I read a really moving piece the other week (can’t for the life of me find the original post), about the hardships of being a mum, and how we should appreciate all of the trials and tribulations, as one day there will be a last time for everything. The last time you pick your child up, the last time they hold your hand, the last time they climb into your bed… it was genuinely sweet and lovely. Big loser that I am, I cried like a baby for a good ten minutes. I felt genuinely bereft at the thought that the little people who I am at the mercy of 24 hours a day, would no longer need me.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m under no illusions that I am the centre of my children’s world. I know that I am chief cook and bottle washer, quite good at cuddles and generally the person in the house who has the best idea of where to find things (I say that loosely and vaguely, as most of the time even I have no clue, see above). I love being ‘mum’ I can’t wait to leave work and come home to the flock, and the thought that one day, that would mean returning to a childless house, once they are all grown up, really saddened me. Instead of wallowing in this despair about this, I started to think about some of the less cherished things about parenting, that perhaps I would never miss.
The last vomit
Also known as the last 3am ‘picking chunks out of bed sheets’ moment. This is the pits. The worst. The lowest point of my parenthood thus far. Nothing, I repeat nothing can compare to the horrors of the bedtime vomit. Even if you missed hearing the initial splash, when you walk in the bedroom, you know. The smell hits you with the same ferocity of a whole school assembly in a secondary school gym in late July. Then there’s the puddles to wade through. We each have our roles to play. My husband is the ‘hoser’ he takes the vomit covered child to be showered, generally forgets to use shampoo, and spends most of the time heaving over the sink. I’m the scrubber (no, seriously, I am). It’s my job to oversee the bedroom clean-up, bedding scraping and soft toy damage assessment. One day, they will make it to the toilet on time… they just haven’t yet.
The last supermarket meltdown
As I pointed out in we need bread, milk and a tanker full of wine, the supermarket shop is a sticking point in our house. It’s a weekly nightmare. I recall my older daughter having a full volume hysterical tantrum about leaving the café in Waitrose (of all places). I calmly explained that we were leaving and she could stay and scream or join us. After walking the length of the shop, we could still hear her at the exit. My son said ‘Mum, she’s not coming, I think we might actually have to leave her.’ I let him walk back to her and tell her ‘She’s serious. We’re really going home.’ What I wasn’t ready for, was the screaming reply an inch away from his face ‘You’re a lying, lying pants on fire!’ Sadly, at 2 years and a few months some words still sounded unclear, it sounded suspiciously like lying, lying bastard. From the looks of fellow Waitrose patrons and staff (mostly ex students) I think they thought that too.
The last ‘I wonder why they’re quiet?’
When we put my older girl in a bed, the first week was spent screaming loudly at bedtime about wanting her cot back. The second week she stomped loudly down the stairs noisily asking for glass of water, story, Molly Dolly, a different blanket or generally bemoaning the temperature. This was, of course, an enormous smokescreen to catch us out in week three. This is when she took to ‘wandering’ at night, sometimes an hour after she’d been quiet, silently, creeping and creating mischief. The first night, it was smothering her arms, legs and torso in an entire tub of nappy cream. Then a few nights later, painting the window of my bedroom with my brand new deodorant stick and using it until it was completely used up (I do secretly love the thought of people walking past my house and seeing an angelic looking toddler with a halo of curls decorating the front window and no doubt giving them a cheery wave).
The next night, we put a safety gate across the door.
So you see, the time will come when I do feel as though I’ve lost them, I’ve no longer got the fierce protection and sense of purpose I have now… but this small list of 3 things I could quite happily live without, will content me in those moments, and get me through the next lake of vomit I have to clean up (there’s always one around Christmas time). And upon reading that lovely post, I promised myself to wring every last drop out of the chaos of these first years. You never really understand they grow up so fast until you have your own and one day, something small happens and makes you realise they’ve suddenly grown. It might even be your daughter putting her own coat on in Waitrose café and saying calmly, rationally ‘Shall we go Mummy?’.