Monday, April 13, 2009

A little girl?

Motherhood is such a buzz. I love it. More than I expected to. I love the fact I have a little boy. I grew up surrounded by three brothers. Inside, I ached for a sister. I offered to pay mum when I was little. "Please have a sister for me Mum". When mum had her fourth pregnancy, I prayed hard. Mum had my little brother Richard instead.

So, inside of me, I know there is a little girl out there for me. There has to be. I look at my niece Charlie and if I could clone her I would be so happy.

Maybe in the next three years or so, there will be a little sister for Liam. But you never know what life brings you, so it was with much delight I read this fabulous article on the Daily Mail site (a UK paper). I hope you like it as much as I do:

All I have ever wanted was to have a girl. I have always felt - somewhere, somehow - that there was a girl waiting for me, waiting to be born from me, to be my girl.

When I first became pregnant 12 years ago, I assumed the baby I was carrying was a girl. It wasn't. Neither were the next two. But the one after that - well, there she was. My beautiful, round, shiny, baby girl.

That was two years ago and now everything in my life has changed, just not quite in the way I expected it to.

I thought having a baby girl would be a breeze. I have seen friends have girls and these children have all seemed to be amazingly lovely, easy going and well-behaved. I'll never forget getting a flight back from Crete with my friend Carrie. Her two girls, aged two and four, sat on their seats, ate their food, read some books and did some colouring, while Carrie read the newspapers.
My two youngest boys jumped up and down, kicked the back of the seat in front, tipped their food all over the floor, shouted, ran up and down the aisles and then screamed at me when I told them to stop. I ended up exhausted, vowing never to take them on a plane again.
I had spent so many years girl-watching, I was absolutely convinced my girl would not be like my sons. I was desperate to have a child who liked to read and draw, who could sit still for more than a nanosecond, who liked rifling through wardrobes of clothes and talking about horses and maybe got to wear something that wasn't made of nylon to bed.

I coveted White Company nightdresses covered in rosebuds and Mini Boden daisy-patterned skirts and tops.

I fantasised about sparkling shoes, pleated skirts and little swimming costumes with frills.

I imagined my girl relaxing with me in the garden looking at books together and gently communing with nature. I thought she might even like to do ballet and then I could deck her out in a tutu. What was I thinking?

What I didn't expect was to give birth to a biting, kicking, shouting, screaming, pinching monster. For my baby girl Ottoline is one of the loudest, most opinionated, most demanding children I have ever met.

She is like a full-force gale. As soon as she gets up in the morning (at 6am) she screams 'Muuummyyy!' as loudly as she possibly can, thus waking up her brothers.

She then demands they take her downstairs to our bedroom, where she leaps on me, pulls my hair and shouts 'Milk!' into my face.

Once I have got up and got myself together enough to go downstairs, she careers around at top speed demanding to watch DVDs of Postman Pat, Fireman Sam or Bagpuss.

If I don't meet her needs fast enough, she shouts and screams and has been known, in extreme circumstances, to sink her teeth into my nightgown in anger at my sluggishness.

This behaviour continues all day. She is louder than a police siren on full volume. It's 'Mummy this' and 'Mummy that', and she changes her mind all the time. She wants to eat a piece of cheese, no she doesn't, what she really wants is a banana, no it isn't, it's a bowl of soup, which she then pours down the T-shirt I have just managed to get on her.

She can't tell me what she wants, but gets beside herself when I do anything wrong. 'Nooo!' she shouts at me angrily when I choose the wrong top to put on her. She's a fiercely independent little thing. While the boys used to sit staring sweetly in front of me as I dressed them, she runs around spinning like a top as soon as she spots me looking for her vest.

Even when I manage to catch her - some feat - she makes it as difficult as she can for me to clothe her. 'Nooo!' she says as I try to grasp her, arms whirring, legs pumping, fists punching. She doesn't want to wear anything I choose for her.

Instead, she wants to wear something ridiculously inappropriate, such as a dress on a cold day, or one of her brother's cavernous T-shirts with dinosaurs or sharks on them. 'Ooo, me a boy!' she'll say happily as she puts it on.

She is, in fact, not like a boy at all. I used to manage to do the washing up and the laundry uninterrupted when my boys were small. I'd build them a train track or give them some pots and pans and a wooden spoon to bash them with and they'd sit happily while I tidied up.
Not my daughter. She wants constant interaction. If I'm washing up, she wants to wash up with me. In theory, I don't mind this; the problem is she is so proactive about it.
As soon as she sees me running the taps in the kitchen sink, she tears over and yells: 'Up! Up!' at me, while waving her arms.

I then find her a stool and she perches on that as she sinks her arms almost up to her shoulders in soapy water and proceeds to splash it all over the kitchen and herself.
Then she complains she is wet, so I change her clothes and the whole process happens all over again.

I can't do anything without her.

She likes to turn the washing machine on and then off and then on again. She likes to sit on the vacuum cleaner, so I have to drag it round the house.
She follows me up the stairs and down again, out into the garden and back to take the rubbish out. Every time I turn around, there she is, wanting me, waiting for me, expectant. If I put on a DVD for her, she'll sit there for barely a minute before she's up again.
She also likes to talk all the time, which I am totally unused to. The boys communicate only in grunts.

Me to my eldest son, aged 12: 'How are you today?'
Him: 'Grunt.' Me: 'Did you have a good time at school?'
Him: 'Grunt.' My daughter, however, talks nonstop. 'Hello!' she says to everyone in the supermarket. 'Hello, hello, hello.' She'll go on and on saying this until the poor unsuspecting shopper she is targeting turns round and replies to her.
Then, as they walk off, she'll start saying 'Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye' 20-plus times.

I was not expecting her to be like this and now I have started wondering why I thought she'd be quiet and serene.

When I talk to my friends about how feisty and opinionated my daughter is, they all roll their eyes and laugh. 'She's got three brothers,' they say. 'She has to be loud to be heard.' But her brothers all dote on her. She has them running hither and thither like servants. 'Give me milk!' she screams at 12-year-old Raymond at bedtime. Off he goes to the fridge to pour her a cup.
'Hot milk!' she yells when he returns armed with milk poured straight from the fridge.

If she sees Leonard, five, eating anything, she has to scoff it as well. 'Give me you carrot,' she'll say to him commandingly.

He usually capitulates. If he does not, she pulls his hair. When it comes to toys, especially four-year-old Jerry's, she just shrieks 'Mine!' at him and makes such a murderous face, he abandons the toy he was playing with and scarpers.

When I told one of my closest friends about my daughter's behaviour she laughed. She also did her 'I told you so' face.

She has three boys and a girl and when I was desperate to have a daughter she laughed and said: 'Be careful what you wish for. My daughter's been the trickiest by far.'
It has taught me something about children, though. It is impossible to know what they will be like.

Did I think I'd have a girl who had a dirty round face, loves playing with cars and has so much attitude she leaves me feeling positively faint-hearted? I did not.

For some reason - and I have no idea why I thought this - I imagined us rubbing along together in perfect female harmony. I did not expect to be battered down by her, like a weather-beaten ship in a storm.

Yet, of course, I totally love her. I am captivated by her childish confidence, by the fact she has so much to say about so many things.

I admire the fact she is so strong-willed - unless I am trying to persuade her to sit her in car seat, when she turns into a recalcitrant plank of wood, or put her nappy on, or get her dressed, or try to persuade her to leave the house or put her to bed or . . . shall I continue?
I like the fact she is sociable. She never shrinks away from anyone. She engages with everyone and everything. She is quick-witted and funny and fast but, goodness, can she be loud.
We were at a school assembly the other day. I was not the only mother there with a younger child and yet while all the other little children sat quietly on their mother's lap, my daughter insisted on standing on my knees, waving her hands in the air, dancing and yelling 'Hello, Lennie!' to her brother really loudly.

At first I thought she might stop. But she didn't. She just got louder and louder - 'Hello, Lennie! Hello, Jerry!' - until all the pupils in the school started giggling and we were asked to leave the room.

Later on, the headteacher came to mollify me. 'It's just because we couldn't hear the assembly,' he said. 'Your daughter is a bit on the noisy side.' I told him it was merely that she had a lot to say for herself.

Thank goodness for that, really. In a world where women need their voices to be heard, she stands a good chance. Who wants a walkover as a daughter?

She can stand up and be counted along with the rest of them. As for me, well, I wanted a quiet life. I wanted My Little Pony, Polly Pockets and Sylvanian Families.

I thought we'd spend our life brushing each other's hair and making daisy chains.
But no. We don't do that. We spend our days in a high- octane dash from one exciting thing to another.

We rarely stop or sit still. We talk away to each other all the time and we laugh and play and, after she eventually shuts up long enough to go to sleep, I end up in a frazzled, dishevelled heap on the floor.

'She's exhausting!' is how Raymond put it after he spent an evening playing with her. This involved him running up and down the stairs to tickle her feet through the banisters and then dancing with her for about half-an-hour.

'More, more, more!' she screamed at him when he finally had to admit defeat.
'One day Raymond, you'll meet a bright girl like her and for that you will be very grateful,' I said to him. He shook his head vehemently. But then his sister came up and gave him a sweet kiss. 'Ooh,' she said. 'Nice.'

He laughed. For that is how she is - naughty and nice, sweet and sour - and I wouldn't have her any other way. Just quieter, maybe.

2 comments:

Leanne Lewis said...

I'm sure she's a lovely little girl but...far out that sounds like hard work (and I have two girls of my own)!!

Amy said...

I am tired just reading that!

I dont have anything to compare to as I only have experienced having the one little girl so far. But she is definitely very social and loves to be kept company at all times..