Invisible Switches.

I don’t think any of us even give them a second thought as we are growing up from infanthood but they are alway there. They are only a small part of the magnitude of invisible cogs that work away at developing our lives, but they don’t reveal themselves until we are much older, well, grandparents really. In fact, it is only since I am enjoying being a ‘hands on’ grandparent that these little switches have unveiled themselves to me. Up to  this point I was aware of the little changes but took no notice, merely accepting life as it happened but a cute comment from my two and a half year old grand daughter made me stop and think.

Grandpa: ( thinking about a little friend she used to call her boyfriend ) ‘Have you got a boyfriend Millie?’

Millie: ‘I don’t like boys!’ she pauses for thought … ‘ but I like you Grandpa.’

Now it was less than a year ago she was managing one or two words, mainly repetitive stuff then a year later not only has she mastered language but is able to articulate an associated thought with perfect vocabulary. Personally, I think it is incredible how quickly comprehension and communication develops and how much it changes the way they behave. I have this theory that they don’t speak before because they are sussing us all out. They listen and understand then just as they get to the cute stage they open their mouths and out comes all this accurate and self opinionated language. Switch number one has been activated! Of course the terrible twos can be explained quite easily now…’ I have sat and listened to all the drivel for two years and it’s my turn now! Payback!’

So for the next few months they carry on practising their language and listening, playing out their scenarios with toys until another switch activates.. Bodily functions. Up to this point they have watched while parents have introduced the prospect maybe; they listened, placed dolls and teddies on the potty, toilet visits becomes a joint affair and all modesty is lost as they watch you… of course, learning by observation, but the commentary can leave the adult in us cringing. They are gearing up for the next switch, or is it two? The declaration of I don’t want to wear a nappy any more is the cue and body function control is being exercised, most of the time anyway. What we don’t notice is the switch that says ‘ I am two, I can speak and now I can get you back for all the embarrassing babytalk you poured onto our ears.’ Please, someone click the switch that teaches them that parents get embarrassed. OK we have learned to live with the smells and noises they make, most noticable on public transport or in crowded places, but to have ‘ I need a poo!’  announced in a loudspeaker voice has many a parent blushing.

As time passes, switch after unnoticed switch is activated at certain years and this carries on for the rest of our lives. Unnassuming, unnoticed by the host person yet obvious enough for the adults to make comments such as.. ‘Ah, terrible twos eh?’ with understanding nodding of the head. Then there’s the big one… the teenage switch! accompanied by well meaning relatives comments like ‘It will pass soon.’ with a condescending pat on the arm.

These are all very obvious signs of growing up but I was laying in bed the other morning and thinking about it all. It was then that I realised there are so many of these switches. Some occur naturally but others are triggered by external events. I remember my older daughter pointing out another one to me that I hadn’t noticed myself. Rather than continue her education in 6th form, she made the decision to go to college for her ‘A’ levels. After only a few months she mentioned the difference in her behaviour compared to that of the friends still at school. They were still school children and still rather childish but college had triggered off the maturity switch in her. She behaved differently, thought differently and was far more sensible in her approach to life.

It wasn’t until my younger daughters had their children that I noticed the other changes. The ‘Mummy switch’ changed my children into adults that were only able to communicate on mummy related issues for any length of time. What a big change that switch makes! This first of many in our adult lives, relationships, pregnancy and babies all have their own switches. I thought that might be the end of it but I took a look at how my life had changed. My way of thinking and acting were triggered by a silent code of behaviour that one would expect of a mature person. I hadn’t even noticed the change!

I think there is a link to the Mummy switch there though. I recognise it as clear as my daughters idolised their babies with every speaking moment only I was doing it as a grandparent. I want to share this extreme delight in these small people with everyone. I thought about family and friends and everyone is the same! It isn’t specific to any particular people. These are common among us all. What scares me is that I am beginning to recognise the older person switch twitching in myself along with the proud grandparent one.

If I go out my subconscious logs the possible loo stops, my bag carries a water bottle in case I am thirsty, tissues, painkillers, indigestion tablets, a plastic bag in case one of the children are sick, baby wipes… help!!! it will be comfy slippers next… noooo!!! this was the first winter I have felt the need for slippers rather than bare feet… it’s happening already!  I recognise my grandmother in things I do and say, the way I think is different. Thankfully I have plenty of life experience and education to be able to look at the ‘young generation’ (Agggghhhh)  and still be able to embrace change and fresh ideas. I do concede though and give my grandchildren encouragement by always calling on them to help me programme the tv remote or even the dvd player… I’m encouraging their self confidence aren’t I? The fact that I am relinquishing mine has nothing to do with the elderly switch. I am holding that back for at least another ten years and by then I shall let it go joyfully as having lived long enough to milk it for everything it has to offer.

Roll on the purple hat and behaving disgracefully to pay back all those embarrassing moments we have endured and just so we can watch the ‘Mum, what are you like?’ switch happen in our kids and smile to ourselves because we know that one day, it’ll happen to them too. The switches are in control!!!

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