My son likes Milkshake. Not the drink but the block of children’s TV programs that play on Channel 5 in the UK from six o’clock to nine o’clock in the morning. During the school week we don’t have time to watch Milkshake (thankfully). I feel very strongly that I have done my duty in the pre-school years with Peppa Bloody Pig and Noddy and Olivia and Bottletop Bill and his Best Friend Corky. There were days when I really wanted to tell Ben and Holly where they could stick their Little Kingdom but you know, get a grip; it’s only a TV program. Breathe. My son is ten now and in recent years Milkshake has happily been a thing of the past for us. Unfortunately, during the Christmas holidays he re-discovered the joys of Milkshake. I have no idea why; maybe the onset of puberty and the prospect of moving up to high school set off a wave of nostalgia for simpler times. (He remarked this week that he wished he was back in Nursery because he didn’t have to do much learning then.) This year is the dreaded SATS year and perhaps the pressure is beginning to weigh on him a little; even in his oblivious state the realities of life do intrude occasionally.
I’ve earned my lie-in, damn it!
Whatever the reason, early in the Christmas holidays he announced with shining eyes that we should get up early to watch Milkshake in the mornings. My heart sank. The whole point of school holidays, in my opinion, is not having to get up early. I have been through the grinding period of baby-induced sleep deprivation, followed by years of running around after a never-sitting-still toddler and pre-schooler. Autism made him especially nippy and energetic and “younger” for longer as he matured slower than his peers. He was a lot of work; I say that with love but it’s true – I was constantly on alert for noise, meltdowns and breakages way beyond toddler age. Now, finally, he’s old enough to leave to play in his room alone without setting fire to the house, breaking something important, getting himself electrocuted or choking on small things. He has a TV in his room, he can watch Milkshake in there if he so desires, ergo I can have a lie-in. I’ve earned my lie-in, damn it! However, I love my boy and I wish to give him happy memories of time spent together, so I agreed to set my alarm IN THE DAMN HOLIDAYS and get up EARLY (sorry, I think some bitterness just leaked out) to watch brightly coloured, overly cheerful children’s shows before I’d even woken up properly.
I’m a ‘cup of tea before I can speak coherently’ sort of person, so I hope you can understand how painful this was to contemplate. Nevertheless I did my duty, waking at sadness o’clock to wake him and plod back to my bed, awaiting his enthusiastic arrival. (We have to watch Milkshake in my bed because my room has “a good morning view” and it’s much more cheerful to watch the programs in my bed, or so he informed me.) I don’t know if this a particularly male thing, but as soon as the boy got in he would immediately start farting. Then he would put his feet on me and within five minutes the fidgeting would commence. I confess that I laid back down, vainly seeking the warm embrace of sleep while he was otherwise occupied but I’d be treated to a running commentary on every program and every advert; it was impossible to drift off for all the the wriggling and audio narration. I’d get an elbow in the face, he’d fling a bony leg carelessly over my body, because for some reason we have to be rammed right up close together, nay entwined, even in a double bed (you remember the bit about being younger for longer?), and every time he moved the smell of his farts would waft up from beneath the duvet. He put the bedside lamp on “to make sure I could see”. Then he disappeared out of my room and returned with an armful of toys to watch with us, filling my pillow with furry friends positioned around me so that when I moved they would tumble onto my head. It wasn’t restful, I didn’t sleep.
It wasn’t how I wanted to start my day; being farted awake early to the sound of preschool nonsense. I discovered Paw Patrol against my will. But he loved spending that time together and that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? I woke up enough to make a cup of tea and daily we watched a couple of hours of bright, noisy, colourful blasts from the past. That particular part of the Christmas holidays has become a new happy childhood memory for him and that makes me happy. Putting up with inconvenience for his happiness is part of my job and I did that job: I successfully Mummed.
One day soon he won’t want to snuggle with me and I’ll wish he did. I’ll remember his fidgeting and his bony limbs poking me and I’ll smile fondly. I’ll wish I had such simple complaints as too many toys in the bed or not being able to get the Peppa Pig theme tune out of my head. Childhood doesn’t last long, even if it lasts a little longer than expected, and the truth is I love it. I love being with him, I love his wacky sense of humour and his random, out-of-leftfield requests. I love his innocence and simple pleasures and I love being his mother. Even if he does fart in my bed.