On being kind in the night
I had a pretty nice childhood. You know, that hazy 70s thing in England when we grew up in sepia tones, roller-skating down the main road, staying out on our bikes till dark and never worrying about anything. Every summer was the summer of ’76: a sleeveless t-shirt and shorts; limbs bronzed from the never-ending sunshine (though the lemon juice in the hair sadly never worked for me).
Yet some of my most enduring memories from childhood are of my mum being kind to me in the night.
Weird, you may think. But I was brought up never to bother my parents after I’d been put to bed. I always wondered what it was they were doing downstairs that meant I mustn’t go down (wrapping early Christmas presents, maybe) – and, inevitably, I did go down sometimes only to find my dad glaring at the Nine O’Clock news and Mum fast asleep in an arm chair.
Anyway, I digress.
I’ve managed to instal the same respect in my own children – namely, after lights-out, that’s IT. No whimpering, no moaning, no whingeing and certainly no coming downstairs to see Mummy devouring the Paatchis.
But sometimes, as a child, I needed my mum at night. Maybe I’d wet the bed, had a bad dream, got a fever, vomited, or perhaps there was a terrifying thunder storm. My frantic calls would eventually be answered by the tell-tale creak of the stairs followed by Mum entering the room.
‘What’s up, darling?’ she’d say, and I would be so overjoyed, so happy that she wasn’t cross with me. Whatever the problem was, she sorted it while I waited on the sofa, wrapped in a blanket and swaddled in Mum’s kindness. Twice in one night I remember her having to change my sheets and never a cross word was said.
It’s this I remember now when my children call me in the night. They know they’re not supposed to; they know bedtime is bedtime; that that Mummy needs a little down-time to herself; but, of course, emergencies happen. Water glasses are spilled, unexpected wees flood the bed, Petits Filoux are vomited into sticky peach-flavoured messes on the duvet and there is even, in the case of DD, a little insomnia.
And I try, when I pick up the children’s desperate night-time calls , to be as kind to them as my mum was to me. I hope, when they get older, they remember that, too.