The day my daughter was born, I was briefly convinced that she had no eyes. As the obstetric nurse placed her gently in my arms, I took my first look at Laura’s tiny screwed-up face and fell instantly and deeply in love.
“Oh well, we’ll get by without eyes,” I thought to myself, groggy from the drugs that facilitated my Caesarean.
As the days passed and the drugs wore off, it became apparent that not only did Laura have two fully functioning eyes, but that they were two of the most beautiful blue eyes with the longest, darkest lashes that I am ever likely to see.
This was my introduction to maternal hyper-anxiety.
Next on my worry list was her hair – or rather, her lack of it. As Laura neared her first birthday party, I despaired of her ever growing any. Peach fuzz is all very well if you’re a peach, but there comes a time when a girl really needs a ponytail.
But I needn’t have worried. By the time she started school, she had an ever-thickening crop of long, lustrous hair. We even had to buy a special brush to penetrate it.
Then came the worries about her education. I tried every trick imaginable to encourage her to read – phonics books, word games, flash cards, reward charts (and yes, I admit it, bribery). But would she volunteer to pick up a book and read? Oh no. The more I cajoled, the more resistant she became. Then came a visit from the Rainbow Magic Fairies (thank you, Daisy Meadows), who cast their own special spell on her, and suddenly she couldn’t put books down. Before I knew it, she was in the top group of readers in her class. At last I achieved my ambition: to have to tell her to get her nose out of a book.
Number bonds – who needs them? Laura was convinced that she didn’t and she resisted my attempts to teach her. I began to despair that she’d ever get the hang of them. At times I wished I could graft my Maths O Level on to her, as a loving mother might donate a kidney to her ailing child. Then just the other day she startled me by correctly adding four double-digit numbers in her head faster than I could and I realised she’d got it at last. Tick, star, VG, house point.
Now the wretched times tables loom. Games cards, charts, pictures books and yes, once again the bribery, are all being ignored by my wilful child. Psychology follows: “You only have to learn them once and then you’ll know them for ever. Just do this thing!” Tonight I add threats to my dubious repertoire of persuasive techniques: “If you don’t learn your tables, you’ll have to do a really boring job when you’re a grown-up, like picking up litter on the streets all day.” Is this bad parenting? Mental cruelty? Probably.
But the biggest challenge of all is: when will I ever learn to stop worrying about her? Never, I suppose, is the answer. Because no matter how old she is, she will always be my baby. My father told me recently that he still thinks of me as being about 6. No wonder he often calls Laura Debbie. I think of him as being about 33 – the age he was when I first became aware of grown-ups’ ages. I’m now way beyond the sum of those ages, and I know that he (and my mum) still worry about me.
But at least I know my times tables.
If you enjoyed this post, you might like these earlier posts about a mother’s worries: