Thursday 29 March 2012

Changing for Good

I have a new partner. At first my daughter wasn’t sure what to think about my newfound happiness. ‘She won’t want to go out with you,’ she told me suspiciously. ‘She’s younger than you.’ When it turned out she did want to go out with me, my daughter approached each new stage in our relationship with the same degree of scepticism. She was very uncertain that she’d want to stay over, then highly doubtful that she’d ever want to move in.

Nevertheless she was welcoming and generous-spirited as ever, and probably secretly quite relieved that it wasn’t going to be just her and me anymore. Although not everything’s changed - we often still sit around together in our pyjamas in front of the television, when we should probably be doing something more useful.

My new partner and I are getting married soon. When I told my daughter the news she was quiet for a while, but in the end she came and put her arms around me. And we’re going to have a baby too. I asked my daughter what she thought about having a brother or a sister and she said she wasn’t keen. ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘Because you might spend more time with them than me,’ she said, ‘and love them more.’ I told her that of course I wouldn’t love them any more than I love her. That there was plenty of love to go around in my world. And once again she flung her arms around my neck and hugged me tightly.

And as I hugged her back, feeling the comfort of having her in my arms as always, I realised that what I hadn’t told her was that I wouldn’t be having another baby if I hadn’t loved every single moment of having her as my daughter.

Friday 27 January 2012

Animal Magic

There have been some more changes.

We have a hamster now. Bubbles. My daughter had been asking for one for a while. I’d been saying no for a while. But in the end I gave in on her birthday. Since she doesn’t have a brother or sister I realised it would be a good thing for her to have a pet to care for. I smuggled a cage into the house in a rubbish bag, then wood shavings, feed, water bottle. Then Bubbles, the night before her birthday.

The next day, when she’d unwrapped the cage and hugged me and said through the smiles that it was the best present she’d ever had, the questions started.
‘What does he eat?’
‘A seed mix,’ I replied, pointing to an as-yet-unwrapped present.
‘How long will he live?’
‘Oh, not that long,’ I told her out of a desire to soften the shock of his eventual death. ‘Just a couple of years probably.’
‘Oh,’ she said, looking thoughtful. ‘And daddy...’
‘Where does he poo?’
I smiled. ‘In the cage. We’ll have to clean it out – you’ll have to clean it out.’
She looked up at me, her nose wrinkled in disgust.

It’s three months later and she does clean the cage now, wearing a clothes-peg on her nose to keep out the smell.
We are at the breakfast table eating cornflakes and she’s telling me about a poem she has written at school.
'What would you say if you were writing a poem about Bubbles?' I ask.
She thinks for a moment. ‘I’d say that every morning when I come downstairs and see him, my heart fills with happiness…’ she says, smiling, ‘… because he’s not dead yet.’
I choke on my spoonful of cornflakes and start laughing.
‘What daddy?’ she asks and I learn something more about the mind of a child.