When we were travelling, moving around every few days or weeks, Alula started displaying worrying behaviour traits. Every time we would arrive in a new hotel or guest house she’d gather up a random assortment of belongings – her toys, hairbrushes, shells, books, her tutu, her Barbies – and place them all in a carrier bags which she would then stash in random places – behind the loo, under the bed etc.

It was weird.

It was disturbing. And it freaked us out. I mean when a three year old does this it kind of reveals latent displacement issues. What issues were we seeding in her psyche that might manifest at a later date as psychosis? How much did we need to start saving for therapy? At thirteen would she throw this back in our faces – ‘I hate you you’re not my mummy (she already has this line down pat) – you ruined my life making me travel around the world – wearing only a tutu!’

In rebellion against her hippy parents would she become an accountant? Would she refuse to board another plane for the rest of her life, move to the suburbs of some faceless city and choose to vote conservative?

I hated it that she had no feeling of stability and it was the one thing we struggled with whilst we were on the move, forcing us to slow our pace (a good thing) and cancel some parts of our travelling to provide her with a sense of semi-permanence at least. We even resorted to buying her Barbies as tokens of  guilt.

So when we arrived back in Bali we were relieved to finally have a home, to create a space for lula that she felt safe in. ‘But how long are we staying?’ she kept asking.

‘For ages and ages,’ we answered. ‘This is our home. Look here’s a bookshelf and your own princess bed.’ We even bought her a puppy.

And then I mentioned to her the other day that we were going back to London for the summer and thirty seconds later I find her burrowing through her treasure drawer, frantically emptying the contents into a plastic bag.

‘What are you doing?’ I asked her.

‘I’m packing up all my treasures,’ she answered.

‘But darling we’re not going for ages, and we’re coming back here, this is our home.’

She didn’t seem to hear. She just kept packing up her stuff.

Philip Larkin was right, they fuck you up, your mum and dad.

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2 thoughts on “They fuck you up

  1. Nishi Singh says:

    I am sure this is just a way to cope with the things and stress of life (they too can get stressed).

  2. Hey Sarah. Children are so funny and I am sure that one day you will be laughing together about this sweet neuroticism. Philip Larkin is my family poet ……. we love him. My mother and father went to Hull University and even used to see him some days waiting for the bus. The poem you mention is a well quoted one amongst us! In fact that is one of the things I miss about having a bilingual family ……. I can´t share the Larkinisms with my husband.

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