A Mother's Diary

Fiorella Nash FAITH Magazine March-April 2007

I can’t decide whether motherhood has turned me into a wimp or a homicidal maniac. It all started, not long after Hugh Ambrose was born, when E thought it would be a nice idea to watch a film and we settled down to a DVD about the life of John Paul II called Karol that we had been given as a present. I suppose I should have known what I was letting myself in for, but after about an hour’s worth of extremely harrowing film depicting life in Nazi-occupied Poland, I finally cracked at the sight of a soldier pushing an empty pram [and at least it was empty] over the side of a railway platform. The symbolism was stark to say the least and I burst into tears, shouting “switch it off! I really can’t take much more of this!”

 “Oh dear, I could always fast forward it to after the war,” E volunteered, and if he was mildly taken aback at the sight of his wife sobbing hysterically into the sofa cushions he did not show it.

 “Wonderful, I bet the Communist era will be a tea party.” In the end, he had to put on the only completely crueltyfree film he could find, a comedy about the Jamaican Olympic bobsled team, but I still managed to cry when they crossed the finishing line and wondered whether this transformation into a pathetic weepy female was permanent.

 Then just in case I was not having enough of an identity crisis, I was walking across a park pushing the pram when a drunkard lurched towards me making vaguely threatening gestures. My hands tightened around the handlebar and I thought, ‘if he tries to hurt my baby I’ll kill him.’ I have been asked many times during debates about warfare whether I would use violence to defend myself and could never answer with any certainty that I would, but I knew without a shadow of a doubt that if he made any attempt to harm my son he would find himself on the receiving end of the Greater Clawed Maltese Falcon.

 “I wouldn’t worry about it,” reassured my mother when I made the predicted panicked phone call, “lots of new mothers get feelings like that.”

 I shall have to remember that if said confrontation should ever occur. “And how does the prisoner plead?” “Guilty, m’lud, of maternal insanity.”

 Christmas ushered me relatively painlessly into the world of children’s entertainment and not before time either. Now that little Hugh has squirmed out of the cycle of eating, sleeping and crying his eyes out, he is demanding to be amused and what better way to start than with a pile of parcels wrapped in shiny paper. I thoroughly enjoyed opening them all for him [he would have eaten every Santacovered scrap of it given half the chance, along with most of the Christmas decorations hanging invitingly on the tree] and he is now the proud owner of a small regiment of adorable teddy bears and building bricks. The only mild surprise was a smiling snowman innocently donated by Hugh’s great-granny that gave a cackling laugh worthy of a Tim Burton film every time it was prodded.

 I believed once, in my naivety, that children’s entertainment was, well, intended for the entertainment of children. I am beginning to discover, however, that it is all an ingenius conspiracy on the part of adults to amuse themselves and still give the impression of being grown-ups. For example, when someone gave me a DVD of Dogtanian and the Three Muskahounds [humour me on this one, I was a child of the eighties], I could put it on and almost convince myself that my little boy was old enough to enjoy the gripping storyline, the intrigue, the witty oneliners that make up the best cartoon series ever made. Come on now, can anyone think of another children’s animation that contains such immortal lines as ‘on guard, you cur! You insult the name of the king!’ and ‘I would rather die forlove than see a lady dishonoured!’ All right, so the bad guy is a Cardinal who mutters conspiratorially in dark corners but that somehow passed me by at the time and I haven’t grown up to be a rabid anti-clerical – yet.

 The only entertainment mistake I have made so far was an all-singing, all-dancing ‘activity centre’. It contains everything a growing baby could wish for: flashing lights, brightly-coloured buttons to press, things to rattle, twist, turn; music and a little plastic dog that starts talking every time he is disturbed. Puppy says clap your hands… puppy says nod your head…puppy says stomp your feet… puppy says, please remove my batteries before mummy takes a sledgehammer to me…

 Of course, the one lesson I should have remembered from the days when my younger sister was racing about getting her hand stuck in video recorders, was that no toy provides enough of a distraction from the really exciting objects around the room such as the knobs on the hi-fi or the big white radiator. I know exactly what he is thinking: oh look, there’s something hot, there’s something sharp. I think I’ll go and touch it!

Faith Magazine