Why my greatest fear is other people’s children

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  • This Mother's Day will be the strangest one ever thanks to coronavirus and social distancing, but for mum-of-two Lotta Sonninen there's one silver lining - no furniture-destroying, stain-smearing other people's kids will be in her house

    ‘Self isolation and social distancing is our new norm thanks to Covid-19, and while I know a lot of us are struggling with these rigid but necessary rules, there’s a little bit of me (OK, make that a big bit) that’s gleefully embracing these new ways of staying healthy. I don’t have to politely tolerate other people’s children and I can do it without upsetting any of my sons’ friends parents.

    Let me explain my feelings, you see it took me a while to enter the motherhood club, so by the time my twins were born 16 months ago, a few of my friends already had teenage kids. Some have schoolchildren, others have toddlers – in any case, aged 42, I already had a pretty good idea of what to expect when expecting, and beyond.

    Much of the knowledge I’ve gathered from my friends’ experiences has already proved useful, and so far there haven’t been any major surprises (that is, if you don’t count the fact that my husband and I now routinely discuss dirty nappies over morning coffee, which wasn’t meant to ever happen to us, only to other, disgustingly banal people).

    So I felt knowledgeable before giving birth, and never imagined it would be their – and other people’s – children I fear. Why, you ask? Well my own children are great, but that is largely because I know them. After hundreds of repeats, they are predictable. Other people’s children aren’t.

    I can imagine my sons criticising me and my best efforts as soon as they learn to talk (and for decades after that); but it’ll be predictable too, I’ll know what to expect and will undoubtedly learn to have my defenses ready. The thing about other people’s children is, they just might be right. What a horrendous thought.

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    But the most terrible of all my fears has this year has been postponed. That, of course, is the children’s birthday party. I’ve heard from surviving witnesses that you’re supposed to invite strange children into your house, or possibly pay for a venue, then offer them lavish food, top entertainment and carefully curated party bags – and all the time pretend you think this is fun.

    Meanwhile, the strange children will wreck your home/the expensive venue, insult each other and your child, possibly throw up on your furniture and freely critique you and your best party efforts. All this sounds quite awful, but it’s the criticism part that shocked me most when I found out. Apparently it will start as soon as the guests have learned to talk and the whole routine will take place year after year until fear of the sex, drugs and curfew conversation drives the strange children, and possibly your own, out of the house.

    And I am petrified by this scenario. I’m actually pretty petrified by other people’s children in general. At least now you know why.

    Lotta Sonninen is author of The Little Book of Bad Moods for Mothers (Bloomsbury, 5th March)

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