The View From Twenty Three Years On…

This is a post for @lorriehearts and any other woman who is on the first leg of her journey to motherhood.

As you contemplate the potential changes your new baby will bring, as you excitedly monitor every kick, every movement, every stage. Take a moment to imagine the coming years with this new person…

Imagine having someone who climbs into your bed when you’re trying to sleep.
Someone who demands attention continually; “feed me!” “Change me!” “Hold me!”
Someone who waits until you are ready to go out and then vomits their breakfast down the front of their clean clothes. Or even worse, yours.
Someone who cries inexplicably; you’ve changed them, fed them, cuddled them, winded them and still they cry. As do you. In despair.

You long for the day when they learn speak. And then they do. And you wish they’d shut up. They ask unanswerable questions like, “why is the sky?” “What is grass made of?” “Why, why, why…”

A small person who develops strange attachments to objects; stones, sticks, socks (or in the Boy’s case, a large lump of blutack which he took everywhere for 10 years).
They will develop an unfathomable hatred of baked beans, or an obsessive love for carrots and refuse to eat anything else.
They will find a way to cover your previously adult and fairly tidy home in fingermarks, smears, dirt and vomit.
They will leave small pieces of sharp plastic in strategic places so you tread on them as you stagger half asleep to the bathroom.
They will decide that, at 5.30am, it is time for you to get up, and prise your eyes open with an unwieldy Duplo brick.
They will draw the entire cast of Mary Poppins on the landing wall in green crayon,and designate the toilet a wishing well whilst depositing the contents of your purse in there. Before flushing.
(The Boy, 1993)

They will (and this is guaranteed) announce at the moment you really don’t want them to, that they have “DONE A BIG POO.” This is only equalled by the random wee which generally occurs in a supermarket, on a bus or in the street.

They will suddenly refuse to wear blue clothes with green, or demand that they wear the white dress with daisies all day, everyday, thus ensuring you spend every evening washing and drying it.
You find yourself fighting a losing battle when, on the hottest day of the year, your offspring decides that the most appropriate outfit to go out in is a fleecy dressing gown, three sizes too small, teamed with a pair of wellies.

They will refuse to accept your reasonable suggestion at 9pm that they go to bed; the ensuing storm of tears and wailing is something that is only topped by a teenage episode.

Then they go off to school and you quickly realise that their new teacher is an all-knowing, intellectual guru.
The oft repeated phrase of, “but Mrs/Mr Jones says….” becomes one that results in you grinding your teeth in fury.
You will learn to say, “how lovely!” when presented with a wonky pot or an alleged portrait of you that closely resembles an indistinguishable blob with orange hair.
You will develop the art of listening without listening. Adding, “mmm” “really?” and “wow” at reasonable intervals.
They will develop obsessions with a variety of anthropomorphic Disney characters. You will find yourself singing the theme tune to Thomas The Tank Engine instead of Muse. You will be forced, under dictator-like conditions, to watch on repeat Fireman Sam, The Tweenies, Rosie & Jim (substitute with whatever is currently en vogue in toddler world).

Any day out, any trip to the shops or holiday is planned with military precision. Woe betide you if you forget Big Doggy (a big dog), Mickey (Mouse) or Jacob (Mouse)
(Whitby 1996, a terrible year).

Packing to go anywhere is remarkably exhausting. Remember when you just chucked some clothes in a suitcase and went? Ha. No more.
Packing for every possible permutation of weather in an attempt to forestall any cries of, “I’m too cold” “I’m too hot” “my jumper’s itchy.”

The holiday car journey is a fresh hell all by itself. You load the car up for a week in Cornwall, taking roughly the same amount of stuff necessary for a six month trip. No sooner have you set off when someone will cry out, “I haven’t got my blanky/zebra/random-piece-of shit-I-can’t-live-without and back you go.
Only to find said item under a bag in the car.
There will be loud complaints that someone is touching someone else’s leg/arm/bag, or that someone is not being fair. You pray for sleep.

The car journey is interspersed with demands for food and drink, followed by a sudden and urgent request for the toilet IMMEDIATELY as you stop/start down the M5 in a holiday traffic jam.
(The traffic jam is a particular joy. The “are we there yet?” refrain becomes particularly tedious as you sit for four hours trying to get across Bristol;
“Are we still in Bristol?”
Nottingham to Cornwall, 2000)

Holidays are never the same again.
Instead of a relaxing two week break in the sun, drinking San Miguel and sharing tapas, you find yourself on some grotty caravan park with a hundred other dead-eyed parents, playing rounders/swing ball/tennis.
You are grateful for a pool so you can get just a little bit of peace and quiet (don’t worry, they won’t drown).
You are constantly being exhorted to find entertainment. The sort of entertainment that previously you would have laughed at.
You end up in water parks, theme parks, campsite clubs.
You wearily play cards, board games, dominoes.
You referee fights and squabbles and accusations of cheating.

Remember when your wages went into your bank account and you spent them according to whether you wanted to get pissed or buy a new outfit for yourself? Forget it. This kid will drain every last financial resource you have.
Dinner money, pocket money, Comic Relief money, youth club money, Hobbies club money, random-shit-your-school-makes-up-money, everyone-else-has-one-why-can’t-I-money.
The tooth fairy’s rates for an average tooth go up monthly, and Christmas becomes an unforeseen trial as you try to explain to a weeping 5 year old why it’s not possible for Santa to deliver a fleet of Palomino horses to a two bed flat.

These children grow at the rate of weeds. They eat copious amounts of food and then complain there is nothing to eat. They break things, sit on things, lose things. Often things that belong to you.
You will find yourself rummaging through the school lost and found cupboard at the end of every term, desperately hoping that you can find one of the seven jumpers/shirts/shorts that your child has gaily abandoned. (Top Tip: Often they have disappeared into a school uniform black hole so just take whatever’s there.)
Don’t ever be late picking them up, they will remember it forever: (ten years later, “remember when you forgot to pick me up from school when I was four?”

It may be that, at some point, you might want to attempt some sort of romantic liaison with your partner. Forget it. Alone time is viewed with hostility and suspicion. If you decide to have an “early night” your child will sense an activity that doesn’t include them and immediately launch into a series of, “I can’t sleep/I don’t feel well/there are monsters under my bed.” This is often followed by copious vomiting and/or demands to sleep in your bed.

As they progress into adolescence you notice that suddenly, where once your word was law, you have become invisible. Your strictures are met with a derisory laugh, your attempts to enforce rules about going out/coming in/not wearing that are met with a sneer and/or an outburst of such epic proportions that you wish the UN would help you out.
Everything you say is ridiculous. You know nothing about anything and you’re probably not even their real mum. You’re certainly not like Josh’s/Ellie’s/Lucie’s mum who is, like, so cool and never nags or anything.
Your mild suggestion that they have their tea before heading out is greeted with full scale door slamming and cries of “it’s not fair.”
The possibility that, at 13, it may not be ok to head off on two buses to meet people from Facebook in an area you don’t know is viewed with contempt and accusations of mistrust, over reaction and just being, like, totally unfair and unreasonable.

You will learn to say nothing as they set off for Reading Festival wearing a mini skirt, stilettos and a short faux fur jacket (The Girl, 2009).
Your skills in maintaining a level of rage only a mother can perform are put to the test as you collect them from the Glastonbury Festival medical centre where they are slumped, hooked up to a drip having lost their phone, money, jumper and senses after seven pints of Brothers Cider.
(The Boy, 2009)

You will worry. Constantly. From the minute they are born.
You imagine untold horrors, dangers and scenarios that haunt your waking hours. You just KNOW that someone will steal your child, hurt your child or harm them in some unspecified manner.
You view everyone with suspicion. Previously good friends who offer to babysit suddenly become child abductors or murderers.
The park is fraught with dangers, the roads full of drunken maniacs.
You find yourself saying, “mind the roads” to a hefty 16 year old who looks at you with pity.

You lie awake waiting for them to come home, praying like you’ve never prayed before that they are alive, haven’t been stabbed/robbed/assaulted. They stagger drunkenly into the house at 5am, and you spend the remainder of the night repeating to yourself, “of course they won’t choke on their own vomit.”

I don’t want to alarm you too much so I will skip over the 23 hours in police custody (February 2006), the phone call from nightclub doormen to collect your paralytic, vomiting 14 year old (December 2006), the convoluted lies about who’s staying where when we all know you’re attempting to go clubbing (2005 – 2011), the broken legs, arms, wrist, toe, appendectomy, endless bouts of tonsillitis, colds, temperatures, sickness bugs, measles and chicken pox.
I will simply tell you this.

The Boy is now 23 and a kinder, more intelligent, gentle, loving and funny man you couldn’t wish to meet.

The Girl is now 21 and is a perfect combination of drive, ambition, passion and probably the coolest person on the planet.

The Kid is nearly 11 so, still a while to go although the signs are positive that she too will grow into a well formed, bright and fair minded adult.

Good luck, and remember….whatever you do will probably be wrong so just do whatever feels right!

2 replies on “The View From Twenty Three Years On…”

I read this yesterday then again this morning, last night it made me laugh, this morning I’m crying. Remembering the scarily similar scenarios with my three and the wonderful truth that I have a 23, 19 and 16 year old who are caring funny passionate clever wonderful men (it took me several years to recover from the shock that my body could produce a male ). Parenting is hard work, there’s little luck involved but every day is worth a 100 and too soon they’re grown. And no it won’t feel like that at all in the car to Cornwall it will feel like eternity, sorry.

Thanks Tracie, I think there are lots of shared experiences and whats great is that we are all here to tell the tale! No matter what we’ve had to deal with as mothers, we can sit back be proud of how our kids turned out.

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