March 27, 2017
Posted in View from the table
“Life’s what happens when you’re busy making plans”. My plans were saving up to go to SXSW and whale watching in Canada but, as Lennon so beautifully observed, that’s not how it works. No, sometimes ‘life’ comes in the form of a full force punch in the face, other times like an overnight snowfall; gentle, silent and soft. Waking up to a landscape that’s familiar; the hills, turns and valleys are all as they were, but they look so completely different. Motherhood is without a doubt both of these.
How can you even begin to write with justice about being responsible for a human being? Being responsible for not only their wellbeing but their very existence? It’s enough to make your head explode. Sometimes I feel like it just might. 3,2,1, BLAST OFF -run for cover. But this extreme of emotions is what it’s all about, I’m sure. To love so very fiercely is not an easy ride, it’s sky highs and devastating lows, utter joy and absolute heartbreak. It’s not for the faint hearted. How many mothers have cried their way through their whole drive to work (hello last Tuesday) after leaving their child in tears in the playground, knowing you have to go, knowing they do too, but with only that little crumpled face in your mind? And then you call the school the minute you park and the receptionist tells you that your ‘broken’ child is currently wise cracking and tap dancing “she’s absolutely fine Sarah!”. Agh!!!
To cite another quote, the author Elizabeth Stone said that to have a child is” to decide forever to have your heart walk around outside of your body” I understand and feel every word of that.
Parenting is messy and uncharted, it puts you in another world. I’ve found allies in this world in the mums who aren’t afraid to show a bit of their own chaos, because I can relate to them, they make me feel less alone in my daily shambles. The ones who admit to not knowing about the mufti day, “Agh! Quick, get back in the car”. We look out for each other, there’s no competitive parenting here, just basic survival. They’re the ones who when you have no car and live in a village will ferry your child to school in the morning for you, or when at 7pm you’re told that beef mince and lardons (lardons!) are needed for cookery in the morning, will fly up to Aldi for you, and they’ll burst into your kitchen with said meat products and a bottle of wine, shoot a look at the clock and tell you to open the bottle quickly because they’ve only got 17 minutes before they need to be mum taxi again. They’re my kind of mums, all the way. We can spot each other a mile off.
It’s OK, I think, to being honest here, to admit to not knowing everything, not having it all sussed out, to figure it out together if I don’t have the answers. I learn as much from my girls as they do me.
Sometimes Often I worry that the balance is tipped in my favour, not theirs. I’m horribly hot-headed, fiery, I’ve had to learn to stop, breathe and think before I lose my shit, it mostly works, though times are trying with a teenage girl and I confess to not covering myself in glory of late. ‘I’m the adult, I’m the adult’ is my in-head mantra when I feel like a teenager myself. Us arguing has been likened to someone having a fight with their self, yelling at their own reflection in the mirror. I’m also horribly, horribly impatient, I’ve had to back burner that too. Motherhood means seeing your own imperfections, dealing with them so you can have a foothold on teaching someone else how to be an OK human being.
I can no more ensure that or plan my children’s future than I can climb to the moon but we are the sum of our own upbringing. My own mother is nothing short of a warrior. I rely on her more than I probably should at 45, she makes me feel completely safe and loved, always. She’s strong and positive thinking, she’s kooky, kind, caring and happy – god, she dances naked in the woods on Midsummer’s Eve, she’s her own woman. If I’m half the woman she is then I’ll be winning at life. Same for my girls.
This Mother’s Day my girls cooked chilli and (quite possibly the best) churros I’ve ever eaten – proof if it were ever needed that you absolutely should teach your kids how to cook. My mum imparted some wisdom to them around the table. “Don’t conform, it will eat you alive if you try to be someone else. Be yourself, because you are completely unique. Be kind, be respectful, care about things, but don’t care about what people think about you. Be happy, whatever that means to you, life’s not worth anything if you are not happy.” I can’t really top that.
Happy Mother’s Day, mother truckers. You’re doing the best job you can, and it’s more than enough.