I spent three days recently with my newly-five-year-old niece. We shared a room, which gave me some lovely quiet (or actually, not so quiet) time with her. Her cunning father ensured I had a cup of tea early in the morning as soon as he heard us talking, which meant I couldn't plead exhaustion and go back to sleep. We played some of the games I keep on my iPad for our visits - Talking Tom the Cat is a favourite, but increasingly she is swayed by peer pressure and media influence,and is diverted by the fairy princess who is beautiful but a bit boring (causing an old feminist to shake her head.) We had giggles in bed, running races up the street, and I just about bounced her off the see-saw down at the park. I took pleasure in the cuddles, her joy at seeing me, and in the calm act of reading her a bed-time story.
I also have to admit, I breathed a sigh of relief when she went to bed at night, or sat quietly playing with her imaginary little sister. And that was the only pang I had. That my sister has to daily hear her imagine that she is playing with a little sister she will never have. And a pang that she doesn't have a cousin or cousins around the same age either. (Well, not on my sister's side of the family). But the pangs were for her and my sister, not really for me. Because what's the point?
And knowing I feel this way? Well, that feels like a minor victory - another mark of survival.