I used to be quite heartless. Before giving birth gave me a core of mush in more ways than one, I would scoff when my mother burst into tears over some heart rending tale of child abduction or a the grisly murder of a girl around my age. I couldn't understand why tales of some stranger's suffering touched her so deeply.
Well the boot is firmly on the other foot now as I was reminded when I watched the Richard Curtis drama Mary and Martha the other day. This rather heavy handed and implausible tale centred on two mother's who had lost their sons to malaria. One of the dead boys was around the same age as my eldest, cue floods of tears at this unremittingly bleak story.
As the two mothers compared notes on their top life moments, starting with the birth of their boys and ending with all the days their sons' had been alive, I was thundering downstairs to shower my sleeping sons in kisses, dripping those maternal tears onto their cheeks as I went. My husband who had rather grumpily been woken by my nocturnal weeping asked, really rather reasonably: 'Well why on earth did you watch a program about children dying?'
While I take his point, sometimes it does me good to remember just how precious my annoying children really are. Having spent the day refereeing various pointless skirmishes over the ownership of toys and whether or not it was a reasonable request to ask a four-year-old to at least attempt to put on his own shoes, it is sometimes hard to hold onto the concept of childhood as a golden time.
Watching the agony of those onscreen mothers who would never again have to remonstrate with their boys about mess, bargain over the eating of a few more vegetables before pudding is back on the menu or nag endlessly in the vain hope this might mean that homework or music practise actually got done, served as a painful reminder of what a gift the mundane actually is.
Of course it would make you into rather a tedious type of person to be walking round in a perpetual state of recognition of what joys your children are. In fact people would soon start to question or mental capacity if you were to don a beatific smile of gratitude as your little terrors thumped one another and whined at you to buy them sweets in the corner shop.
That said it does no harm to indulge in a little bit of a tearjerker from time to time, even if all it means is that for just one morning you might think twice before starting to scream when your seventh suggestion that shoes and coats were put on as it was time to leave for school about ten minutes ago was ignored. If you can hold on until your requests reach double digits then that sad screenplay has done its job.