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Diary of a young mother

Diary of a young mother

Issue 5 May / Jun 2004

First featured in issue 5 - May/June 2004

Click here to go to the Issue 5 archives


When I was young, we didn’t have many books in our house, mainly because we couldn’t afford to buy them. As a result, the local library became a favourite haunt, and as a voracious reader, I  used to visit the library almost every other  dayduring the school holidays. As I grew older however, and books became more affordable, my visits to the library became fewer and fewer and my own collection of books grew. I bring this subject up because the children, aged two  and four, love books and insist on being taken to the library at least once a week. Indeed, libraries have become for us a sort of drop-in  haven, somewhere we can stop and rest for a bit after a hard time shopping. We live within walking distance of no fewer than three libraries, all of which have an excellent stock of children’s books and audio tapes. The children choose their books, arguing animatedly, and I sit down, rest my legs and contemplate the simple pleasures of childhood and reminisce about my own happy times spent in libraries.

Despite being only twenty months apart in age, the differences between the two children are many and varied. One main difference that I  have to currently contend with is the younger child’s blank refusal to do anything she doesn’t want to. In fact the level of obduracy displayed by her is beyond anything I have ever encountered in a two and a half year old. Her main defence against parental injunctions is an extraordinary level of verbal skill that she has recently developed; in fact she woke up one day being able to speak in full and proper sentences, a skill that she uses to devastating effect. For example when pressured to finish off her dinner, she will fix me with an implacable stare, put her face close up against mine and reiterate coldly “No. Mummy. I. Don’t. Want. It. OK?” or “I don’t love you, I’m going!” before stomping off in a huff. This is in stark contrast to the four year old, who very sensibly doesn’t believe in making a fuss about anyßthing and who at the most will languidly wave her hand in protest.

In these tense times post September 11th, it is easy to feel beleaguered when out and about in public. This diary however, has only good news to report: in my experience people have become more, not less, friendly. It is almost as though they are trying to say ‘Look, we’re not all narrow-minded bigots, we don’t believe  all Muslims are evil-intentioned people, out to cause havoc and mayhem. Let us be friends.’ I cite the example of a recent outing: when I got on the bus with the pushchair, two ladies immediately got up to give us their space. When I got off the bus a man insisted on helping me off, despite my obvious capability in lugging baby and buggy off buses. When I reached the doors of the department store I was heading for, the doorman anticipated me and held them open, said good morning and helped me carry the buggy up a couple of steps. The same procedure was repeated on the way out, and he smiled and bade me a good day. Now you might think I just got lucky, but I like to think that the British public are capable of being as fair-minded as any decent Muslim.

Living within a stone’s throw of two of the best hospitals in London, if not the country, I take for granted that expert medical care will always be available should the need arise. Indeed, in the past the medical staff of Guys and St Thomas’s hospitals have been invaluable in resolving problems from abnormal kidney  development (younger child) to suspected meningitis (older child). So when I go away from home with the children to other parts of the country it means that I am inevitably disappointed when it comes to interaction with medical staff. For instance, when staying with my sister in the midlands we had to wait three hours in the accident and emergency waiting room before the two year old was seen; even then we only got to see the nurse who wrongly diagnosed mouth ulcers when the problem was in fact fungal infection. Staying in Shropshire once, I rang the emergency services when the younger child, who was one at the time, had difficulty breathing due to a severely congested nose; the nurse at the other end recommended putting a couple of bricks under the bed. I took a deep breath but felt like saying, “I don’t love you! I’m going!”

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