This Diary of Motherhood is a series of weekly letters to my first baby, my little son who I call Baby Bird. I know not everyone wants to read about the highs and lows of motherhood so you can read non-baby related posts about travel, writing, freelancing or Amsterdam instead. Alternatively read one of my short stories or check out some book reviews and recommendations.
Dear Baby Bird,
On Sunday this week I went to the ballet with three other mothers, new friends I've made in Amsterdam. Our children are roughly the same age (all within just over two months of each other) and for them this outing without babies was a rare occasion. Not for me, thanks to your father's flexible work hours, babysitters and of course, daycare, I've been out alone several times since your birth. I've made no secret of how much I craved alone time when it was just me and you in the beginning and that was scarce, and I maintain that I'm a better person and therefore mother because I have become much better at maintaining a bit of balance in my life.
However, this post isn't about all that. This post is about two thoughts that struck me as I sat in the National Opera & Ballet Theatre in Amsterdam.
I'm not a huge ballet fan, though I've always loved to dance and spent much of twenties scratching up dance floors in nightclubs up and down the country - are you cringeing at that thought yet? - but I've always preferred theatre or musicals to dance performances. So maybe my new interest in the ballet suggests I've changed since becoming a mum. Maybe I've softened into liking different things now that you're here? Or maybe I'll just grab any opportunity to go out with the girls these days? Whatever the reason, I really, really enjoyed watching these lithe, strong, toned bodies leap and lean across a stage. Performing a selection of the choreographer George Balanchine's work, I didn't have to know the ins and outs of his history or even anything about ballet, to appreciate how disciplined and perfected their art was. When I wasn't lost in their movements, limbs elongating and stretching into the air, I was considering the number of hours each performer had devoted to ballet, how much it must have dominated their young lives. It was a little overwhelming to think about.
Yet I didn't find it overwhelming to think about from my perspective, trying to imagine me up on my toes in their pointe shoes, instead I imagined you in their position.
There's a slightly sad tinge to admitting this, as if I'm at a stage where I start to think of myself as too old to relate to another generation of people younger than me, which is probably true. But it was very special to consider what you would grow up to be so passionate about to maybe devote so much of your life to. And if not one thing, then which other interests will you actively pursue? How will you spend your time? Would coming to a performance in a theatre - musical, dance, drama, you choose! - with your mother be something you'd like to do? Either way, I suppose from now on when I look at other people, I won't always compare their lives to mine; I'll instead look at them in relation to you. That's a real shift in the way I think, and it's happened without me knowing it. I find that mind-boggling.
The second thought I had while watching the ballet - I think it was during a brilliantly spirited performance of the Tarantella Pas De Deux (and no, I didn't know what that was until I read the programme) - was a much sweeter, simpler one. To explain it I have to first tell you a little story about your future.
At some point in your life, I hope, you are going to fall in love with another person. And maybe, as is often the case, after spending a long or short time together, you will fall out of love with each other, or they will fall out of love with you, or you them, and your time together will be over. It will hurt when that happens, especially at the beginning when your feelings are still a bit confused. It's happened to me a few times and I have to say, it's been near enough the worst pain I've known so far. One of the hardest things about breaking up with somebody is that you suddenly have to change a lot of things. One of those things is you have to not talk to that person in the same way. For me, I always found it hard not being able to call that person up and tell them something. Invariably it would be something good, or funny, that has just happened. You see when you're in love with someone you often want to share good or big or amusing news with them - I'm always doing it with your dad, and he with me - and when you're not able to do so it really hurts. But later on when you're healed and you meet someone else and you find yourself wanting to call or see them to tell them something before you tell anyone else, that's kind of a nice indicator to suggest that you really, really, really like being with that person. Remember that if you're ever a bit confused in the future about how you feel towards someone, which you will be, because that happens a lot too.
So, anyway, as I was watching this young girl and this young boy throw themselves into movement after movement, and the music got faster and faster, and the whole huge room was filled with more and more energy, I spontaneously thought to myself: "I can't wait to tell Baby Bird all about this when I get home."
Which of course is crazy because you're an eight month old baby who has no clue what the ballet is all about and nor can you understand a single word I say and you only really seem to ever listen to me when I sing Row, Row, Row the Boat to you or read you stories. But I wanted to tell you all about this good thing that I experienced because I love you and that's what people who love each other do.
Maybe one day, you'll do me the honour of feeling exactly the same way towards me.
Your signing-up-to-an-extra-barre-fitness-class-this-week, wouldn't-it-be-weird-if-you-actually-did-become-a-ballet-dancer?, you-don't-have-to-by-the-way-you-do-exactly-what-you-want-to, crazy-in-love mother x
Frances M. Thompson
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