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Who Do You Love Best?

by Jubbly 

Posted: 02 February 2004
Word Count: 1321
Summary: This is an article I sold to a parenting website last year, just wondered if it was any good as I'd look to do more of this sort of writing.


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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.



Who do you love best?

For eight years I was mother to an only child. That's not real mothering, I thought. I'm fooling myself, I'm only dipping my big toe into the pool of maternal love, wading in the shallow end. Come on, the real mums would declare. Dive in, get your precious hair wet, do 20 lengths if you can, every morning, religiously , swim in the chilled waters of Hampstead Pond. We do it every day, they'd chorus enthusiastically.

My complaints of fatigue were met with sarcasm. Tut, tut, what would she know about being tired, she's only got the one.

But no, we were happy just the three of us. I knew no different. I'm also an only child.

"Oh please Mummy, please can I have a brother or sister, pleeeeease!"

She'd shake her head, eyes downcast, hiding her shame.

"No", she'd whisper, "Anyway you wouldn't like it, not really."

'But I would, I would, oh please."

"You'd have to share your toys."

"I wouldn't mind, Oh please, please...please....

"Look at me and my sister, we can't stand each other, always arguing."

"I'd be different, please...please.....

She'd change the subject.

"Take the dog for her walk, there's a good girl."

The dog became my quasi sibling. There I'd sit on rainy Sunday afternoons, playing Snakes and Ladders with the dog.

"Your move Sheba."

Woof, woof!

"Good girl, you've won."



One Christmas my son presented me with his list for Santa. Absent were the usual requests for Gameboys and Action men. In their place a spidery illustration of a fireplace and a rotund Santa Claus climbing down the chimney, but instead of a sack of toys slung over his shoulder he cradled a neat bundle of baby.
Childish scrawl in purple ink, highlighted my sons appeal.

Dear Santa, please can I have a baby brother or sister, please!



On Christmas morning when he opened his special present, that old classic , Mousetrap, he squealed with delight.

"Please can we play it please, please, please."

"Not right now luv, maybe later."

He kicked the box across the living room floor scattering mice, dice and assorted bits of plastic in its wake.

"Ben, don't."

"It's not fair I haven't got anyone to play with, I hate you, I hate you!"



My mother couldn't have coped with other children, so noisy, so demanding, she wouldn't have managed at all.

"I'm sorry, darling." my mother would whisper after we'd rowed. "I'm a terrible mother, aren't I ?"

I'd shake my head and try again. "Perhaps if I had a brother or sister I wouldn't be so naughty."

Her deep sigh coincided with an intake of cigarette smoke.

"Go and play with the dog sweetheart, off you go."


Are you gong to have any more? Is he your only one? Don't you worry he'll be lonely?

I'd used up all my excuses.

Tell them to mind their own fucking business, was all my husband would suggest.

Tell them you can't, for medical reasons, make them feel guilty for asking.

He didn't want any more, said we'd lucked out the first time, why risk it all going wrong. Besides, kids are so expensive, we're just managing as it is. You need to get back into the workforce, we need the money, etc., etc., so many reasons not to expand the family.

Then it happened, when it shouldn't have.

"That makes your due date, the 25th." the doctor sat back in her chair grinning.

"But that's my 42nd birthday!"

Alarm bells rang. I'm too old for a baby, what was I thinking of, putting myself up there with Madonna and Cherie but I wasn't a yoga fanatic or a power mum with an army of nannies.
I panicked. I'll be too old. There's too much of an age gap for them to play together, they won't get on, I won't be able to love another one as much, I can't, what if I have a girl, I can't do girlie things - can't tighten a bra strap or run up a ball gown on a Singer, the only thing I can possibly pass on to a little girl with any confidence at all, is how to develop an eating disorder and nurture it throughout her adult life. Oh no, what if it's twins and I can't tell them apart and they go off and acquire a secret language and never speak to me again. My mind was racing - I'm not cut out for the real thing. My mother was right, neither she nor I can cope with more than one child. I'm not one of them, I can't swim, I'm not one of those women you read about in down market magazines.
"I only wanted three now we've got 19 and we love them all. We've had to buy two houses and knock the walls through to make one big house and our grocery bill comes to 5000 a week, but it's all worth it cause we're one big happy family. Aghhhh!!!!"


Two months later, after a nerve racking amniocentesis test and a miserable week in hospital wired up to a drip when the morning sickness just wouldn't stop - we finally told our only child the truth.

"Mummy's got a baby in there."

"No ," he laughed, "she's just had too much lunch."

"No really , it's a baby."

"Wow! Hey wait a minute," as an after thought, "Does that mean I'm going to get a baby brother or sister?"

Yes.

"Hooray!" he punched the air in jubilation.

Tender, tiny hands cupped my swelling belly as he delivered his message to my bump.

"I don't care if you're a boy or a girl I'm going to love you and look after you forever."

And now one is two. When my big boy tries to cuddle me he's pushed away.

"No, go way, my mummy."

"She was my mummy first, get off."

"No, my mummy, my mummy."

"I've known her longer than you, she was my mummy before you were even born!"

"Noooooooo!"


Soon I'm being fought over like an old doll, Stop stop! You'll break my arms, you'll tear out my hair , you'll have to throw me away!

"Who do you love best mummy who?"
Big brother asks.

"I love you both, but I know you better and the baby needs me more."

What a sensible answer, my friend affirmed.

But sometimes I feel a little sad, I miss my only child when everything he did seemed so important and I was less a mother and more a mate. When I had more time for him when I would never ever have thrown away his holiday sea shell collection because it was taking up too much space, when his birthday was declared a public holiday and I spent months planning the celebration. When everything seemed so much simpler and surely there were more hours in the day.

But I know I did the right thing. My mother died too soon, leaving me to cope all on my own, take the blame, sort out the service, catch the disapproving glances of her friends, If only she' d been here for her, terrible, poor thing, so alone in those last years. Pity she didn't have any other children, they'd have stayed at home.

Now I surprise myself how expansive my heart has become. People still ask me if I'm going to have any more and I always reply the same.

"Don't be bloody mad!"

I'm still not diving in the pool and doing laps on a regular basis and I'd never dream of putting quantity over quality, but I'm very glad I over came my mothers fears.

Yes we have good days and bad days and days when I apologise for being such a terrible mother and as much as they beg and plead and beseech me, I'm afraid we still don't have a dog.






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Comments by other Members



Anna Reynolds at 15:12 on 02 February 2004  Report this post
Julie, this is delightful- just the right amount of pathos and a heart dose of realism- and homour like all your work has. There's a feature writer job going on a major mag- have a look in Jobs and Opps, it might not be up your street exactly. Parenting articles are becoming increasingly popular- have you seen the interview with freelance journalist/feature writer Joanna Moorehead?

Bobo at 15:35 on 02 February 2004  Report this post
Great piece Julie - heartfelt, humourous, and with real-life 'balls'. As an only child I was particularly struck by the burden of that which you put across so well.

A truly enjoyable piece.

BoBo x

bjlangley at 15:46 on 02 February 2004  Report this post
Jubbly, I think you should definitely do more of this type of writing, if you you enjoy it. I certainly enjoyed reading it and as a parent myself I can see an endless list of topics to write about.

If you don't mind saying, what was the URL of the website, as I've tried approaching some of the magazines about doing articles, and have had little response.

Account Closed at 17:03 on 02 February 2004  Report this post
Lots of truth in there, told with your humourous touch, very enjoyable. I laughed aloud about the twins with their secret language.
I know exactly what you mean about your perfect only child - I used to have one too!
Elspeth



Jubbly at 19:46 on 02 February 2004  Report this post
Thanks Anna, Bobo, Bjangley and Elspeth. I'm an only child too Bobo, which is probably why I write. Ben the website is
the badmothersclub.com, they used to be weekly but due to lack of finances have gone monthly, why not email the editor and ask for the writing guidelines? I'd love to do magazines but when I look at those job opps I just haven't had the relevant experience, maybe I should lie or chance it.

Cheers everyone

Julie

JohnK at 21:47 on 02 February 2004  Report this post
Julie -

Light hearted but with a message - just right. I agree with Ben, you have the right touch to do more of these. It is so readable. Could you do one about first reactions being inappropriate - shouting at the child instead of explaining, and yet immediate reactions being essential - like pulling the child away from danger? Just a thought.

All the best,

JohnK.


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