It's not often that you feel bored, fearful and in awe of something all at the same time - a gangster who likes train spotting? A spider bad at small talk? - but in my twenties, that was often my prevailing state around my friends' children. Left alone with them I'd flounder like a was on a first date, mumbling sentences like, "Where's your top from?" or, "Do you know how a steam engine works? Nor do I".
Why the lack of confidence? I was a supposed grown up woman - these were defenceless beings who had no control over their lives and needed looking after. They were much smaller than me, and didn't know what a continent was, had never read Catcher In The Rye or been to Babbacombe Model Village - they knew nothing. But I felt like the kids could see my weak spots, and pitied me so much, they weren't even going to act on them. I wanted them to like me, because they were the product of people I loved, and I wanted the people I loved who had produced them to love me more when they saw what a natural I was with their children. I was scared of them because of the power they wielded, and I was bored of them. I resented having to stop telling a story because a nappy needed changing. I could see that the resentment was unjustified, and felt ashamed of myself. Of course it's not justified, but that doesn't mean you don't feel it.
Your relationship with your friends changes when they have children. I felt left out, as if they were in a club that I wasn't. At times I even felt that I, childless and often single, cavorting about in a precarious profession, sleeping on other comics' floors in Edinburgh and living mainly off vodka and milk - was lumped in with the kids themselves, like I wasn't a responsible human in their eyes. And I was being childish. I was jealous of the attention the kids were getting from their parents - my friends. I was sad that nights out had to be cut short, or cancelled, because of the ever-mysterious 'teething' or 'colic', that they were eaten up with worry abut their toddler walking late, or still not 'sleeping through'. Words like 'nap', 'baby-led weaning', 'feeding on demand' made me glaze over like in my driving theory test. I felt an ever-widening gulf between us, and played up to it, going out more, drinking harder. It was really fun, actually.
Now I've got a one year old, and I don't look upon my mates who don't have kids as unlucky or lucky - I see them, if I can keep my eyes open, as mates who I dearly love. What I used to regard as an obsession with one's children I now know as the act of freaking out that someone as inept as you is in charge of a small things's life and safety. As worrying about being judged by other parents for a whole tiresome rainbow of reasons. And as being woven together with your child, of having rivulets of them running through your being, because nature does that so you don't abandon them when they're up all night for the third time that week.
When my toddler starts crying in the supermarket, me rushing to her is me trying to stop her through any means necessary for the sake of her, me and the other shoppers I am so painfully aware of. If I gabble about her for a bit too long, it's probably because I haven't spoken to another adult all day, and am so grateful for the release.
I regard myself as emotionally intelligent but I wish I had been more incisive in my twenties towards my friends with kids, perhaps helped out a bit more. I suppose if I had, though, I wouldn't have had all those nights downing Sambuca on rope swings, going down ski slopes on upturned restaurant tables at 3am, tying love letters around cats' necks. All this is a distant memory as I show my friend the seventh photo of my daughter, and see her eyes glaze over. "Anything", I can see her thinking - "Anything to stop this." I hope I've driven her to have even more fun tonight as a result of our encounter. Maybe she'll tie a love letter round a cat's neck, or even start a breakdancing revolution. I'll let her go in a minute. Just after I've made her watch this video of my daughter singing 'Baa Baa Black Sheep"....
Isy Suttie's memoir The Actual One, published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, is out now.
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