Saturday 24 February 2018

Can't argue with disbelief there's no love without hate

Kids adore their parents one day, abhor them the next, but do they know this is not reciprocated, asks Aine O'Connor

Aine O'Connor

IT'S funny, the things that are glaringly obvious when you do get round to noticing them but go unremarked on for years.

There is relatively little arguing in our house -- not none; relatively little given the cohabitation of four fairly definite characters.

Number One being a) a teenager and b) facing his first state exam means that there are moments of disagreement regarding acceptable codes of behaviour, acceptable amounts and methods of enforcement, and study levels. But he is, it must be said, still lovely to have around.

Number Two has her father wrapped around her little finger, but now and again he rises up against the subjugation and they have these little scraps. I pity her future boyfriends -- she has been practising melting her father's brain for so long, no little spotty young fella stands a chance.

Beloved and I argue very infrequently -- at some point you either tire of mentioning the wet towels or he stops leaving them on (your side of) the bed.

For the moment, and I have been forewarned that this will end, the most harmonious relationship is between Number Two and me. We never really argue.

Occasionally, though, as your children grow and find their way, there will be times when you have to point out that certain behaviours aren't quite acceptable. Someone has to tell them that those trousers no longer fit, or don't match; that it's time to get in, or out, of the shower; that just because other people do something isn't a good enough reason; that if you spill something in the microwave you have to wipe it up, because, sadly, domestic appliances are not self-cleaning.

It's not the stuff of major discord, but perhaps when there is no major discord, whatever discord there is feels major. Number One -- who has always been forgetful and has lost more clothing, sports gear, keys, game consoles, books, exam papers, keys, toiletries, bags and keys than anyone in the whole wide world, and perfected the Grovel method early on -- pours out apologies covered in rich layers of self-chastisement before you even have the sentence out. Chancer.

Number Two, however, looks terrified at even the smallest hint of chastisement. Any discussion suggesting that a behaviour needs modification, no matter how gentle, short and minor, and she looks totally chastened. The brown eyes gaze up with questions for pupils, doubt oozes out of her, she looks like I have just kicked her out of my life.

Then it dawned on me, better late than never, that she is comparing my love for her to hers for me. Yep, she loves me, but she loves me like a child loves a parent -- moodily and with a few conditions. At some point, all children weigh up whether or not they love their parents; at some point, they absolutely hate them and wish they could have different ones.

Perhaps to them, all love is like that -- occasionally speckled with hate. So I asked the expert: "You know the way we love each other but sometimes you hate me?" Yeah. "Well, do you think it's the same for me?" Yeah.

I assured her it wasn't the same at all. That weirdly, no matter what, I never hate her or her brother, or wish they were different. Everyone else in the whole wide world, yeah, sometimes I'd kick them, but not my children.

She professed relief, but looked disbelieving. Fair enough, I didn't believe in it either until I had children.

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