Friday, October 21, 2011

Just one bed

'When I grow up,' announced my three year old, 'I want a house with just one bed in it. I don't want to live with ANYBODY. And I don't want any kids!'

I was shocked. I found myself wanting to yell, 'No! Having kids is the best thing you'll ever do!' because it is, it really is. It just comes at a price, and that price is solitude.

Right now, I am keenly aware of this price: my sister has recently moved into a flat all by herself, and I am ever so slightly sick with jealousy.

No one touches her stuff. No one turns on her bike lights and leaves them to go flat; no one scribbles on her crossword with bright orange texta; no one leaves fridge magnets strewn across her kitchen floor. No one has fist fights while she's trying to concentrate, and no one throws a tantrum when she gets off a tram. She doesn't have to talk first thing in the morning, and she never has to remind people to pack their lunch, practice the piano, or use their inside voice. She can cook what she wants; and if she doesn't feel like cooking, she can have a bowl of cereal. There are never piles of corn flakes under her kitchen table, let alone day-old spaghetti strands glued to the floor.

More than anything, she doesn't have to listen to chatter twelve hours a day. Yes, it's delightful; yes, it's revealing; yes, it's funny. It also drives this reflective introvert completely and utterly insane.

There are hours, even days, when I long to have a little place of my own, just a room with a bed, a table, a chair and a great big pile of books; and perhaps a pot of geraniums to brighten the window sill. And yet of course I feel guilty for wanting that, when I have an airy house, an affectionate family and the chance to read every night when the kids are asleep.

So when my three year old articulated my secret longing, which I am so careful never to voice aloud, I was shocked.

Yet it was such a wonderful thing to hear her say. She's the youngest of three, and her whole day is dominated by other people's rhythms: school drop off and pick up and reading with the class; eating when I'm hungry and resting when I'm tired; going shopping when she wants to stay home and catching up with friends when she wants to play with mum.

When they're not at school, her two older sisters try their best to boss her; meanwhile her parents insist she use her manners and wait for them at every single road crossing. No wonder she dreams of a time when she can set her own agenda and be left in peace, and it was lovely to hear her articulate that.

Too, I was encouraged to realise that at least one of my children can imagine a life that isn't exactly like mine. Of course I'd love her to experience the joy of having children; but if she wants to live alone before or even instead of having them, how wonderful that she is not so dominated by me that she feels my life is the only option.

So instead of protesting, I breathed out my shock and asked, 'would you like to live all by yourself one day?'; 'oh yes!' she cried, nodding emphatically, 'all by myself.'

Then she took my hand and asked me to come have a cuddle in her bed.

I guess solitude is something that she, like me, is prepared to wait for.


  1. It's funny, those who live on solitude often long for company and those who live in noisy households long for peace and quiet. I to find the middle road, but aren't we all a bit like goldilocks, only the baby's position is quite right, and preferably in utero, which of course we can't get back to.

  2. Hi Elisabeth, I love that goldilocks idea - too quiet, too noisy and rarely just right! I think that when my youngest goes to school, that is what will feel just about right: cheerful chaos morning and evening, and a bit of peace and quiet during the day... unless, of course, I go back to work!


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