Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

Love is Like a Duvet


On Friday, after delivering my darlings to school and having breakfast with some girlfriends, I came home to mess. I loathe returning at 11am to an untidy kitchen and unmade beds, but the morning had been hectic and I hadn’t had the time to make neat before we left. There was a good window of opportunity for the Tidiness Fairy to have come in and sorted things while I was out, but she obviously had more pressing calls.

First I tidied and cleaned the kitchen, then I went upstairs to make beds. Usually the sight of three unmade beds would send a shot of righteous irritation through me, a brief blast of bitterness that bed-making has become my lot instead of, say, making high-level management decisions or travelling through Europe on visits to customers or perhaps editing a literary magazine. But this was not the case. Instead, I was touched by the duvet covers still shaped from my children’s bodies, their warm smell, and the fuzzy joy of belonging to a large, loud and very slightly messy family. I wanted to climb in and inhale their smell and fall asleep and dream a child’s dreams. Briefly, I wanted to be them and experience our home from their perspective. I knew that, whatever failings I believe myself to have, their experience would feel good, that they feel safe, protected, loved. As if wrapped in a very warm duvet.

I read two beautiful posts about parenting this weekend. One was by Bindi from Epossums, where she talks about having a child on the cusp of adulthood and another was from Rae of the JourneyMama blog, writing about having a baby on the cusp of being a child. Both posts made me think about the journey of parenting. When a child is young, and so freshly arrived via your own body, you tend to think of them as part of you. Parenting is the process of separating out from them, and teaching them the skills they need to live without you. I feel acute sadness in that, but also joy as I watch each one of my three taking their steps to becoming their own person.

My oldest is seven and has left fairyland behind her. She likes playing with boys, pretending to be a pirate and playing catch, but she also likes to go into her bedroom to draw and practise writing for hours. She is finding a balance between rambunctious play and her own inner life. I love her orderliness, her calm and her quiet confidence. Every day is a little journey of independence for her, a practice run for when she lets go and says goodbye.

My middle child is five, and still has moments of being three emotionally. She struggles to accept the transition that is facing her. She sucks her thumb, screeches and needs to be carried, but she is also a daredevil, who climbs trees and taunts me from the topmost branches, or who skis straight down mountains with scant regard for parallel curves. She told me recently that she can still remember heaven. I am so grateful that I don’t have to force her to fit a mould, that thanks to the relatively gentle German kindergarten system, she will only start formal schooling at nearly seven. She still needs time to dream and remember heaven, and to shuttle between being a baby and a big girl.

My actual baby will be two on Tuesday. He speaks in beautiful full sentences: “I have to draw”, “Come and play, Mummy”, “I need it”. He whines in words, not sounds. He is agile on stairs, slides and climbing frames, but still drinks from a sippy cup and makes a big mess when he eats. He is negotiating the transition from baby to boy with a huge sense of humour, acute compassion for others (“You okay, Daisy?”) and by identifying strongly with that centre of his universe – Daddy.

When I talk to my girlfriends about parenting, we usually agree that it’s the hardest thing we’ve ever done. Some days are smooth and easy, others are rocky and leave me exhausted and drained. But what a privilege it is to be the one who gets to accompany these three individuals on their journeys to becoming who they are.

Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

31 thoughts on “Love is Like a Duvet

  1. Sweet article! My kid is also 7 (I have only the one right now) and it is indeed a privilege to be the one who gets (practically) unconditional love.

    3 seems like a handful, though…and I am slightly in awe of those who can manage to make it work.

  2. Mine are 8, 6, and 1.5 — the beds are never made in my house even though I would dearly love to be that woman who can keep it all together. I loved this post… it’s always good to have those little reminders to stop and pay attention to where we are *now*. Thank you!

  3. Very moving post, Charlotte. I’m off to kiss my little one!

  4. Lovely thoughtful post on parenting, Charlotte. I love that Daisy can remember heaven still and that the German system allows that. I’m grateful that we have the Waldorf school here, which being from a German background also has that gentle approach, allowing my 8 year old still to believe in Father Christmas and fairies, even though he is very literal minded about life generally. We like loud and slightly (read in our case extremely) messy families too – feel quite at home with that.

  5. I also hate coming home to an untidy house. Which means rushing and rushing every morning to get everything tidied up. My oldest is 7 and my youngest is almost 5 and it’s all going too fast.

  6. Hi Paddy – depends how you define “work”! We do our best, but it can be pretty chaotic.

    Hallo Veronique! I would love to be that perfectly organised person too. Some days are good, others less so.

    Thanks, Miss Lizzy.

    Kit, I can’t tell you how grateful I am that we are living in Germany and not the UK, where Daisy would be at school already. She is clearly not ready and still in a dream world.

    Ash, my mornings can be a little frantic. When I do actually get it together to have everything neat before I leave the house, it’s like a little present to myself. Doesn’t always happen, though …

  7. Sniff. How touching. Yes, you should jump into your children’s beds after they have left their duvets warm and smelling of sweet dreams and hopeful starts to the day. What a marvelous thought.

  8. I love your thoughts about how no matter your perceived failings, you are providing a loving, safe home for your children. So easy to forget that, from the perspective of being inside our own neurotic heads! I too am so grateful, like Kit, for Waldorf schools and methods that move small children so gently into the world. In my case, my children are anything but dreamy, so Waldorf allows me to balance that with fairies, angels and other lovely non-intellectual stuff.

  9. Lovely thoughts. I have an 11 yr old son who still asks me to get into bed with him for a cuddle, every now and again. It is indeed bliss.

  10. It must be really odd to watch your children grow up. I enjoyed this post very much – I love the idea of allowing children time to dream and grow at their own rate.
    Please keep writing about your family – I love these posts.

  11. s. and I are planning to start trying in August and whenever I read about your family I feel like I have before me one wonderful example of how to be a parent.

  12. Thank you for those lovely words. Tomorrow I am going to try and look at our home life from my boys’ perspective, not my ‘must get it done’ one.

  13. Hi Charlotte

    indeed parenting is a privilege – receiving the unconditional love of a child is a great gift and the stuff of heaven. I don’t remember heaven – lucky I’ve got my kids to teach me.

  14. I am the oldest of six. I remember talking to my mom once and realizing that I changed life for her…drastically. I asked her if she regretted the change I brought. She smiled and said no. She went on to explain that being a mother is difficult but enjoyable beyond words. It was the best answer she could have given me. I love her for that. Charlotte, you make motherhood sound terrific as well.

  15. I love that you were able to see past the mess to the experience of childhood – wonderful imagery. I’m still waiting for that Tidiness Fairy to turn up to my house!

  16. Lilalia, I should have given in to the urge and jumped right in! It would have been a lot more fun than tidying up.

    Henitserk, that’s exactly it. I’m always double-guessing myself, wondering if I’m getting it right, but if I look at it from their perspective, life is pretty marvellous. They’re fed, clothed, keep warm, loved, hugged, appreciated, entertained, read to, sung to, danced with. It’s got to be good.

    Ms Melancholy, there is nothing like a cuddle with your child in a warm bed. My lot are very snuggly.

    Kathryn, I am just so relieved that the society we’re in supports a slow start. Glad to hear you like my family posts.

    Thanks Courtney. I really hope all goes smoothly for you and S. It’s a great job, being a parent.

    Ali, me too! They don’t care if there’s a laundry pile or not, but they do care if I’m too busy doing something else to listen to them.

    Bindi, I was inspired by your post of realising your daughter’s writing talent. It’s just so fascinating watching them grow.

    Hi Charlotte. Oldest of six, wow! Your mother sounds like an amazing person. The best moments of motherhood come when I look at them and realise they are who they are in spite of – and not because of – me.

    Missv, I don’t know why she doesn’t turn up. This morning would be good. I could do with a visit from her sister, the Laundry Fairy.

  17. Now I want drop everything at the office and scurry off to the childminders and pick him up. Last Monday, I didn’t quite do that – but I did cancel my end of afternoon stuff and left early to pick him up instead of his mother.

    Everyday I find the tug of the idea that he’s off somewhere else during the the day growing up and that it just isn’t fair that I only get to hang out with him a maximum of 2 and half hours a day for five days a week harder to deal with.

  18. Very kind Charlotte…

    and so true (about it all being fascinating)!

  19. What a beautiful post! Makes me look forward to the day when (hopefully) I will be a mother and have the joy of watching my child become a person in their own right.

  20. I love, love that Daisy can still remember heaven and I hope she can hold on to that memory for quite a while longer. Occasionally I try to remember what life was like through my childhood eyes and wish that I’d been encouraged to be a child longer.

    And Happy Birthday to Ollie! I hope he has a wonderful day.

    Lovely, lovely post Charlotte.

  21. Happy Birthday, Ollie!! Today we had a cake for Kiko’s small friend who was two on Saturday. If you were here we could have a cake for you too! I hope you had a great day with lots of fun.

    I had this split-second thought today as I passed mothers picking up their children from school: “I will not be able to bear it when Kiko starts school. I want to be with him all day, every day. What if I kept him out of school?!” As if! Then I felt like a nutcase… But, do you know, if someone had told me I’d feel that way about him before I had children I wouldn’t have been able to understand it on any level.

  22. This beautiful post makes me yearn to be a mum. For every lovely post like this, please post one about the snot, the tantrums, the anguish etc etc !!! 🙂

  23. Happy Birthday to Oliver!

    And, believe me, traveling across Europe on business isn’t all that exciting – although seeing good friends along the way is.


  24. I can’t think of a thing to say except I truly enjoyed this post. Well, and, “You are making your seven and five year old’s beds? How did they get so lucky?” By the time I was 5 I was expected to make my own bed, except when the sheets were changed and then Mamma did it. And it was a trick, I can tell you, since my sister and I slept in bunk beds and I had the top.

  25. Don’t worry. What you’re doing is far more fun and important than making management decisions and traveling all over God’s creation (says the one who’s been on the road for what feels like forever). Our bed doesn’t get made, and we’re home to do it and have no kids!

  26. This is beautiful- thanks for the linky! I agree totally, about what a great thing it is-being the one who gets to accompany them. (Exhausting as it is!)

  27. I found this too moving to comment on the first time I read it. My ex’s wife has just had their second child. I do love reading about your family Charlotte. I enjoy the way you don’t take motherhood for granted. I get very upset about indifferent mothers, and always have. In fact, that’s one of the things I like about your blog: it’s a visible counting of blessings, and it’s lovely. You’re a graceful woman, Charlotte. I’m gushing now, so I’ll stop.


  28. Pingback: How do you catch a breath? - susiej

  29. Another gorgeous post – the kind of thing my own mom sometimes came out with I imagine, but sadly didn’t write down. She always said she hugged and kissed my brother all the time when he was a little boy because she knew there would be one day when he would say “ag, Mom!!” and pull away. Now that I have 2 little nephews, I understand for the first time what an amazing transition it is from a screaming bundle to a little person with their own likes and dislikes and distinct personality – and how transient each phase is. I remember drawing letters on the frosted windows for Sam last May when they came to visit (everyone was identified by their initial – so if you drew a J, he’d say “Aunty Jeanne!”) – next time he comes to visit that will no longer be interesting to him.

  30. Pingback: Aphra Behn - danger of eclectic shock Happy bloggiversary «

  31. Beautiful post. I work full time outside the home, but I have never felt more satisfied at the end of a long day than after being home with the kids – for better or for worse.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s