Last night we watched a documentary called Senna about the Brazilian formula one driver Ayrton Senna and it really struck me how strongly I felt for what had happened to him. I’ve never followed formula one before and have no particular interest in sport in general, but it was a documentary that Luca wanted to watch and I soon found myself engrossed.
To cut a long story short Senna started off go-kart racing at a young age and progressed to formula one for a professional team. It was his complete passion and calling in life and he was an incredibly skilled driver, so much so that his team mates turned against him and officials picked fault in his racing and disqualified him for various nonsense reasons for the sheer fact that he made every other driver look like amateurs by lapping them during races.
Senna realised the dangers involved in racing at high speeds and had a strong belief in God. He described his racing as almost an unconsciousness where he would just drive and his body automatically took over. And when he spoke about racing you could feel the passion in his voice and see it in his eyes.
The week before Senna died in a fatal crash at the age of 34, he did an interview in which he said as a person he hadn’t achieved what he’d set out to just yet, but that he was perhaps halfway through his life at that moment and he would hope to have everything else to look forward to.
What saddened me most is that this selfless man who had given so much to charities to help poor children in Brazil, who worked so hard to win the world championship on numerous occasions and had team mates and fellow drivers turn against him for doing so well; to have his life taken at such a young age, before he had the chance to even begin his life with a family, knowing that the bloodline would stop and no trace of him left absolutely broke my heart. Senna was and is a national treasure of Brazil and will always be respected and loved by the people, but despite his success he never got to achieve in life what he felt he wanted, a family.
He had the career of his dreams, but knew that his life was incomplete at thirty-four and fully understood that racing was not forever. He took for granted just as we all do, that we will live until old age, but it’s not always the case. I realised having had children that I have all that I want in life; that’s not to say that I never want anything more or to better myself, but that I have found the ‘thing’ that others search all their life for but can’t quite put their finger on.
Becoming a parent is the ultimate epiphany, the understanding of why we are here and knowledge of who we are as a species. Children teach us to love; they light the fire in our hearts and put the spirit into our soul. They help us to reason, to understand, to think about our actions. Children rescue us from being lost without a cause, to caring and being responsible for others. We have to be born unknowing in order to grow and learn what we must become. We have to make our mistakes in life, harbour greed and envy in order to flourish when the material world falls apart and what we are left with is unconditional love and peace.
I strongly feel our children are the meaning of life, and that we are put on this earth to carry out a journey through our judgements and own choices. It is not to say who we are, but who we must become, not what we have done, but what we are yet to do, and not about what we think now but how we will think in the future. Something so small and delicate as a baby is more powerful than all of the guns and knives in the entire world.
A baby has the ability to save the human race and turn us from selfish, greedy, careless zombies into forgiving, loving and understanding humans. We must learn to understand that loving a child is a far greater love than any material thing that we may ever own or comprehend, because it reaches a place deep inside us that only another life can touch. Sadly it is not something that everybody will feel in life, because some never have children through their own choice or otherwise, and others have children but never understand the blessing they have been given.
I’m not advocating teenage pregnancy or becoming a parent simply because people they feel they have no purpose in life and don’t know what they want. But I feel that a child is a blessing, an understanding of a higher meaning, and the answer to our questions and emotions. Children are the catalyst for life, they mould us into the person we must become, so that when we reach the twilight years of our lives we are ready and educated enough to accept our fate on this earth without the blind panic and sense of loss from failing to ever fill that void that we all feel at one point or another. They give us the ability to change and accept; when all our lives previously we have no intention to do anything other that what suits us. Children take the blinkers from our eyes and allow us to see the bigger picture and for that I wish everybody could understand.
It doesn’t matter how much time any of us have left on this earth, a girl of nineteen could realistically have more peace and contentment in life than one of eighty seven if she had felt what it is to have a child and the other had not. What truly matters is knowing that we shouldn’t confuse what is real with the material possessions of life. To throw away everyday working in a dead end job simply to buy a big house that we never get to stay in because every minute is spent at work paying for it. To have no fulfillment in life, because nothing is love. Children are our future and our purpose and are worth more than anything on earth. You can work and have a family and have the life of your dreams, if only you open your heart and eyes at the same time.
An old friend came to visit the children today and we talked about babies and how one of her relatives is expecting imminently and it was eye opening to see how she reacted. The soon to be mother was apprehensive about change, she was delighted to be expecting her first child which she had longed for for many years, but is completely adamant that her daily routine would not change at all. She still wanted Christmas day with just her, the baby and her husband, she still wanted her weekends alone to relax at home just the three of them and she still wants to go to bed when she sees fit. It made me laugh as the words wishful thinking sprung to mind, but at the same time I can totally understand where she is coming from. When you have a family it’s amazing, special moments like birthday, Christmas and even weekends become so beautiful to spend them just the four of us, when you’ve had a busy week and you’re like passing ships coming home from work as the other goes to bed and the children are already asleep, the only real quality time that you get to spend together is at the weekend; and with Luca and I always having worked Saturday’s as well, out weekend literally is only Sunday.
So up until now since we met almost five years ago we have always spent Sunday’s at Luca’s parents, which is lovely and homely and warming. But at the same time, it has left my parents out in the cold, which I have only come to realise since Gabriele has been born. And the emotional tug of war has begun and I feel completely lost and torn and like anything I do at the moment will upset or offend ‘the other side’ for want of a better term. If I see Luca’s parents, I know that mine are alone, and if I see my parents I know that we are breaking the last five years tradition of being with Luca’s. Don’t get me wrong, we both adore our parents and would see both sides everyday if the world was an ideal place, but at the same time as a family we need time to ourselves, to go for a picnic at the park with the children, or visit the zoo or go to a beach because it’s special moments and memories that I am desperate to have but never get to do because we are forever bouncing from one house to another visiting everyone and feeling guilty for whoever we have left out. And we can’t live on guilt, I realise that, and I realise I’m not the only mother to feel that way. You love your family, but you have a family of your own also and that is what has to take preference. You can’t build your life around other people because you can’t please everyone, and when you’re torn in different directions you will only fail everybody involved.
I’ve always spent every Christmas since I was a little girl with just my parents and my brother, the whole day at home with our handmade paper chains; spray painted fir cones, and comfy slippers, tinsel and Christmas crackers. Nine times out of ten the dinner burns, come six o’clock dad falls asleep on the sofa, my brother and I would no doubt argue over who got what and in the evening we’d all watch a film together with a glass of mulled wine; and when I moved into my own home my parents and brother came to me and I tried my hardest to recreate the same loving chaos and disorder on Christmas day. But in the five years since Luca and I have been together I have never woken up with Luca on Christmas morning at home with just us and our children. We’ve never just been a family in our slippers and hair curlers at 6:00am running down the stairs screaming at the sight of the presents under the tree and fumbling with the camera. And these are special memories that I have from my childhood and it deeply saddens me that I can’t do the same for my children. Every Christmas Luca and I have spent apart aside from last year, when he was with his family during the day and I was with mine, and come the evening we travelled over to join him at his parents’ house.
I don’t want to be torn between sides, because when we’re with one I feel guilty that we’re not with the other, and when we’re with either I feel guilty that we’re not out with the children on a day trip just us. We’ve only ever been to the zoo three times with Millie in her four and a half years of age and I’m desperate to do more, a chocolate factory, sealife centre, the beach, stone henge, the lake district, anything, everything, just something at least. It’s an impossible situation to be in, because in all the children have five sets of grandparents and Sunday’s only come around once a week, but every Sunday we are torn and tortured without sleep, we rush around endlessly, try our hardest to please everyone and be everywhere and at the end of it all we want to do is come home and collapse. I dream of and crave a beautiful lazy afternoon with just the four of us, playing in the park, eating pickled onions on a picnic blanket, walking the dog and paying for an ice cream from the van with a bag of two pence coins. Days that never end, and times you never forget.
I have a picture on my fridge that Millie drew for Luca just after Gabriele was born as a father’s day present. She drew the four of us together under a rainbow surrounded by flowers, and I look at it everyday and it breaks my heart because it’s filled with such love, it’s us, our family. But we never get to be a family because our only day each week on a Sunday when we can be just us is spent running around between everybody else, and don’t get me wrong we love our parents to bits, and we love the times that we spend with them and are touched to have been able to have spent the times that we have together. But we are a family in our own right now, and have to actually start spending alone time just the four of us like every family does or we will lose this time that we have now.
It was after hearing of my friends relative today that it really hit home, because she talked about the same fears that I had and still have. And she told me that her mother was ecstatic about becoming a grandmother for the first time and was planning on taking the baby out alone for days out, giving parenting advice, and having them over for dinner every weekend and she feared as an onlooker that the two opposite worlds would collide once the baby is born. When Millie was born I feared other people holding her because I was scared that they might drop her or let her head roll, and because I wanted to hold her and not have her taken off of me. When other mothers were around, or fathers or relatives or anybody they would all have their own opinions, if Millie cried and I went to pick her up somebody would say leave her to scream, others would say give her a minute before you pick her up and some said never put her down day or night. If I went to feed her they’d say she’s having too much, you’ll make her obese, she’s on the wrong milk, she’s only doing it for comfort or wait another ten minutes first. No matter what you do with your baby other people will always voice their opinion and think that they know best, but only the baby’s mother knows best because they are your babies and you have to do what you see fit because no two babies are the same. You know your own baby inside and out, you can tell the difference between hungry cries or a windy cry, a tired grizzle or an unhappy grizzle; when other people will hear it and just think the baby is crying for attention. And when you tell your child no sweets before dinner you can guarantee somebody will give them a bag of sweets or chocolate without asking you first and they’ll leave their food and be bouncing around all night. And it’s history repeating itself with my second child.
Still today I face the same issues and I know that I always will because it’s a part of life. When I see other peoples children I never presume they are allowed sweets, I never ask to hold their babies or tell the parents what they should or shouldn’t be doing because it simply isn’t my place, I wait for the parents word or consent first. If there is any advice I could give to new parents I would say please live for your children, put them at the forefront of everything that you do and never allow a tug of war between visiting parents and in laws. Have your spare time as quality family time, teach your children to answer to you alone, to be polite and do as they’re told, to go to bed when you say and always brush their teeth. As soon as you involve other relatives, stay out visiting past bed time, allow secret treats before dinner and bend or ignore rules that you would have imposed at home then suddenly the whole family structure and hierarchy fall apart and you will soon be left with a broken shell. You can’t spend your life running around after other people and forever apologising to those who you leave out. You have to think of your immediate family and what is best for you, and if that means asking parents to come and visit you on a weekday then so be it. And it isn’t in a nasty or selfish way, it’s for the sake of your family and to hold the glue of you all together, because I’m sure any parent would want to see their children in a happy marriage spending time with their own little ones instead of being pulled from pillar to post. Families become broken, relationships fail and children have to live between parents separate houses when communication and family time break down. So if there is just one thing that you can do to hold it all together, it’s to think of your children and put nobody else before them. x x x x x x x