It’s my son’s 22nd birthday today (I know I don’t look old enough), and unfortunately, I won’t be spending it with him. He lives in Bournemouth, at least for now, and we live three hours away in Kent. I sent him photos last night of our snow-covered back garden and a video of his brother recklessly running out there, sock-less I might add, throwing himself on the floor and doing Snow Angels. Just because he thought he’d never done them before. He had, but it was so long ago in his 12-year life, he’d forgotten. So my eldest had a severe case of snow jealousy, and in that moment, when he wished he was here, and his younger brother was being very silly in the back garden, I couldn’t have missed him more.
He’s grown up to be such a lovely young man. I mean he’s not perfect, he seems to have inherited the ‘sulk’ gene from his father, but he gets over it a lot quicker than his Dad ever did. He’s funny, like really funny, and I definitely take full credit for that one. We find the same things funny, the same programmes, the same memes on Facebook (the modern day equivalent of showing someone a joke from the newspaper I guess.) He’s loving, kind and generous … and he’s everything I could have wished my son to be. I did good.
(Think this is 3 years old now!)
… for the most part, except sometimes I just feel I was never quite enough of a good Mum to him, like I was always stretched that bit too thinly. I had to go back to work in London, full-time, when he was about 3 months old and I honestly thought my heart had broken in two – I had to leave half with him every day, and take the other half with me. We were lucky to find a lovely childminder for him (big up to Sue Sue!), but every day when I went to work, I was just so bloody miserable. I missed him so much, and I know it was 22 years ago, but I remember it like it was yesterday. That day-in-day-out drudgery of running to the childminders, running home to shower, running to the train station, running to work, doing a day’s work, running to the train station, running to the childminders … and so on. And when he was two years old, and his Dad and I split up, I still had to do that routine, just with little support.
I was always just so tired.
But I did it because I needed to keep a roof over our heads, to give him security and stability, and I was determined to hang onto that bloody house come hell or high water, but I only had so much to give. I don’t know if it was ever enough but whatever was left at the end of the day, after I had washed the grime of London off my skin that night, I gave to him. And when things turned bad, and I mean really bad, with Dexter’s Dad, again, I gave what I could, but I don’t know if it was enough. I was in a dark, dark place and some days, it was so dark I couldn’t even get out of bed, and my God, I resent my ex for making me feel like I wasn’t a good mother because I loved (love) nothing more than my children. But I often have a constant nagging feeling that I let them down.
Do other mothers feel like this? Do you? I try so hard to be a good parent but sometimes I lay awake at night in bed and remember a time years ago when I should have done things differently. Like been braver and left that bad relationship sooner. Or shouted less at my children, and cuddled them more. Or when I missed Sports Day most years because I was at work in London and couldn’t afford to take another day off. And, and, and …. I look at old photos of my children now and wish I could have that time over again so that I could soak up every last second of their childhood and do that whole mothering thing a lot better.
I think this is parenthood. It’s a series of trial and error, of making mistakes, but trying your best not to make too many. Of loving so hard that it makes you cry, or, missing them so much, like now, … well that makes you cry too. Basically, parenthood is just lots of crying. I don’t think I could have done better back then, because I didn’t know better (pretty sure I stole that from Maya Angelou), but the one thing that was, that is, always constant, is love.
And, miraculously, somewhere along the line I must have done something right because my eldest turned out the way he did. I still think he has a little bit of growing up to do, but then I think I do too, but he’s a good kid. Man, sorry, he’s a good man. (Although to me, he’ll always be my first true love.)
So Happy Birthday Ben. Keep doing what you’re doing. Working hard, loving lots, and being one of life’s good guys. I know that sounds a bit twee but trust me, the world needs good guys right now. Love you.