By Raemona Contributor
The irony of not knowing what you have until it’s gone, was soon found. My daughter had been, with hindsight of course, a perfect baby, and a toddler who literally never had a single tantrum. I always joked it was like parenting a miniature 30-year-old, she was *that* good. Now, in the moment of the first few months with my first new born, I didn’t feel it, because I had nothing to compare her to, but my goodness, when I did – did I.
With my eldest son I had it easy again – until he was 8 months old. He was actually an easier baby than his sister and an utter joy. He slept, smiled and ate. His sister, more curious, was never keen on the sleeping part. Then, with me surprisingly pregnant with his brother, he found his independence and voice. Frustratingly for us all, he wanted to be everywhere, but couldn’t actually walk. Literally strapped down for his own safety as often as morally acceptable, my nerves were shot – unsurprisingly our social life suffered and I had to hire a babysitter to go grocery shopping. He was literally feral. Then it was times two.
I don’t think I came up for air until they were 5 and 6 years old. My beautiful boys, and they really were. Funny, thoughtful, football mad. Not mad keen on the confines of school, but as most do, I expected they’d grow out of it. Alongside, their big sister grew into a terrific child, busy, popular, kind and an academic delight.
Then I had a teenager. I’d avoided the threenager with her, but it was clearly being stored.
The worst part of any relationship with people you love is when you feel you ‘can’t’ understand them. If your children are manifestations of your heart beating outside your body, when they are small, they are easily cared for. They are easily sated by food, cartoons, balloons, ice cream or ‘look! A red car!’
Then, all of a sudden, they can’t even understand themselves, so how on earth are you meant to?
I don’t think unconditional love should be just that. We are obliged to raise our children into responsible citizens. We teach them right from wrong, we model good behaviour, attitudes, thoughts and expression. With older children, I do not think love should be blind. Boundaries are tested, boundaries they are yet to know exist. Mistakes made and life lessons learned. Whilst I wouldn’t go as far as to want my teenagers to learn ‘the hard way’ - learn they must, enabling ‘bad’ behaviour, rule bending and general brattishness – not on my watch.
There are generation gaps too, don’t forget. My life as a child growing up in 1980’s Northern Britain is very different to their reality – my three global citizens (and back again) have lived a couple of lives at least in their short years. Rightly or wrongly, I deliberately maintain an often ‘no nonsense’ style of parenting, whilst unapologetically instilling in them the notion that I am their guardian, cheerleader, confidante and problem solver and will always have their backs.
Now, with two teenagers and 1 20-year-old, I have two school leavers and on the countdown for my third. The boys' issues with the education system and confines did not go away as I selfishly hoped. I have spent more time on the ‘phone to schools than I did my own Mother. The schools thank us constantly for our parental support – a sad indication of clearly so many who simply don’t care or are ill-equipped to deal with their own offspring.
Modern life for my kids terrifies me. Honestly, resilience is my middle name, but knowing there are 3 young adults growing into this life we live in scares me to death. Social media pressures, the economy, their safety, their own life skills and resilience, praying I am around long enough to help them navigate it and to be ‘the safe place’ any mother wants to be for her kids.
Hormones – mine *and* theirs – we manage with a LOT of communication. Often the last thing a teenager wants to do is talk to their mum, but I simply tell them that if they don’t, I can’t help them. We are a unique set of people, I understand that. I’m not sure many 43-year-old mums bake rude words into the top of their pies to raise a snigger from a teenage lad, or have more inside information on their favourite teams and sports stars than they do.
I counterbalance being the embarrassing mum (often deliberately, it’s how we roll) by keeping them pleasantly surprised by my tales of youth, and sometimes forgotten ‘cool’ connections. Ted Lasso? Yeah, my friend just won an Emmy for casting that – really? Yeah, she was at your Christening. Selfies with footballers, invites, tickets and insights nobody else gets - all banked for cool mum points.
What’s not so cool is the new ‘taxi driver’ status – having to work 45 hours a day to pay for a university student and essentially now living with 3 men – two of which are battling their own growing pains and hormones - neither of whom have yet to perfect the premium cup of tea. I don’t have to put them to bed anymore, but I do most definitely have to wake them up. Every. Single. Day.
I feel like I’ve been praying for the ‘next stage’ for two decades now, and I can’t lie, there is a long way to go. Would I take the toddler years back over the perils of the teenage versions? In a heartbeat.