and toddlers. I always felt too awkward and had no connection. Yet today, having had my own children, I don’t think there is a child I would turn away. I don’t think there is a child I could not love.
I’m not sure that this blog makes very much sense….I guess what I am trying to say is how lucky I feel but also how much I love my friends’ kids and whilst I am not denying that they are wonderful, wonderful kids (and they are), I think some of this love is just unstoppable once you become a mum. In the words made famous by Celine Dion, as a mum, your heart really does go on and on. Sometimes that can feel pretty overwhelming but if you think about it, this capacity to go on giving love, is what makes humanity so very, very special.
Ps thanks to Pinterest for the image