I needed her that day. It was a shit day.
I was in the midst of potty training Thomas, he’d just had a shit on the floor. I was post nights, exhausted, drained, defeated. I look after the very unwell. The critically unwell is the correct term, which makes it sound quite dramatic. It’s not. It’s mainly bloody hard work, but the enduring guilt that I’m looking after someone else’s family and not my own Mother grates somewhat on the old psyche. Annie, meanwhile, nearly 7 months wasn’t entertaining the idea of food, any food. My lovingly made puree was, it seems, pretty rotten and she gagged everytime the spoon so much as touched her lips. Today was not a good day. Usually I’d call Mum. Oh don’t get me wrong, she wouldn’t have solved it, nothing would have changed, I’d still have the smell of shit lingering in the kitchen and I’d still struggle with Annie for another few days before shoving some actual solid food on her tray which she managed with aplomb. In fact, I would no doubt have balked at some of her suggestions, possibly even had a cruel snigger with Mike about it later on. ‘Mum said try potty training another day, ha!’ (she would have been right!). “Mum said give her something she can chew on! Jesus! Does she want my baby to choke to death!?” (I’m an idiot!).
No, what I would have heard, and needed to hear, was reassurance and positivity, she would have told me I’m a good Mum, a good Mum doing a great job, with two lovely ‘wee’uns,’ full of character(!). She liked that did Mum, she loved a cheeky grandchild. She wouldn’t have hesitated giving us a clip round the ear but the naughtier the better for the second generation. And my first-world problems, would have immediately diminished. She’d have offered to come down and plans would have been penciled in. Sometimes we need to hear that don’t we? Us humans? That it’s ok. All will be well. But Mums seem to be the only ones who tell us, or who we really believe. (I tell a lie, Liz, best friend extraordinaire & Sarah always tell me lovely things). Meanwhile, Dad, overhearing our conversation would have immediately got to work, researching best buys on Amazon and a book called ‘How To Potty Train Your 3 Year Old Shitbag’ would have thudded onto the mat the next morning. Always giving that man. He’ll give until there’s nothing left. The best of men. The best man.
They were a team like that, each other’s crutch, the other half of the coin. Yes, by goodness she knew how to make her children feel loved, confident and ready for anything. I remember when Thomas was a baby, he was about 4 months old and it had been 4 months of utter tedium. The screaming seemed endless – that’s the thing with colic, your baby is taken away and replaced with a writhing, squirming red faced, angry monster, never at peace. I was walking around the park (the only time he was comfortable was gently swaying in his pram) and I called Mum. I was joyous, my tiny man had just had 120ml of milk without vomiting or screaming, it was a small miracle. She squealed with delight, thrilled for us both and was along for the ride. She promised to call back later for an update, she was just on her way to play golf.
It’s funny how you get on with things, hours can go by without thinking about poor old Mum. But that morning it hit me like a frieght train, my knees buckled, I wept on the kitchen floor, grieved, selfishly, for what I have lost. I rang her anyway. Me – “Hi Mum, I’m potty training Thomas, it’s a nightmare! Help!” Mum: “I’m freezing, are you cold? I’m so cold.” Goes silent. It’s not cold by the way, Dad, reluctantly, has relinquished his iron will over the theramostat and walks around in a T-shirt most days.
I survived that day. Lovely husband arrived home, with wine no less and took the rotters away for an hour. Thomas, by the way, is a potty superstar and Annie has two teeth and eats like a Turner (In joke. It means A LOT.) Mum would be so proud.