Oh the joys of being a mother! Before I embarked on the journey of parenthood, I had visions of me in floaty summer dresses, picnicking on a warm summer’s day, my young children playing amicably around me as I made daisy-chains and chatted with other young mums, sipping some pink wine, or doling out beautifully made, nutritious sandwiches and fresh fruit. My adorable children looking like something out of a Gap advert in their coordinated outfits. It all looked and sounded idyllic in my visions. My body never changed shape and I blossomed throughout pregnancy, coming out the other end with an enviable size 8 body. My hair didn’t go all funny and odd, my hips didn’t weirdly get wider (and stay wider, despite baby-weight gone) and my bladder remained completely under my control (even when doing star jumps) without even having to think about it. Life and motherhood, in my pre-motherhood visions was simply wonderful.
I know it’s not just me. I have regular chats with my friends about how frazzled we are sometimes, about how we sometimes just want to scream or hide and how every so often, under our breath and though gritted teeth respond to their constant bellows of “MUMMY!!!” with an inaudible and exasperated “F**k off!”
This isn’t really what I signed up for. I’m not sure now what reality I was in, but I didn’t really think it would be this hard. My three children usually all need me at exactly the same time, usually on a morning as I’m trying to get them all ready for school, usually as I’m either brushing Mabel’s teeth and she’s trying to talk to me, spraying me with spit and toothpaste, or as I’m sitting on the loo, trying to get a moment’s peace. It is these few precious minutes when I need to empty my bladder, a full bladder that I have held (with some difficulty since having 3 children) all through breakfast, through getting them washed, dressed and their beds made, their school bags ready, packed lunch ready (Mabel only – I will not give in to the elder two having packed lunches at school. If they don’t like school dinners, they go hungry) and homework diaries signed. That two minutes of sitting in the bathroom, on my own is bliss, when it happens. More often than not they are lined up outside, talking, whining, arguing with each other or shouting at me through the door. My neighbours must think I am a mother from hell some mornings, with the screaming and hollering that goes on in our house. I kid you not, it takes me asking 4 or 5 times sometimes for them to even answer me. I often think being in the army would be easier.
Yesterday was a particularly difficult day with Archie. I don’t really know why, but he was out of sorts and he just kept getting in trouble. He told me he’d brushed his teeth when he hadn’t, he threw a small bead at the littlest sister and made her cry, just before tea time. He then went round to a neighbour’s to play when he had been told he couldn’t go….he just disappeared. So, he wasn’t in the good books last night when he returned home. “Sorry, Mummy,” he said, with his forlorn look. A well-mastered and well-practiced look that is aimed at gaining sympathy.
It seems my eldest two have the sorry thing down to a tee. They are very comfortable with just rolling it off the tongue, thinking it will exonerate them from all their sins. For them it seems a very easy, well-rehearsed word.
As I put Martha to bed last night, I noticed she had written her name all round her room. Not just on paper…oh no! On her lamp, on her little CD player she got for Christmas, on her bookshelf, handmade in solid wood specifically for her room. I was livid! I managed to get most of it off with a bit of CIF and elbow grease, but I was cross. “Sorry, Mummy,” she said with her forlorn look, tears prickling her eyes ready to drop at will should she need to go that extra step. I have no doubt she meant her ‘sorry’ last night, but it was not a difficult word for her to voice.
My youngest has not yet mastered ‘sorry’. She is stubborn and willful and will not, under any circumstances apologise if you ask her to. I expect she will learn over the next couple of years the importance of ‘sorry’ and the benefits of saying it quickly. Currently, sorry is one of the hardest words in her ever-expanding repertoire of vocabulary.
I remember the first and quite possibly the only time my mum apologised to me. She was a tough mum, she took no nonsense and some of my friends were quite rightly a little bit scared of her (I hope I also instill a bit of fear in my kids’ friends, I feel it is only right to keep the tradition going). But, she was very kind and very fair. This one time I was poorly and off school, I think I was around 9 or 10 and I was in my tiny bedroom and had been for a number of days. Mum came in and tried to get me to take my tablets (probably antibiotics, I have no idea) but I didn’t want to, because whenever anything hit my stomach, sips of water included, I would be sick again. I cried and I wailed. I turned my head and I refused to take my tablets as I felt so ill. I remember vividly not wanting their chalky taste stuck in my throat. Mum was cross. So cross and she shouted at me and ranted at me and I sobbed my eyes out. I remember I was reading the Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton and it was open on my duvet and I just curled up in a ball and cried. Loudly. A few minutes later, my mum came into my room and hugged me and said she was sorry. I was so surprised that it has stuck with me for all these years. She felt she was in the wrong and she admitted it and it was a huge thing for her to do and I appreciated it. I still appreciate it now. I can’t remember if I took my tablets or not that day. I can’t remember what was wrong with me or how long I was off school. But, I do remember my mum and her humble, generous, warm apology that was completely out of character that it took me by complete surprise.
My parents are coming down to stay with me tomorrow night. They are coming to pick up a dog (long story, I don’t have the energy to even start writing about it on here) and they are staying one night at our house. I am worried and anxious and to be honest, I am fearful of what tomorrow will bring. My mother is bad enough in her own environment, never mind 200 miles away from her own home in a house with 3 loud children.
My dad is looking forward to it. I am sure it must be a nice break for him to get out the house, even if it is just for 24 hours and I know he is looking forward to the new canine addition to his family. I have tried on several occasions to put him off coming and that is awful isn’t it? A year or two ago I was desperate for my parents to visit, desperate for them to come and spend time with us, to be able to laugh with them, to be able to show them how well we are doing and how settled we are. To show off the kids and their successes in sport and school, to share our lives with them. Now, it fills me with dread and fear and that makes me feel so ashamed. I am frightened of what tomorrow will bring and how my mum will be when she is with us. I have been scarred by how the last few visits went and how difficult and traumatic (I do not use that word glibly) it was and I am filled with fear.
I can only hope it is non-eventful and mum enjoys her stay with us, that dad is able to relax a little and mum is not too disorientated or agitated by the change in her environment. No matter how it goes, I will apologise to my dad for how I have been this week. For trying to put him off the visit, for trying to encourage him to leave mum at home with my aunt (it was a suggestion I made), or my offer to take the dog to meet him instead. Because, I am sorry Dad. I’m sorry I put us first and not you. I’m sorry I wasn’t as excited as I would have been 12 months ago. I’m sorry life has changed forever for us all, you in particular. I’m sorry I am not closer and cannot help more. I’m sorry you’re struggling with this on your own most days. I’m sorry you lost both your parents and then within 6 months Mum was diagnosed with this evil shitty thing. I’m sorry, because you, more than anyone I have ever known and anyone I am ever likely to meet simply don’t deserve this crap hand you have been dealt. I’m sorry because I can’t take it away. I’m sorry we’ve been so bloody unlucky and Mum has this bastard disease. I’m so bloody sorry about it all.
Is sorry an easy word? No. Not if you mean it.