I have always been a fairly self-conscious person. Whether this be third child syndrome, being English, being the odd one out – who knows? We could ‘shrink’ it out and come up with some deep rooted issues I am sure. I bet we could run up a fairly huge bill. But, no need, because I am finding a ‘cure’ all on my own. Well – not quite on my own. . .
My worry has always been having other people laugh at me. A vague paranoia has followed me through life whispering in my ear that ‘they are making fun of you’, that ‘it is all a set up to make you look stupid’.
This paranoia monster has stopped me from chatting to strangers. Because in my head I know my mouth moves before my brain engages and I am bound to say something weird, rude, stupid. I am clearly going to appear foolish or ignorant. Who knows? Safer to stay quiet!
The paranoia monster prevented me from being spontaneous and outgoing throughout my school life. I admired the hippies at school for wearing bright, multi coloured, mismatched clothing. I thought the piercings and green hair were outrageous. How gutsy! OK, I didn’t want green hair and holes in my eyebrows. But still – they did it. I couldn’t.
I never enjoyed nightclubs. I am not a fan of loud music anyway, but I was always conscious that despite there being a few hundred other people waving their arms about and jumping around like crickets, everyone would immediately stop to notice how uncoordinated and boring my dancing was. I spent my years at uni propping up the bar, guarding the drinks from spikers.
It’s not that I wanted to be an extrovert or that I was really an introvert. I was just hiding.
And then I had kids.
A few moments in time spring to mind.
* Sitting on a stack of catalogues in a well known and busy store entrance, watching as your child writhes on the floor, shouting and shrieking and screaming at a pitch just below bat hearing, having an all out tantrum. Smiling in the face of elderly disapproval and teenager smirks. Sometimes, it’s easier to let them get it out.
* Carrying your child from the supermarket, slung over your shoulder whilst they kick you in your flaming red face and thump you in the back, because you wouldn’t buy whatever it was, leaving your entire trolley of shopping in the checkout lane, half emptied onto the conveyor belt.
* Sitting on a plane for four hours where the only way to keep your toddler from sprinting up and down the aisle or kicking the grouchy old man in front is to read out their favourite book, complete with funny, squeaky and growly voices, sound effects and large arm movements, to the entertainment of other travellers.
* Watching your eldest in their first ever nativity, only to realise that your youngest has not only concussed the people around you with the stench coming from their nappy, but also that the sound effects of an milk intolerant stomach reacting to a new food are louder than the play and nappy leakage has occurred, visible by the trail running out of the bottom of their trousers and across the floor behind them.
It is moments like these when you realise that the worst thing that could have occurred at that moment has happened – and you survived. Not only that, but the other parents around you are laughing with you. In mutual sympathy.
For the sake of my kids I have danced at school discos, dressed up for Halloween, worn a pasta necklace and cardboard pink crown to the shops and more. I have done a lot of things that I would never have thought I could.
And I realised, no one is paying me any attention. Or, if they do pass over a five second glance, it’s quite nice to bring a smile to their face and share a mutual eye roll at the antics of your children. It’s ok.
Thank you kids, for bringing out out the silly in me