Sunday, 21 January 2018

I Don't Like Children: Confessions of A Great-Grandmother.

Take this with a pinch of salt, if you need to.  But not too large a pinch.

I don’t much like people.  Present company excepted. You’re ok.  Just people in general, you know. Ok, some people are better than others, it has to be said but, on the whole, I’m not keen.

And I especially don’t like little people. Wait - I don’t mean fairy-type little people, elves, pixies, goblins, what have you.  I don’t actually know any of those so I can’t say.

And I’m not talking about persons of restricted growth, as I believe is the correct term these days. They seem all right though I don’t know any personally so I can't be sure.

No, what I mean is small people. Very small people. Ok, children. I don’t like children. 

I know it probably seems odd, a woman not liking children, but I’m sure I’m not alone. Children are manipulative.  Don’t you think?  Some are very cruel. And sneaky. And frequently sticky. Or snotty.

I’ve never been the kind of woman who squeals and coos over babies, or who wants to squeeze their little fat cheeks, or bite their bottoms, or whatever. Never saw the attraction. It just isn’t me. I find the phrase "I could just eat you up!"  rather disturbing. 

In case you were wondering, yes I have children. I had three. You might think it’s odd that a woman who doesn’t like children had three of her own. And in quick succession I might add. But sometimes what you want and what you get are two different things.

I suppose I must have liked them a bit. To begin with. Once they get into their teens they become a totally different kind of creature. And then they grow up. I must have done something right as mine did, in fact, grow up. Now I more or less tolerate them. 

Yes, they grew up and had children of their own. Lots of them. I have ten official grandchildren and at least one unofficial one. I’ve heard that there is another one somewhere, lurking in the woodwork, ready to spring a nasty surprise on me. But then again, that may never happen. One can only hope. Though the OCD in me thinks a dozen sounds preferable to eleven.  Is that odd?

To be fair, as children go, they’re ok. The ones I know. I don’t mind them. I’m quite fond of them on the quiet, but don’t tell anyone. 

But as if that wasn’t enough to contend with, those children are now having children of their own!  I currently have six great-grandchildren and don’t imagine it will stop there. I haven’t met any of them so I don’t really know whether I’d like them or not. But these are all family, with family resemblances. It’s other people’s children that I find unattractive.

I’m not sure why I don’t like children. I was a child myself once, after all. But even then I didn’t like children. I suspect there is something missing somewhere. A bit of wiring that went wrong perhaps. In school I never really played with the other children. I might have have played with the boys but they didn’t want a girl in their midst - and seeing how high you could pee up the boys toilet wall wasn’t an option anyway - and the girly games held no interest for me. 

The only children I had at home were a cousin who gave me Chinese burns (which she always denied and was believed because of her ridiculously slender fingers. And her huge brown eyes), and my little brother who I didn’t really see much of.  There was another cousin - a boy- who I played with occasionally.  I remember using the old brass bedstead in the attic as an imaginary stagecoach.  Goodness only knows what the game was.  Cowboys and Indians perhaps?

I had a sort of friend who walked to school with me sometimes. She was a kind of mother hen figure. She used to do up the buttons and belt of my gaberdine coat and straighten my tie so I looked respectable. But I can’t honestly say we were close. 

There was a boy I walked to school with sometimes too. I did like him, I must confess. On the rare occasion I got to play kiss-catch in the street with the other children I always managed to let him catch me. But then they moved to Canada so that was that.

Maybe my feelings, or lack of them, have something to do with my mother’s attitudes to the local children. I wasn’t allowed to talk like them for one thing. They were “common” and so was their accent. They never wanted to play in our garden because we had flowers. And a greenhouse. Which meant being careful, not rushing about.  No ball games. They didn't like that.

I was rarely allowed to play in the street. That was “common” too.  Sometimes I’d stand and watch them through the front room window.  Clearly we weren’t common, though I’m not sure why. We were nothing fancy, they had previously been more countrified than townsfolk though so maybe that was it.

Up the road a way lived a girl who owned a horse.  Her name was Patricia.  The girl, not the horse. I never knew the name of the horse.  She used to ride it down the road sometimes and I longed to get to know her. And her horse.  But that wasn’t allowed. They were “Catholic”.  We were not. Apparently that was enough to stay well away from her. I doubt the horse was religious but I'll never know.

Funnily though, although mum sent me to Sunday School every week I only ever once saw her in church, when I persuaded her to come to Midnight Communion with me one Christmas Eve. I think she sent me to Sunday School because the two elderly sisters who lived next door were Sunday School teachers and no doubt it got me out from under her feet for an hour or two. I think they were called Annie and Bessie Clegg but I could be wrong about that.  It’s a long time ago.

My gran, though, she was different. My grandparents lived with us. Or we lived with them. Either way we lived in the same house.  My gran - if I remember right - was or had been “Chapel”.  Or possibly Salvation Army.  She would sometimes sing the kind of songs sung in such gatherings. Anyway, she was low church and clearly not meant to mix with those of a Popish persuasion.

Oddly though, the church I attended was High Anglican. No morning or evening services for me. We celebrated Matins and Evensong. And chanted the psalms. I liked that.  We also had a crucifix beneath the pulpit. I liked that too.  There were no bells and smells however.  Just the bells which rang out before the services to call the faithful to prayer. I liked those too. And the wonderful feeling of ancient calm in the place, though it wasn't an ancient church.  Red brick rather than stone. I never realised that until many years later when driving past one day, after it had been cleaned up.  Or maybe it had been rebuilt in brick as I had always thought of it as stone.  But memory is a strange thing. 

Maybe you’re thinking I was rather a strange child and perhaps I was. Alone a lot. Didn’t mix. Never felt I fitted in.  But one thing is sure. Whenever I hear that advert that says “Always keep away from children,”  you can bet I’m saying to myself, ”Oh, I do. Believe me.”