Friday, 2 March 2012

Tall oaks from little acorns grow...

Why on earth do smoke alarms only go off at terribly unspeakable hours of the morning?  We have had ours' malfunction about six times since we moved into this house, and every single time has been at night, in the hours when sleep is the deepest and the chance of waking up with a massive fright (if not downright heart attack) is the greatest.  And the most ironic thing is that ADT, who of course phone immediately that the alarm goes off (thereby adding to the general chaos and pandemonium reigning in the household at that time), choose to ask as their first question "Was anybody standing underneath the smoke detector and spraying on perfume or deodorant at the time when it went off?"  As if!  At three in the morning, I think it highly unlikely for anyone to be standing in the upright position, let alone considering spritzing themselves with perfume or deodorant.  

But what I hate the most is the effect of the smoke alarm on three sleeping kids.  Last night, I had just managed to get Little Miss Snoopy to be persuaded into sleep for about the fourth time (Okay - I admit it!  I am a psychologist and I have a child that doesn't sleep through the night.  At all!  Ever!  And has never done!). 

Just as we were settling into sleep ourselves, and I was glancing blearily at a clock that said 3:16am, the awful racket which signifies a smoke detector malfunction started.  Pandemonium broke loose as usual, yet I was surprised when the boys did not run shrieking into my bed as they would usually have done.  Instead, I heard a matter-of-fact little voice from the depths of Paddy's bed, under the duvet cover:  "I really don't like that alarm, Mama."  And that was it.

Hmmm.  I remember the days of running through to their rooms as the alarm wailed, holding their sobbing, shaking little bodies close against me while the Sweetpea attacked the detector with a screwdriver (of course there is no easy off-switch for a malfunctioning detector - it will scream until kingdom come if you let it - never be tempted by ADT to "just press *# and it will turn itself off" - you will save yourself minutes of hassle and fruitless pressing of *#).  In those long-ago days, which I can remember so vividly, the alarm was the most terrifying thing that could happen to the boys, and for hours and days afterwards, they would be afraid even to walk near the things.  They also developed a code word which they both used, almost as a protection against evil (like the Victorians made signs against the "evil eye").  "Attooofah!" they would both yell, while pointing at the alarm.  I could never discover what it meant - it was just one of those twin things that I had to assume would be beyond the understanding of a single mortal like myself.  But it seemed to give them some form of comfort in, what was to them, a terrible and unpredictable setting.

And now, they are so grown up that they hardly mention it, and see fit to go back to sleep almost immediately.  I think it was that fact more than anything else that has happened over the past month that has brought home to me the imminence of their maturity; the fact that they stand tiptoe, poised on the edge of that daunting, scary, vibrant and wonderful world of manhood.  Within seconds, they will be ready to fling themselves over the edge into the unknown, and I will have lost them.  What is that saying?  If you love something, set it free?  The person who first coined that phrase could not have been a mother - every instinct in you wants to clutch and grab and hold onto your babies for all you are worth.  

Yet the rationalist in me realises the validity of the statement.  

So, in the words of another famous author (William Shakespeare):
"Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny, 
converting all your sounds of woe, 
into Hey, nonny, nonny!"

I am not sure what a nonny is, but even without that understanding, something in me replies: "Easier said than done, methinks!"

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