One of the first videos of me and my first-born, recorded after we’d come home from the hospital, shows me lifting him out of his Moses basket and looking utterly petrified. You could probably imagine the words ‘AND WHAT NOW???’ tattooed across my forehead.
I did read a few ‘becoming a new mum’ type books, but nothing, nothing at all, could have ever prepared me for the overwhelming feeling of immense responsibility for this tiny new life, contrasted with my total incompetence. Yes, I knew how to feed and bathe my baby, how to change his nappies and to how dress him, but I also had this nagging feeling that there was a lot more to being a mum than that. Only that I didn’t have a clue what those other things were. No book can ever teach you that – that’s probably why there are a lot of books about parenting and baby care, but none about just being a mum. So there I was – apprehensive, uncertain, playing it by ear and hoping for the best.
Fast forward quite a few years and I still couldn’t define or list all the things that go with being a mum – telling all my friends about my babies’ first words, proudly showing off their first drawings, staying awake all night when they run a fever, feeling angry at a teacher who ridiculed one of them in front of the class and helpless when he was being bullied and the school ignored our pleas for help. And then, there were those moments when they just looked at me with their big, baby eyes and I just knew that I was their entire universe. My heart melted and at the same time the sense of immense responsibility hit me again.
My children mean the world to me, I love them to bits and I would do anything to make them happy. I talk to them as much as I can, about pretty much everything, but I am not their friend – I am their mother.
I look after them, I make sure they have what they need and I try to be fair. They often disagree with me about many things, especially when I don’t let them do what they want, turn off the TV when they’ve been watching it for too long or don’t buy them yet another computer game they simply ‘must have’. I can be mean when they misbehave or try to push boundaries – I will not tolerate that and they know there will be consequences if they don’t listen or do something wrong. If they have to survive a week or two without their game console, so be it – next time they will hopefully think before they act.
My boys know they can trust me – my older son often tells me things about his friends which are ‘a secret and nobody else is supposed to know’. Whatever he tells me, stays with me, and he doesn’t feel a burden of having to keep something secret anymore. His brother just tells me various random things when he feels like it – his response to ‘How was school?’ tends to be, ‘Normal.’ Trying to get something out of him can be like pulling teeth. His favourite time to offload his ‘thoughts of the day’ is at bed-time and I have to sit down and listen regardless of missing the latest instalment of ‘The Voice’ or something else I wanted to watch.
As they grow older, I’m finding that the hardest thing for me to do is to let go. I can’t be there for them every minute of every day, I can’t always tell them what to do (I would, given a chance, believe me) and I know I must let them become their own persons.
I can’t help being an interfering mum, though. Every now and then I look over my eldest’s shoulder when he is texting his friends, just to know who he talks to and what about. He is old enough to have his own mobile phone, but not sufficiently old or mature for me not to show interest in his Snapchat or text messages. We did have a conversation about his right to privacy and I explained to him that I needed to be aware of what was going on in case he got into trouble or found something difficult to handle.
The same goes for his Twitter account – I was horrified when I found out he had set it up disclosing all his personal details. I told him to close it and we set up a new one, a bit more obscure this time. I follow my son on Twitter and have a peak into his account every now and then, just to make sure that he doesn’t send out silly messages and doesn’t receive any mean tweets about himself. Cyberbullying is by far too big an issue for me not to worry about it. I watched a video clip posted by Omeleto.com, ‘Kids Reading Mean Tweets About Themselves’ and it sent shivers down my spine. I would have included the link, but it has been removed from Omeleto’s site since I last saw it.
I don’t know how much of ‘being a mum’ I am getting right and I probably could do a lot of things better or just differently, but I hope my boys don’t have too many reasons to complain. They made really lovely Mother’s Day cards for me (sorry, I couldn’t resist showing them off). I don’t think I could ever get a card like one of these for being their best friend…