We bought foam rubber padding, pink leatherette and glue sticks for the hot glue gun. These materials are going to be assembled, somehow, by me, into a pair of thigh-high pink cowboy boots that also sort of look like horses hooves.

They are for our daughter's cos-play costume; some obscure - probably a blockbuster star in Japan - anime character. I have made a pattern out of newspaper and now I am constructing the boots with duct tape and velcro.

Yes, it's that time of year. Halloween, Armageddon, argh.


This is the highlight of our kids year. Armageddon, a kind of geekfest, started with a small gathering of people in the 1990s, now it attracts 130,000 people, the equivalent of three sold-out All Blacks test matches for all you neurotypical non-nerds.

So yes, this weekend I will be queueing for hours, and gagging at the deep fried donut smell and looking for daleks accompanied by a non-slutty anime ponygirl and a white horned creature from Hollow Knight. This is what I do as a mother. And I have to confess, not always with the most pleasant disposition.

Because as I was spending hours gluing my fingers together on the pony boots, I noticed I was getting a bit grumpy.

Was it simply bedazzling fatigue, or was there some deeper maternal ambivalence?

Faye Weldon famously said: "The greatest advantage of not having children must be that you can go on believing you are a nice person. Once you have children, you understand how wars start."

It's not socially acceptable to admit this, but as much as we wish for the best for our children, as we give it to them, we can still feel a sense of resentment, consciously or unconsciously, that they are getting the things we never got. That can be painful.

My children go to an alternative school, fly a rainbow flag outside our house, can dye their hair green and turn vegan. They can experiment at being themselves and individuate in a creative way that was not sanctioned for me.

I am both delighted by this, and saddened at what I missed. But that's okay. One of my heroes, Donald Winnicott maintained that mothers who could accept their ambivalence as inevitable were far less likely to do harm than those who masked it with sentimentality or smarminess, what he called a kind of "denied hate."

As parents we are supposed to have grand ambitions for our children. We want to give them all the things we never had, we want them to achieve more than we did. But there can also be an unacknowledged sense of rivalry between parents and children.

It's hard for most of us to admit this. Even former President Barack Obama conceded: "When you all have kids, it's important to let them win," he said. Then he added, with a smile, "Until they're a year old" — at which point you can start winning again.

He was joking but it is true that a child facing parental competitiveness understands that they are being offered a bum deal: a choice between stunting themselves so as not to threaten their parents, or choosing success and possible expulsion from the family.

No wonder a child trapped in this kind of double-bind frequently sabotages their own career or development, in a kind of twisted loyalty to their parent.

Psychotherapist Deborah Luepnitz pointed out it is not enough for a parent to know how to feel tender around the helplessness of an infant; an equally crucial, though less recognised, challenge is to cope with their eventual strength as an adult.

Some of us find this hard to do, and not just letting them beat you at Monopoly. The sense that our children are creating a different world, is a kind of victory for them.

Learning to accept this with grace is an important developmental task, and maybe more vital now than ever.

Given the challenges facing humankind and our planet, it may be crucial that we set our children free to be the fullest expression of themselves without anxious self-reproach or fear of our envy or wrath, no matter how deeply it is buried or disguised. We need to give them freedom with no strings attached.

It takes strength to see your children surpass you, to be able to feel the joy that they will do better than you will.

When I look at the economic conditions for young people today, it feels striking that we have constructed a world where many parents will not have to expand their psyches to cope with children who drive a fancier car than them or own a bigger house. Or any house.

But at the same time we may have to cope with children who live a more conscious and awake life, who can parent in a different way. Who can "work and love" – the cornerstones of our humanity according to Freud, in a different way.

That is wonderful. But when you become "woke" you may have to feel the sadness of how long you were slumbering and what you missed out on as a result. And now despite my resistance, I have to try and finish my kinky boots. Wish me luck.