Our first might have only just been born when flicking through some parenting magazine or another something caught my eye. I can’t remember if it was an article, and editorial or just a quote. But it said something about being concious to make their face light up when their child came into the room.
I was never one to follow parenting advice, though I may possibly have read nearly every book I could get my hands on with my first child, but for some reason that tiny portion of some unknown parenting magazine became almost my parenting …. code? Catch cry? Moral? I can’t find the right word for it. But that’s what it was.
My eldest is almost 12 … so I guess I have been parenting for almost 12 years. There have been plenty of cranky mama moments. Lots of frustration. Wondering how I can possibly cope with that day. But when I am at my worst that thought comes floating into my head and I tend to sort myself out.
At first it was a concious thing. I would make myself do it. Of course it wasn’t hard, as my girls have all bought me more joy than I could have ever imagined. The it was a natural reflex. Sometimes I am aware that I am doing it, but more often than not it is just what happens when I see one of my lovely girls.
Now I will never claim to be a perfect parent. I am far from it. But I know that it will be the little things my girls remember. After all that’s what I remember. I remember usually getting the feeling that my presence was some great annoyance or inconvenience to my parents. Even now sometimes when I call my mum she sighs and there is a not so well concealed tone in her voice that by just calling her I have interrupted her. It’s probably one of the most distressing things as a child and even now.
I always tell my girls how beautiful they are. How lovely they are. How funny, charming and bright they are. I sometimes wonder if it is the right thing to do. I don’t want them to think that those words limit who they are. But after talking to a lovely, beautiful, intelligent woman recently (you know who you are) and she told me her parents had never said she was beautiful. My heart just broke. How could a parent not let their child know just how just how special and beautiful she was? In that moment all doubt left my mind. If I think something wonderful about my children, why shouldn’t I tell them. I don’t want them to ever wonder.
I also have learnt that you can always apologise. Sometimes I am irritable and cranky. My girls have so much tolerance for my flawed ways, but it never hurts to apologise for it anyway. It lets them know that while I am human, nothing I did was because of them.
One of the things I try to do is to be aware of my flaws and try to do something about it. It is all to easy to be proud and not want to admit that you do anything wrong. Usually you don’t want to know because it hurts to admit that you may have hurt someone unintentionally. It is even harder to admit that you may have done something to hurt your children.
A few years ago I was working so hard, that even when I was home…I wasn’t. My head was always in work and even a trip to the park with my girls I would answer my work phone and check emails. I never really listened and found myself absent-mindedly saying yes to something only to realise what I had agreed to too late. I hated that but I was so busy it rarely even registered that I had done it.
Again I am going to fall back to my mum here. When I talk to my mum, I know that she isn’t really listening. She never did. Which is why she constantly tells this story about how her name rhymed with my youngest brothers name and the name I was going to pick for my first son was going to rhyme. She never heard me tell her that our first (and only) son was lost at 16 weeks and we did name him that. She hasn’t heard me the five or six times I have told her. And every time she tells that story not only am I reminded of my beautiful baby boy…but of the fact that she never even hears the most important things I say.
I started to become more concious of the fact that I was not paying enough attention when my girls were speaking. SO I have started to make a concious effort to put down whatever I am doing (reading, washing dishes, knitting) or to take my fingers off the keyboard if I am using the computer (I can type while talking and not watching…I like to pretend I can also listend while doing this….but I can’t). I won’t lie – I find this really, really hard. I am easily distracted and I don’t always find the things the girls are talking about even remotely interesting (like the pet shop game on their ipods). But who am I to say what is important or not. So I am trying, really hard, to pay attention to everything they say to me. It is not important if I don’t want to listen to them talk about the stupid game any more, the important thing is they know they can come to me and talk to me about anything and that I will sit and listen to them.
As an example….this particular post has taken me 2.5 hours to write. I have stopped to look at ipod screens, to answer questions (about the internet black out that is currently happening), to help them start etsy accounts and to see their latest lego mini-figure.
I am very lucky to have such wonderful daughters. But more importantly, I want them to one day be able to say that they were lucky to have me as a mum.
note: I am not a religious person or even a particularly spiritual one. But somewhere, sometime, I read about an interesting notion that we pick our parents. Mainly for them to learn from us. I always found it a bit laughable in my case as I can’t imagine me ever choosing two people who couldn’t be less suited to having children. For some reason today when one of my twins was snuggled next to me I asked her if she remembered picking me as her mum and she said yes. She couldn’t give me much more information and I let it drop and she went out to have breakfast. Not long after her twin sister was curled up next to me and I asked her the same question. She told me that her and her sister both picked me from all the other mums and thats how they became twins. While I think I lead them with the question and I know to take it with a grain of salt, I couldn’t help my eyes fill with happy lovely tears. To think out of all the possible people in the world they picked me…not just one, but two at the same time. It is just such a lovely, lovely thought. I didn’t know where else to put this….but I want to remember it.