All my Noah wants in life is to be a superhero. Judging by the number of superheroes that exist in the world of television these days, I am quite sure that a lot of four-year-olds share the same dream. Of course, with Noah, the superhero fixation is intense. And although I find it charming, although I am proud of the boy’s imagination, I do find it all a teeny tiny bit exhausting.
Last night, my husband was working late, therefore not in the proximity at bedtime. Noah knows what’s what. He knows what he can get away with. He knows I am the weaker one, the one with the more wobbly and changeable rules. My husband is the first to attest that Noah never plays him up at bedtime. Oh no. He saves that particular superpower for me. Two minutes after I said goodnight and left him in his bedroom, he was calling me. I trudged back upstairs.
“I need to be blue, Mummy,” he said. “Blue like the Blue Beetle. How can I get a blue face?”
“You can get face paints. Goodnight, Noah.”
“Will face paints make my face blue?”
“All over my face and my eyes?”
“Yes. Now, goodnight.”
“But not inside my eyes, Mummy.”
“No, not inside your eyes.”
“Because if paint gets inside my eyes, I won’t be able to see. And it will hurt.”
“Okay. Goodnight now, Noah.”
“Wait, Mummy! What about my feet? How can I get blue feet?”
“You can put face paint on those too. You should have been asleep ages ago so I’m going now.”
“Face paints on the face of my feet?”
“And my legs?”
“Both sides of my legs?”
“And I need blue arms.”
“You can use face paints. We’ll get lots of face paints and you can be painted completely blue. But right now, you need to go to sleep.”
Every day, Noah wants to dress up as a superhero. He can go through several different personas in the space of fifteen minutes. I have to watch his superhero moves on my bed. “Watch this, Mummy!” And he launches up in the air at a contorted angle. “And Mummy! Watch this!” And he attempts some sort of gymnastics, landing in a heap. Putting the washing away takes about half an hour because I have to enthuse over so many of Noah’s moves. The bedsheets, pillows and mattress protector have to be reattached to my bed several times a day. There is no escape from the superhero downstairs, either. He launches off my chair (which I am not allowed to sit in) and throws himself across the room crying “Super cat speed!” Every time he needs to pick something up, he declares “Super Gekko muscles!”
I am also required to be a superhero myself in role plays where Noah is director, creator and controller of the game. He tells me everything I have to say and every move I have to make. I often get things wrong which enrages him. There is no room for improv on my part and no opportunity for my own creative exploration. Noah is a creative dictator.
Noah’s passions have always been relentless from the moment he was born. His first passion, of course, was breastfeeding. As a baby, this was all he was interested in doing all day and (especially) all night. Until he discovered the delights of food and breastfeeding was just at night. All night.
Noah is a spirited and an intense child and I often question whether I am cut out to be the mother of a spirited and intense child. I wonder whether I’m getting it wrong somehow. When we are in a restaurant and Noah is hanging upside down from his seat, refusing to talk in anything but baby speak, refusing to eat anything, I look around the restaurant and every other child of his age is sitting there eating dinner calmly. I have no idea how other parents manage this. Okay, so a lot of these quiet children are on ipads so maybe I do know how a lot of parents manage this…But I have to wonder – did I eat too much Haribo when I was pregnant? Did I make Noah like this? Because I did eat a lot of Haribo.
And yet, as my Dad is fond of saying, it’s the Noahs who change the world. Passion is a gift. Spirit is a gift. Dreams are a gift. So I play along with these superhero games with as much enthusiasm as I can muster. I often find myself gritting my teeth and waiting for Noah’s phases to pass. But do I actually want this phase to pass? Do I want Noah to give up on wanting to be a superhero and get the bad guys? Do I want him to stop believing he can do the impossible?
Today I turn 35. Every time I think of this, I feel like a bucket of ice has been tipped over my head. I am closer to 40 than I am to 30. I am virtually middle-aged. I have grey in my hair and frown lines between my eyebrows and little pouches under my eyes when I smile. I have a little lump that comes and goes on my leg, about the size of the fingernail on my little finger, and I am terrified it will turn into a varicose vein. My metabolism gets a bit slower every hour (although that could have something to do with the amount of jaffa cakes I consume to get me through each day). Today I turn 35 – that magical age when a woman’s fertility suddenly takes a nose dive because my eggs are all old and my ovaries are weary. Yesterday, when I was 34, I was so much more fertile than I am today. But today I turn 35 and I am still chasing after my dream.
Since I was twelve, I have wanted to write novels. In fact, I have written several novels. I wrote a series of novels when I was a teenager. Think Sweet Valley High. Think Sweet Dreams. Think Point Romance. I created my own version called The Kool Kids. I wanted to have a novel published before I was 30. When I was 28, I decided I had better get cracking so I religiously wrote for 20 minutes every single day. After ten months voila I had my first novel. Alas, it wasn’t good enough. So when I went to Vienna and faced two years of unemployment, I decided to neglect my Hausfrau duties (such as doing the washing or tidying up) and spend my free time writing another novel. But an average literary agent receives fifty unsolicited manuscripts a week from people like me. That’s 2600 a year. An average literary agent takes on about three of these writers. This is the kind of thing they teach you at the writing events I have been to: how unlikely it is that you will ever get published. The book I have just written is better than the book I wrote six years ago. But is it good enough? Look at the odds.
If this novel gets rejected 50 times, if this novel doesn’t make it, it will be disappointing. No, it will be soul destroying. Every rejection hurts. Of course it does. I am not particularly resilient by nature. I am not particularly confident or driven. But eventually, I know for a fact, my soul will heal, I will get over it and I will start writing another novel and maybe that will be the one. Who knows?
My spirit and determination is altogether a quieter thing than Noah’s. But I am 35 and I still have a dream. I still have a dream because my Mum and Dad believe in me and they are as close to real life superheroes as you can get. By the time Noah is 35, I hope he is everything he wants to be. And if he isn’t, I hope he still has a dream.
So when Noah is at nursery today, I will go to the shops and find him some face paint. A lot of face paint. And I will come home and paint him blue if that is what he wants. And I will let him paint me green. Or red. Or stripy. I will do whatever I need to do to keep him believing he is a superhero for as long as I possibly can.
P.S. Can anyone tell me where to buy face paints??