I thoroughly enjoyed writing the previous post, “On Friendship”, as it brought back so many happy memories and even prompted me to reconnect with one or two old friends… definitely an unexpected benefit of this process! It makes me smile to think that my daughters will have a record of some of these memories (also smug that I have selected only the well behaved ones… sorry girls, you’d have to ask your Aunty B about the rest). This time I’m recording my personal advice and observations when it comes to the L word. For some reason this feels like the greatest responsibility yet, although I’m not sure why because the first two topics were pretty important too. Maybe it’s because, deep down, I think I can pass on some sort of fool-proof secret love manual based on the lessons I’ve learned from all my mistakes. The reality is, they’re probably still going to get to sixteen and think it’s fine to double text a boy because his phone probably had no signal/battery/had been stolen by a swooping pigeon the first time. With a bit of luck, we won’t be using mobile phones by then.
As ever, the headings below are taken from the keepsake journal ‘My Prudent Advice’ and the rambling answers are mine, written to my daughters, Anya and Ellora. And so goes Chapter 3…
The love of my life: You may or may not have tasted an oyster leaf by this point in your lives, girls. At the time of writing this I think it’s fair to say that they’re fairly rare, so I’ll assume not. Let’s just say that they’re supposed to be a bit of a taste sensation. Anyway, during our first year together I accompanied your daddy on a work trip to the South of France and one of the restaurants we ate in presented him with an oyster leaf as part of his starter. The waiter gave a little prepared speech about the ingredients as he laid down our plates, only I wasn’t concentrating well enough to hear the whole thing and only listened to the bits about my side of the table. Well, at this point I’d like to remind you that I am a bit of a herbivore, so an interesting looking leaf looks quite appealing to me. Knowing that your daddy is quite the opposite, I thought I’d relieve him of said leaf and before he knew it I’d snatched it off his plate and crammed it in my already half-full mouth. He looked at me, astonished. I hadn’t even tasted it. This may not seem like such a big deal, but the other thing you may have learned about your daddy is that he’s a massive foodie, so nearly a decade later I am still hearing him recount the tale of the stolen oyster leaf. I still feel a little guilty about this, but it’s also one of my fondest memories of our early years together and I hope that he never stops reminding me.
I once had my heart broken: Eek, I wasn’t expecting that one. I really should read ahead and prepare for these questions… curve balls like this make it difficult to stick to my write-each-blog-in-one-sitting rule! Okay, suffice to say that your mummy wears her heart on her sleeve and that does tend to leave a person a little vulnerable to the odd heart break. It’s “character-building”, as they say 😉 Happens to the best of us and, besides, my single years are well behind me. This does not mean, however, that I would play it down like this should you ever chose to confide in me about it happening to you. Quite the opposite, in fact… and don’t get me started on your father’s reaction! I think the important thing to remember is that hearts tend to break for a reason, and – though you may not feel like it at the time – failed relationships in your younger years will help you figure out what you really want in a partner, long term.
You know you are in love when: You know each other’s most embarrassing secrets and still get butterflies when you’re on your way to see them.
You know someone loves you when: They still want to see you after you’ve told them all your embarrassing secrets! Actually, thinking about this more seriously, I have something much more profound to say here: you know somebody loves you when they bring you so much happiness that you gradually feel your insecurities lifting off your shoulders and setting you free. Please do not make the mistake of loving anyone who does anything less than this for you, or – worst still – thinking you’re not worth that sort of love (you most definitely are, my darlings).
The best medicine for a broken heart is: Without question, your friends. See my previous chapter for the sorts of friends I mean here. You want to be able to call on them and be binge-watching boxsets with mediocre wine and a Dominos pizza on the way within the hour. (I refer to wine because I’m imagining you as adults here… if you think you’re heart broken before the legal drinking age then we really need to have a chat.)
Things love can bring you: In my experience, with love comes confidence, ambition, excitement, companionship and a shed load of fun. It brings big things, like support and encouragement when you feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew; and small things, like a foot massage when you’ve worn new shoes. Eventually, if it’s what you want, it could bring you children. For me, becoming a parent has been – and continues to be – the most special experience of my life and I’m honoured to be sharing that with your daddy.
Things it can’t: No matter how easy love feels at the beginning, it can’t bring you an easy ride for life – it takes work from both sides. Neither can love tick every box (nor should it, in my opinion)… I didn’t realise I was looking for someone like your daddy until he chatted me up in a bar one chilly December night in Leeds. If you measure people up to an impossible wishlist then you’ll miss out on opportunities to be surprised (and surprised I was!).
The key to a healthy relationship: Patience, patience and more patience! Or maybe that’s just in the case of your parents (no matter how many times I nag him, your daddy still ‘forgets’ where the washing basket is and leaves enormous pools of water on the floor when he steps out of the shower).
Things I’ve learned about making love last: We all grow and develop as we get older and (hopefully) a bit wiser and it’s important to go through those changes as a partnership, rather than as two individuals who happen to be in a relationship. It’s easy to become disconnected if you don’t keep talking about whats happening in your lives, so make the effort. I’m sure it can’t hurt to give away the occasional oyster leaf either…
Oh, girls. At some point your daddy is going to have to accept that you will probably fall in love one day. Perhaps even more than once! He may be terrified at this thought, but I for one am excited for you. They say that girls gravitate towards men like their fathers and it’s with this thought that I will go to bed a happy mummy tonight.
This feels like my longest post yet, so thank you to any readers who’ve made it to here! It’s been another very personal topic but I think that’s probably the idea. I revisited the purpose I outlined in my first blog earlier and now wonder if my daughters will indeed “cherish this legacy, both as girls today and as women tomorrow”… at the very least, I hope they’re mildly grateful that their mummy has spent her entire Saturday night soul-searching and pondering heart-felt life lessons in love. At least their daddy has been nearby… him knowing what I’m writing about has suddenly made him a very loving husband! On that note, I’ll sign off with some photos of him and I together – all pre-kids, because I get the feeling there will be plenty of opportunities for photos as parents in later topics! Do feel free to leave a comment and please stay tuned for the next installment, “On Kindness”, landing soon.