My children grow older in great jumping stretches, strides of development and intellect that take me by shocked and awe-struck surprise. They learn things while I’m not looking, not watching, not quite paying attention; some days they seem to eat the world whole and regurgitate it, piecemeal and filtered down to it’s most keenly observed and amusingly purified status.
They make decisions. They form their own likes and dislikes, opinions and quirks. Desires and preferences and aches and soft spots. They become little people, a formation of their own selves. Without ever needing my- nor anyone else’s- permission.
My son leaves for school each day buoyant, blessed, the sunshine of scabbed knees and school awards all over his happy smile and lightly freckled nose. He adores Big School and he’s well behaved and popular, smart and polite.
I’m so proud of him I could pop, burst apart at the seams with a sunshine of my own. I worry so much for him it aches at my heart. He rarely mentions his father, hardy ever; and when he does its with the sunny side-up– spotting a star and saying goodnight, sharing a wistful memory of ‘when we lived in the Purple House‘ with me (some days, it seems he keeps more memories from there than I do, and I don’t know if that’s happy or sad, awful or heartening).
My daughter is now older than my son was when his father died. Sometimes I look at other children, younger children, unsteady on their feet and still with a baby-fluff of hair on their heads and I think to myself, in a tone that carries a desperate guttural sort of sobbing sadness- she was so little. She was so young- just a baby, really. And again, I don’t know if that’s good or bad, a happy occurrence or a sad one.
I still keep tabs and measurements on my kids- maybe I always will. I track growths and accomplishments- toilet training, learning to count, my son writing his name, whole nights of (blessed) unbroken sleep, wobbly teeth and birthday parties. I pay extra attention to them, record and file them in the recesses of my mind. Accomplishments made. Things done. Less out of a fear of forgetting all of them, with no one to remind me; more because these are things I have witnessed, alone. My children’s accomplishments are mine as well.
My children have been mine now for much longer than they were ever Tony’s. The majority of their growing, their formative years- that’s been done by me. And I look at them sometimes, myheart beating with a pride I never thought possible, because I’ve never felt it before; my head rings with ‘mine, mine, mine’. Because I have done this. I’ve created two beautiful, smart, funny, caring and empathetic people. As a solo unit. And the three of us, we are a team.
Conversing with The Most Amazing Man In The Universe just a few days ago, we happened to touch on the subject of (in my own ill-thought-out wording, with no criticism from either of us, as negative as the phrase may sound) mothers ‘like me’. Mothers- single mums and partnered mums- who seem to struggle just that little bit. Mothers who allow washing to pile up, who feed their kids hot chips for dinner. Whose houses are always slightly chaotic, with pets and toys and half-done projects interrupting the flow of organisation. Mums that are hopeless at cooking and planning weekend outings, and let their kids watch too much TV.
The mothers that seem unable to contain the chaos of small children. The ones who wouldn’t know a housework roster if it bit them on the butt while they were vacuuming around and not under the lounge (again).
The chaotic, disorganised parent whose children turn out all kinds of awesome anyway- polite and pleasurable, earnest and enlightening company. Flowers of unmitigated perfection, grown of a garden unkempt and tended with the very best of intentions.
I’m that mum who’s always running just that little bit late, the one who forgets permission notes and homework (but hasn’t missed a library day yet). This morning, I’m attending a (godforsaken) school assembly, to watch my little man receive a special award. I’m feeling all the satisfaction that comes from years of bitching hard work and rampant parental insecurity finally manifest itself into one of those allusive “I’m doing OK at this parenting thing” moments.
It’s like some kind of holy parenting pinnacle. A rest stop on a long road that’s not marked with signs and where I have no GPS. An un-navigated journey I began naively that sometimes seems endless and I’m always worried about running out of fuel before I can stop and replenish again, getting lost and finding no one to ask for directions.
This pit-stop feels like a victory. One that belongs to me and my kids. It’s ours, and ours alone.
I did this, raised these gorgeous little people.
And I did it all by myself.
Updated: The award itself turned out to be specifically for the Chop’s “caring and responsible personality”.
For today, I will answer to ‘super-mum’ and ‘best mum ever’. In my own mind, at the very least.