I'm writing this from 'home'. Calling this neat, semi-detached house in South London home always makes me smile extra hard because a manager once referred me to an in house counsellor when I was feeling particularly bummed out about work (It would have been a lot more helpful to refer me to a recruitment agency but that's another story) and when I explained to said counsellor that I was visiting 'home' for the weekend she said, 'We'll have to discuss why you still refer to your parents house as home.'
We didn't discuss it because I didn't see her again but the fact did not trouble me because I'm happy for my parents house to be home; I hope it remains home for many years to come. Calling it home doesn't diminish the one I have built with my own family, just as having a second child doesn't mean you turn to the first and say, 'Sorry kid, I've outgrown you.' It's undeniable that this place is part of me because the moment I arrive, even though I'm now toting a small toddler, I revert into a more wrinkled version of my teenage self - I stand in front of my mum's open fridge and eat all the grapes; I drink cans and cans of full fat coke; I watch soaps; I nick my dad's booze; I forget to put my plate in the dishwasher (okay I do that at my house too).
The only dark cloud over this warm, snuggly, bosom of the family feeling is that it isn't just my behaviours that are fixed, it's my role. I was always 'the sensitive one' in the family and with good reason, if there was something to cry about I'd cry; if there was nothing to cry about I'd cry even harder. These days I'm definitely a lot more balanced but I suspect to my family I'm still that morose young girl. If my smile fades momentarily, I swear I can hear their eyes rolling. The thing is these days I'm sure the majority of my friends would describe me as laid back, in fact my friend Chloe describes me as the least lazy, lazy person she knows (which I love).
So what's the problem? If for half a dozen weekends a year people think I'm a bit touchy? The problem is how these roles become part of our identity and how hard it is to escape them. I think perhaps the reason I'm so laid back, is that I'm scared of seeming too sensitive. The incidents I most frequently regret are those in which I didn't stand up for myself or someone I love because I didn't want to be seen as highly strung. A friend described me as really private recently and I was like, dude I write about my life on the internet?! I consider myself an open book but perhaps I rip out the more tragic chapters because only someone sensitive would dwell on those parts.
I already call my son 'a cheeky one', it just trips off my tongue and seriously he has such an impish face. I find myself calling the most innocuous toddler behaviour cheeky - throwing a bit of fruit from his high chair or shouting in the park; these things are just actions, I am the one making them cheeky. And whilst I do this with love, as parents we can never be sure how these identities will grow and mutate within the pscyhes of our little ones. Do you call your child bossy or naughty or quiet? Beautiful or clever or kind? In reality I think I want my son to be a little of all these things but I mostly I want him to choose for himself. So for the next month everytime I call him cheeky I will mention two other wonderful things about him. I think the more things you feel you are, the harder it is to be the 'one'.
Did you have a role in your family? Were you the clever one or the kind one? What effect did it have on your adult life?