12 May 2014

"The Days are Long but the Years are Short"

I couldn't let Mother's Day pass me by without contributing my two cents worth (even though I've been laid up in bed with the flu and didn't even make it to work today).

At times it can feel like the toughest job in the world.

I've done some tough jobs in the past. I worked for years with at-risk teens, starting up an education programme, filling out endless funding applications, dealing with the police, drugs, suicide threats and runaways. I tracked down truants, visited homes where nobody cared, advocated for kids nobody believed in and tried my best to make a difference. That was tough. It was difficult. It took a lot out of me.

But even given all that, I've found motherhood to be more of a challenge, more difficult, tougher.
Motherhood has given me more sleepless nights, more grey hair, more wrinkles than that tough job ever did.

As much as I worried about about those students of mine, I worry more over my own offspring.
As much as I cared about those students of mine, in the end they weren't really mine.
But the children I've been blessed with, who are mine to mother and nurture? They are nobody else's responsibility. The buck stops here.

Babies don't come with a user manual, but the world has no shortage of experts telling you what to do, what not to do. Sometimes all this information can be terrifying and paralysing.

The way my kids turn out will reflect on me, and whether I did all I could to help them grow into good people.
For many years this knowledge weighed me down with anxiety. Would I be a good enough mum?
Consistent enough? Firm enough?
I feared that I wasn't. No, strike that. I KNEW that I wasn't.

I even wrote a post titled "If consistency is the key to good parenting I'm stuffed" (2011). I stumbled across this post a few weeks ago and a couple of the comments my readers left me all those years ago really struck a chord with me in a fresh way, especially this one...

"You are consistent at loving and wanting the best for your kids...I think that matters most!!" (FROM REBECCA) 

A few years on, and with more years of motherhood experience under my belt and a deeper knowledge of both myself and my kids, I know that what Rebecca said in that comment really is what matters most.

I'm still not very consistent at other stuff but I AM consistent at loving them. 
I'm still an ideas person, I'm still crap at follow-through. We still have plenty of chaos and craziness in our household and I worry about my kids far more than I should. 

BUT. I love them and they know it. And I know they know it. And they love me too.

We talk. I listen to them. I know them.
I know what music they're into, who their friends are and what makes them scared. I know the things that set them off and rark them up. I know where we clash and I know the things that we'll probably battle over when they are teenagers (in just a few short years).

I am consistent at loving them. And that's what matters.
They know I am imperfect. I don't try and pretend I'm always right just because I'm the mum. When I screw up I apologise. When I overreact I ask for forgiveness. When they teach me something, I let them know it.

And I try not to have a thin skin.
I don't cry when they shout at me "You're the worst mother in the world" "You're so mean"  or "I hate you!" as kids sometimes do when you say "No". 
I know they love me, they're just mad cos they couldn't get their way. Those angry words just roll right off of me, they don't even phase me. In an hour or so they'll be snuggling up to me again, kissing my cheek and telling me they love me, I know they will.

In the not-so-long ago days when my kids were sleepless milkfed babies I thought this stage of parenting, (with kids who are no longer dependant on you for everything, who can make their own breakfasts and lunchboxes, get themselves dressed and bike or bus across town) would be the easy bit.

What I've learnt is that there really is no easy bit.
It's all one gigantic learning curve. 
Just when you think you know what you're doing and you've got the hang of this parenting lark, BOOM! a new stage hits you like a ton of bricks. 

Never do you get to rest on your laurels. Never do you get to gaze benevolently down at your offspring in a golden glow of complacency, with everything right in your world.

There's always one kid who is struggling with something. There's always someone who needs you more than the others. There's always something new to get your head around, some preconceived idea or misbegotten notion to kick to the curb.

None of us mothers are perfect, and never will be. But we are loved by the children who have been given into our care. And we love them with a fierceness that is unlike any other love.

This is the reality of Motherhood. 
Nothing stands still. Time waits for no mum. 
The days are long but the years are short. 
We do the best we can and have to trust that it's enough.

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