I received strict instructions last night NOT to get out of bed this morning. This morning, I heard my girls getting up and bustling around the kitchen in hushed tones. I heard the kettle boiling, and a few minutes later the toaster popping. I sat up in preparation of whatever was coming. I wished for the coffee to come soon, because pretending to be thrilled with cold coffee is no joke. Thankfully, I heard the kettle boil again. A few minutes later, my beautiful girls came through to my bedroom carrying a tray and singing “Happy Mother’s Day to you, Happy Mother’s Day to you, Happy Mother’s day dear Mommy, Happy Mother’s Day to you!”
On the tray was coffee for me (relatively warm), milo for each of the girls, egg on toast (with a bottle of HP sauce on the side – they know my taste!), two cards and a hand-painted (by Scary) teapot-shaped teabag holder. I hadn’t even noticed the beautiful fleecy blanket they’d snuck onto my bed. As Scary shared my egg on toast with me, I read my cards.
“Dear Mom. Hope this will keep you warm xxx” said the one on the blanket. “Happy Mothers Day” and a poem typed by the teachers, read the one with the teacup and a real teabag in. “Dear Mom. Thanks for bieng [sic] an awesome mom and bieng [sic] patient when I am not bieng [sic] so awesome. I hope you have a great day and like your present. xxx Love you” [We subsequently had a little spelling lesson]. On the back of this card was the best present of all: a book of vouchers labelled “Mom money: Uses: Hugs, Your choice of music, Kisses, to stop us fighting, to ask us to read, play with hair, pamper, beading, games, shows. Enjoy@ xxx (Add Anything)”
These are, of course, the joys of parenting – those moments when you witness your children doing their best to appreciate you. When you hear the lessons you’ve thought you were failing at being repeated from one child to another, then you know your words have sunk in. When cuddles and love are more important than television and iPads, then your hard work has paid off.
Of course, on days like Mother’s Day, those of us who have lost our mothers miss them even more. I have been a little tearful all week, missing my late mom. I dreamt of her last night – she was young and healthy and was way over the cancer that took her life. She was completely unfazed by the hundreds of teenagers I had brought home for a sleepover. It was wonderful to see her in such a good space.
I’ve been thinking about all the mothers I know. While not one of us is perfect, I don’t think there is anyone mom I know who I would label a bad mother. We all do the best we can with what we have. In fact, I can’t imagine what a perfect mother looks like, because she doesn’t exist. There is so much to this job that you wouldn’t even consider if you weren’t a mother. Of course there is the obvious stuff: children need to be fed (healthy, nutritious food), housed (in a clean environment, free of health hazards), clothed (warm enough, cool enough, trendy enough so they don’t get bullied), educated (i.e. schooling).
But there is so much more to the job. Whether we like it or not, we are role models for our children. They do as we do, and not necessarily as we say. I learnt this early on in my role as mother, when I found my little girl wagging her finger at me. There was only one place she could have picked that up. It’s made me at least attempt to check all of my behaviour in front of my children so that I live the values that I am trying to teach them. I am, consequently, kind to strangers (but have taught my children that while they are welcome to talk to strangers, they must never, ever to go off with them), respectful of the environment, stand up to bullies and speak out against injustice. I appreciate and point our beauty all around me all the time, so that my children love the world they live in. I constantly teach my girls that they can be anything they want to be in the world, and that their gender should never make them feel inferior. I teach them that I deserve respect. I have had to be aware of my own fears and prejudices so that I don’t just automatically pass them on to my children. I try to explain why I behave in certain ways. When I get angry, I always try to explain why I do. My girls are learning to help in the kitchen and to clean up after themselves. They know the value of reading books (because they have been read to since they were babies). I’m sure that by the time they are ready to leave the house, they will be independent and self sufficient. I teach them that stereotypes don’t need to be bought into and that it’s okay to ask for help. They have learnt that while their beautiful bodies are important vehicles which will get them through life and are to be looked after, that people come in different shapes and sizes and they never have to conform to just one idea of beauty – they are beautiful in their own right. I teach them that violence doesn’t solve anything, and brute force is very rarely the solution (unless that drawer just won’t open!). I try my best not to behave like an idiot on the road and not to react too harshly to other idiots. And these are just some of the things that I think are important. I know other mothers have other priorities for their children.
But most important of all, I think, is that my children know, without doubt, that they are loved wholeheartedly, no matter what. Even when I am shouting and screaming and forgetting to be a good role model, they know I love them. Even when Noodle is being a moody, broody, eye-rolling pre-teen, she knows I love her. Even when Scary is throwing temper tantrums about the television remote control, she knows she is loved.
The proof that I’m doing a good job is in the pudding. My children are wonderful human beings. I am proud to be their mother. Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers out there. I hope your efforts are being appreciated today. And happy Missing-Your-Mommy Day to all those who no longer have theirs. I know how you feel.