And what if they were underfoot all the time??

I’d rather drive a French autoroute than a Canadian highway any day.  Behind the wheel, the French, for all their vociferous opposition to radar controls, are predictable.  They don’t pass on the right, they don’t hog the passing lane, and when a fire engine approaches from behind in rush hour, they do the Moses-and-the-Red-Sea thing promptly and without head-scratching.  Driver training in France is more rigorous than in Canada or at least Alberta. and you don’t see any 16-year-olds behind the wheel, either.

So it was plain sailing down the A8 this morning from junction 39 to Nice airport, about 60 kilometres (40 miles), on my way to pick up the Swedish daughter.  She was getting a bit fed up in Stockholm, spending most of her uptime trying to figure out how to make the analysis of satellite images more accurate, as in being able to pinpoint  ‘there’s gold in them thar hills’ to within a 3 metre radius instead of 3000.  She’s clever like that, but it can get a bit tedious, apparently.

I was ridiculously excited to see her.   It’s only been four months since the last time, but she is so  entertaining and educational (no one else I know talks about rasters) that I could have her around every day and never tire of her humour and her company.  She had an early flight out of Arlanda airport, which meant getting on the bus sometime around 3AM.  It’s a long ride, and she’s been told that the night bus is sketchy.

The last trip she made here, she sent me a text when she got to the airport.  In fact, she had messaged me throughout the night, having decided not to take the night bus but to spend the hours between 11PM and 5AM at the MacDonald’s closest to the airport.  Text messages from your kids when they’re anywhere but in your basement have the effect of being both reassuring and worrying.  You know they’re ok because you just got a message from them, but at the same time, the fact that you now also know they’re sitting alone in an all-night restaurant in the Swedish nowhere kicks your imagination into high gear.

So when I woke up this morning, having not heard from her, and without a reply to the email sent to her while she was supposedly aloft (Norwegian Air Shuttle has Wifi at 30,000ft) I figured I better contain my excitement.  What if this meant that I’d be the last, lonely one after everybody else waiting for the Stockholm arrivals had had their hugs and back-slaps and gone home? Maybe I’d better temper my excitement – turn it down to medium-low so, you know, it wouldn’t be as much of a crash when I realised she’d missed the flight.   But then I’d have to try to find out why she’d missed it, and that wasn’t even worth thinking about.

I ran into somebody I knew who was also waiting for a Stockholm passenger, and we chatted, my eyes flicking to the arrivals doors every time they swished open.  It was better to have someone to talk to, to distract myself from the slight queasiness in my gut.  I’m stupid that way , worrying about stuff that will probably never happen.  My cousin told me it’s like paying interest on a debt you’ll never owe.

She was there, of course.  Easy to spot, six-footer that she is, with a head of auburn curls.  I excused myself from the acquaintance and launched myself at her, in our own little version of that choke-worthy scene in Love,Actually.  Apart from appreciating the fact that she’s exactly and conveniently my height, I loved the opportunity.  She’s not a hugger, generally, except for hellos and goodbyes of long duration, and this was an especially good one.

All the way back down the autoroute she talked, mostly about school, about the difficulty of working alone in a field that not many others are familiar with, and the exhilaration of finally finding somebody who speaks her language.  Raster language, that is.  She was bagged from being up most of the night but spilling over with news and excitement, partly, I guess, from having somebody who hung on to her every word.

She doesn’t think she’ll ever want to have children, she’s said.  Her reasons are lucid and thoughtful, and even if they weren’t, they’re hers and that’s enough.   If she stays true to her current thinking, she’ll almost certainly be better off financially and will be able to concentrate on the work that so interests her.  I don’t yearn for grandchildren anyway, and would be absolutely OK if none of my kids ever had any of their own.

I was thinking about that as I waited for her to come through those doors – that she’ll likely never find out what it’s like to love a child of her own.   She won’t miss what she doesn’t know, most likely, and maybe she’ll be able to give all the love she wants to somebody else.  If things go that way, she’ll have somebody whose arrival at an airport puts her into a state of high excitement.  But for sheer emotional fireworks, nothing can top what it feels like to love a child.  For me, at least.

My husband loves his kids and loves the time he spends with them, but doesn’t miss them when they’re not there and doesn’t yearn to be with them.  That’s where we differ, which might be a common-enough paternal-maternal reaction.  I don’t know –  what’s your view?

She’s upstairs now, catching up on some sleep.  I’m totally thrilled to have her around for a whole week, but will have to contain my hugs.  This little story hasn’t got a tidy wrap-up, but I care not.  I’m just happy.


8 thoughts on “And what if they were underfoot all the time??

  1. Whichever way it goes, that’s fine. I wouldn’t say that mother love is the greatest love and joy there is, but that’s fine for me, not for you.

    I don’t think there’s a maternal/paternal divide, just different people reacting in different ways. For some people having kids is the be-all and end-all, others can take or leave them. Most people love the ones they have, it sort of goes with the territory, without feeling bereft for the rest of their lives once they have grown up and left.

    Your daughter may yet change her mind about having children; that famous biological clock has a way of sounding the alarm when women reach the final furlong, but if she remains serious about not having kids, I am sure you will allow her the validity of her decision.

    It’s Mothering Sunday tomorrow.


    1. Always sensible, you are.
      I’m be curious to do a poll of parents I know – if they’d be honest about their feelings – as to the degree of attachment of fathers vs mothers. I was at risk of generalising, but you pulled me back from the brink.
      Daughter has a reasonable five-year-window left, and I’d be surprised if she changes her mind, but you never know. Laughed at your ‘final furlong’.
      Didn’t realise it was the British Mother’s Day today! Thought you were more in line with the rest of Europe.


  2. How lovely that you get to spend some quality time with your favorite daughter. 🙂 That’s what I always call Aimee, my favorite daughter. I’m your only daughter, she says. Exactly, says I.

    Well, Jesus, you know I could write reams about this subject, and we’ve talked about many aspects of the whole mother love thing. Do I love my children? Without question, and with all my heart. And I enjoy spending time with them, when they’re in their right minds. Would I, knowing what I know today, and if I could have seen the future when I was 21, have had children? Absolutely not. Why would anyone subject themselves to the heartache and misery that I’ve endured, if they knew that’s what lie ahead. I guess that’s why we aren’t able to foresee our future lives. The human race would have died off long before now, if that were the case. (I may not be the best person to talk to if one is on the fence about having children.)

    It sounds as if Anne has firmly chosen to forego having children, and I not only validate her decision, I applaud it, and I know that you will respect it. Hopefully, if she chooses a mate someday, the other parents will feel the same way. I think it’s not so much the parents of the subjects in question who badger the happy couple, but the well-meaning extended family members, who, as soon as the couple walks down the aisle, want to know when they can expect to see a belly bump. That always irritated me, even when I thought having children was a good idea. I still think it’s a grand idea for some people. I just wish there were some test one could take before pregnancy to determine if one can be a good parent. I think I would have failed miserably, if I were honest with myself. And before you tell me how wonderful a parent I’ve been, I know what my shortcomings are, and most likely how they affected my kids. I think I’m better at the clean-up than I was at actual parenting. I’m trying to be a better grandparent than I was a parent, but I guess only time will tell how I’ve fared, and who knows whether I’ll be around to see the outcome.

    Oh lord, don’t let this bring you down! I’m just tired from a long week. Enjoy your time with your wonderful, super-smart, funny, tall-like-you daughter. I hope I get the chance to meet her someday. She sounds amazing.



  3. Oh Susie, you’re so good for the soul. I do love your flat-out honesty. Showed your comment to Anne, actually, who appreciated it too.
    If I had been through what you have, I’d probably be thinking along your lines. Life has been so much easier for me than for you, and it’s not because the parenting was different. Just dumb luck.

    You always make me laugh – this time it was ‘being better at the clean-up’. I know what’s behind that, but it’s your wicked way of looking at the world that always makes me smile. I wasn’t a great parent, really and would do lots of things differently if I had a second chance. Or maybe I wouldn’t, because those failings are part of my personality and that wouldn’t be likely to change. I’m a better parent of adult children than little kids, in any case. If that even holds any water.

    We’ll have to figure out a way to get together before we get too decrepit to travel. When life slows down for you and you feel more ready to leave home, maybe? Or maybe I’ll just have to come to Marysville.

    All people are amazing one way or another. Don’t be thinking I’ve got perfect children. I just don’t write about their flaws….

    Love you, Tired One.


  4. Darling, you are on a very short list of people to whom I’ve voiced these feelings. Not everyone knows my deep, dark secrets, especially my children, because they would be hurt to the quick, and I could never do that to them. My truths would be their spirits’ undoing.

    We must get together. That’s all there is to it. We have much hugging and wine drinking and late night talking to get done.

    Love you back.


  5. Your joy and delight about your girl have just transferred to me, and now I am full of joy and delight, too. I’m also soooo glad you’re okay with whatever your kids decide to do with their lives, even in terms of the big decisions. You know what I love a lot? People who don’t have control issues. That’s you.


    1. Oh Jocelyn, that’s not entirely true. I do have control issues – but try really really hard not to have them with my kids, knowing how that would end up. Fortunately none of them are inclined to be controlled, in any case, and feel quite able to tell me when I’ve crossed the line.


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