Mothering Sunday is a real push-me-pull -you of a day. I have my own Mum still. Then I have to prepare myself for the effusive tributes of my dear, dear children i.e. a mumbled “Happy Mother’s Day ” when they arise, at some indeterminent point mid afternoon; ditto a phone call if they’re away from home; at a pinch, a card.
The thing is my kids are just too cool and clever to flood social media with odes to my mothering skills. Which is ABSOLUTELY FINE. Obviously I just have to avoid reading other kids’ odes on Facebook, to stop myself from spending the day rocking and weeping. But hey, a digital detox! Really, really good for me…..
Whether it’s “aw, they’re such good kids” or “what the hell did I do wrong?” there’s nothing like Mothering Sunday for prompting thoughts about yourself as a mother. So as both a provider of mothering services and a recipient, this is what – and possibly all – I know.
You never stop worrying so don’t even try.
From the moment the Predictor test turns blue, when you panic because you’ve been drinking and eating unpasteurised cheese for the last three months (statistically 90% of children must be conceived in alcohol and salmonella), you are turning into a completely different person. You are becoming….Worry Woman!
From those first few baby days when can’t even let them sleep, for poking them to check they’re still breathing; to the teenage years when you contemplate calling in police frogmen and having the canals dragged because your offspring won’t answer their mobile phones, welcome to a world of skin crawling anxiety. When your children are unhappy, you will be unhappier; when they are beset by problems, you will be…well.. besetter.
I always thought my own Mum was completely untroubled by maternal concern. There were four of us at home and she seemed overwhelmed by her not-so merry throng. Then just a few years ago, a GP showed me my medical files from my first couple of years of life. Poor Mum. She was such an anxious young thing. She was never away from the doctor’s surgery: “Mother concerned baby seems rather pale”; “Mother worried baby not eating”. So the baton of maternal anxiety is handed down from generation to generation.
And this, my dear young people, is why you should get off your bums and buy your Mum a bunch of daffs once a year. At least it will reassure her you’ve got a couple of quid in your pocket.
Every age they’re at is your favourite age…
Well, if I’m honest, until they get to about 15 and go into that grunting, eye rolling, stroppy chrysalis for about four years. Then you look back with increasing fondness on their younger years. But once they’ve dried off their adult wings and taken a few exploratory flights away from home, older children are wonderful – kids you can drink with!
Post seeing them take their first tentative steps or wobble off on their bikes, the next best rite of passage is seeing them heading off to the bar for the first time to buy a round. Can’t think why Hallmark haven’t developed a card to celebrate it.
The older they get the more they open windows in your life.
The early years of being a mum are tough: you are, essentially, in baby gaol. But the older kids get, the more this becomes an open prison. It’s surprising, exhilarating, refreshing, like having all the windows in the house flung open at once. Because whilst you were barely paying attention, their tastes and opinions and attitudes have developed into their music, their humour, the films they like, their style, their politics, their passions and they’re keen to share. There is nothing like young people’s take on the world for making you look at it again through fresh eyes. They are a sovereign remedy against jadedness.
It’s important to show them that being a grown up is fun.
This is my friend C’s cardinal rule and it is great. She believes we have a duty to show our kids how much fun being grown up is. And the way to do this? By HAVING FUN OURSELVES! Genius!
It is easy to be a moany old cow, constantly complaining about work, or money, or life. A couple of days before my oldest son’s 8th birthday, I found him in tears: “I don’t want to grow up and have to do tax returns!”, he sobbed. He’s 24 and he still doesn’t want to do either.
Perhaps we should have made him realise there’s more to adult life than Excel sheets and working round the clock . Or at least pretended there is.
Step away from the helicopter.
There comes a time when every Mum has to tear up her Commercial Rotorcraft Licence and retire from helicoptering around the place, trying to be useful. Where you draw the line is a matter of choice. My friend, J, wrote her sons’ university essays. She felt having done their GCSE and A level coursework she couldn’t stop. Their teachers would have wondered at the sudden drop in quality. She followed through, however, completing two dissertations and getting both boys jobs.
I think, however, even she would agree that once your little treasures have hit the workplace, it is no longer appropriate to get involved. But my sister, who employs a lot of young people, reports that their mothers frequently call her to ensure their precious babes are suitably looked after/rewarded/promoted and give her a hard time if what Jack or Josh or Jessie requires is not immediately prioritised.
My own (somewhat shaky) rule is that now they are all at or post university, I will advise, help where possible, even nag a little (ok, a lot) but I try to resist doing things for them. My goodness, it’s hard. Sometimes every sinew in my body is itching to do pick up the phone and make the call they’ve been postponing for three weeks which will take 5 minutes and solve everything. But no, I have to step away from the joystick and bring that metal bird into land. If they don’t solve problems themselves then they won’t learn to solve problems themselves. After all our parents never got involved in our lives beyond the age of 11. Or did they?
You can’t predict what kind of parent you (or your partner) will be.
If I could rule the world for a day, I would introduce a simple questionnaire which all couples would be required to fill in: a parenting prenup agreement. Because, noone ever thinks they’ll fall out over about how they’ll bring up their kids – you just have kids and love them, right?
Wrong. Christmas presents, for example – you need to settle pretty quickly what is deemed an acceptable number of presents; who buys them and who chucks the wrapping paper round on Christmas Eve after one too many of Santa’s sherries and says, “There is too much bloody stuff. They really don’t need this! How much has all this cost?”. Also Star Charts – a helpful reward tool or annoying system to ignore once the creator of the star chart has left? (Discuss, MR MUTTON!!!). Let alone the really heavy stuff: “Controlled Crying” anyone?
And so on. The trouble is that one parent is likely to have a different approach to the other, which takes getting your head around. But whatever parenting combination you are in, you are forced to iron out all these differences on the job. You will make mistakes. I often think this is why (sweeping generalisation klaxon) oldest children are neurotic and youngest children are laid back.
Never forget your kids will choose your nursing home.
So be nice, ok? Whenever I get a bit uppity, my kids jest about the home they’ll stick me in where you eat at 5pm and there is NO BAR. That and the Swiss Air flight to Geneva, they’ll buy me, for a funny tasting cup of tea (at least I think it’s a jest).
I can’t ever imagine losing touch or falling out with my kids, but I know people who have. If you don’t fancy sitting in your own wee, waiting for your turn to do the Hokey Cokey as entertainment, then think on!