In the weeks before my son turned 18, I started to have flashbacks about his childhood, and his sisters childhood. Things I have forgotten rose as the the sediment of his life was stirred in anticipation for him to turn into an adult and I remembered how much I loved having children.
I always knew I would have children. One of my favourite games as a child was to pretend I found a baby lost in the snow and I would rescue it and care for it and dress it in warm cardigans knitted by my grandmother for my dolls. I had my first child at 25, because I wanted a baby. We had no money, no real careers and no idea what we were doing but we had one anyway and we loved her. I loved being a mother even when they annoyed the crap out of me.
I had a large amount of time between my children, which I could afford to do since I started so young, so the next one arrived when I was 29 and he was as delicious as the first one.
I loved being with my children. I remember my husband and I fighting as to who would get up to my daughter when she woke, not because we didn’t want to, but because we both wanted to be greeted with that smile as she lay happily in her cot. All snug and smug we used to say.
My son didn’t sleep so well but I didn’t mind as much as I thought I would. Him and I just hanging out at night, shooting the breeze and knowing it would all pass and we would survive this stage.
Nothing really stressed me as a young parent because I didn’t overdose on books and we didn’t have apps. I just loved them and asked my sister a lot of questions, as she had already had her son before I had my daughter.
When I sat with a pregnant friend a little while ago, she said there was so much scary information about how hard it is and she was worried.
I shrugged and told her that if I could do it anyone could. I mean, I think I am 7% not quite right most of the time, so if I can push one baby out, and have another one out the sunroof, anyone can. And if I can survive on little sleep and still laugh at my kids being hilarious and joyful, anyone can, because I am the least pain resistant, most selfish bitch I know.
There is something so wonderful was your children loving you and you loving them. That their individual little quirks and words and dances are precious and what you wanted, and that they will challenge you and make you look at the way you were parented and try like a mother to fix yourself so they can benefit.
You don’t need all the apps and money and gadgets, I mean who really needs a baby wipe warmer?
You need something for it to wear, to sleep in (in past time, babies used to sleep in a bottom drawer) food and love. Seriously! You can make toys from empty toilet rolls and put rice in and old soft drink bottle and make play-dough from flour and salt and oil. You do need to provide kisses and songs and put your phone down and talk to the small person and read them books from the library and everything else is optional.
Women hang onto their birth stories like battle scars, well worn and some show them off to those who don’t ask. I don’t. Each person’s story is personal and I think scaring the living baby out of someone is mean. If people ask me any advice I say, take the drugs if you need to, and do what works for you. Your body will tell you what it needs. The rest is all you.
I have loved being a mother to my kids. Even the tough stuff was a privilege to go through with them, and every lesson they had, I learned something about myself as well. I am not the most conventional of mothers.
My kids swore at home from an early age, because I couldn’t be fucked stopping them when I am such a sailor, but they did know there was an at home language and an out of home language.
I focussed a lot on education because I think that matters. Critical thinking matters in life. I wanted them to try everything and then see what felt like fun and not work. Education was my saviour. My school rescued me in many ways. I wanted my kids to have something extraordinary in their education. I think they have been fortunate and we worked hard to give them that. Not just schooling but travel for my daughter also was worth it. Europe, alone, gave her the confidence to problem solve and see the world is bigger than little old Melbourne.
Lots of exposure to art. Lots of questions answered. I never lied to my kids about hard stuff, so they grew up with a high level of emotional intelligence. They also knew more than they should have at times but they survived.
I let them hang out with the adults. Kids learn from modelling others. Socialisation with adults helps them understand how to speak in groups, take turns, discuss without expecting anything other than conversation. I encouraged them to participate. Their opinion mattered. I never told them to ‘piss off’ as so many of my generations parents told us. Also, I liked them, so I was happy to have them at the table with my friends!
I knew there were some battles I wouldn’t win without it hurting me and our relationships, so I didn’t stress so much about them, such as mobile phones in bedrooms and trying to control that. They get over it. Chill, refocus. Manage it, don’t be a nightmare parent about this, trust me. Choose the battles, and choose your weapons carefully. You never know which one will leave a wound that won’t heal.
And finally, I said yes more than I said no. Once day I realised how much I was saying no, so I started saying maybe, and yes. It changed everything. The yes was within reason but I realised I said no a lot because it was like an automatic reflex. But what if I said yes?
What if I said yes to my daughter wearing a gold lame costume to my Dad’s 60th birthday instead of the perfect dress I had picked out? What would happen? (Funny photos for ever!)
What if I said yes if my son decided he wanted to go to the supermarket in his pj’s and swimming goggles? (He made people smile as we passed)
What if I said yes to pancakes at 10 at night? (Heartburn for me)
What if I said yes to a day off school and work for everyone and we went to the movies? (We made this a once a term thing and the kids could do whatever they wanted with me on that day. Movies, sleep in, lunch whatever.)
Life is an adventure. Having kids is an adventure. If you do it right, it can be fun. Stop controlling so much, and start loving them and remember to play.