Here is my latest column in the Irish Examiner’s Feelgood where I share some incredible parenting insights… Not!
Recently, something happened which stopped me in my tracks. It made me question my thinking as a mother and caused me to wonder what sort of mother had I become?
Over twenty-five years ago I had my first child. I quite literally “adored” her, experiencing a love and devotion to her that the most ardent followers of religion would find hard to beat. To prove this adoration, there are literally, hundreds of photos of her every move, every milestone of her development documented on an almost daily basis. She lived in a sterile world and I handled her as if she were made of the finest cut glass. I had little doubt this child could do no wrong.
Three years later, we had a son and discovered a second child is a lot less breakable than the first. In the busy mix of things, we documented his life less, although we still managed to take a significant number of photos. He too was a wonder child, although my blinkers had begun to slip slightly as I noted he wasn’t the greatest sleeper and she wasn’t the most enthusiastic child at sharing.
By the time child number three arrived the camera was rarely remembered and you’d be forgiven for thinking we never had a fourth child as the camera appears to have got lost altogether. It wasn’t as if I didn’t love each as deeply as the first, but it was different and life a lot more demanding.
As the years tumbled by my blind belief in my children was sorely tested, my eyes opened to their imperfections by some teachers, other parents and even on one memorable, if mortifying occasion, by a neighbour.
I came to see that the children I loved and cherished were capable of living lives not quite as pure and blameless as I’d once imagined. My love for them never died, but my unquestioning trust sure did.
“I have no homework.”
“I did text you Mom; you mustn’t have got it.”
“Everyone is going.”
“Her parents will be there.”
Each of these assurances were given with the straightest of faces. Over time I came to realise how talented my children were, regularly giving Oscar winning performances. Unfortunately for them nature is a great thing. As the years passed, and they grew up, so too did I. I became what you might call a “mature” mother, not only in age but in experience. Every lie told took me there. Like a good wine I’d improved with age, quietly confident of my well-honed maternal instinct and evolution as a mother. Until recently.
It was late when my daughter came into the sitting room smirking and sat herself beside me. My radar picked up on her strange mood and alarm bells rang quietly.
“Mom, I really appreciate you,” she began.
“Yes?” I replied, bracing myself.
“I just wanted you to know,” she smiled.
“Thank you,” I said beginning to sweat as I desperately relived the past twenty-four hours. What had I missed? What was she not telling me? This child was one of few words, not normally given to open demonstrations of affection.
“Well,” she said, and from behind her back she produced a wrapped package, “This is for you.” Tearing it open I discovered the DVD of Les Miserables, a much-loved show of mine. I was stunned, thrilled, and a little confused.
Was it possible I was wrong? She’d not been in trouble? She wasn’t preparing a confession? Feeling more than a little guilty I confessed what I’d been thinking and thankfully, she laughed heartily.
Later, I wondered could it be that my children have finally matured? Were they no longer capable of devilment and deception?
But then I caught sight of myself in the mirror and laughed. With my DNA that’s highly unlikely.