The first word I hear most days is “Mum”, followed by a tender “I love you” or “good morning” or “Do people eat breakfast in Heaven and who lays the eggs for their breakfast because everyone knows there are no chickens in Heaven?”
Before my eyes are even open, before my brain has fully adjusted to the reality of no more sleep, I am reminded that before all else, I am Mum and I have three little people depending on me to fulfil that role unquestioningly.
There are days, of course, that I inwardly groan and silently beg for a break from this relentless responsibility to be their cook, cleaner, stylist, mentor, therapist, nurse, art teacher, entertainer, jailer, enforcer of unfair rules and referee in countless brawls over the middle seat in the car. When I wake up on these tired, uninspired days, I have to dig deep and remember that my children are innocent passengers in this trainwreck of my exhaustion. I have to be mindful always that even if it means regular visits to hide in the bathroom and silently cry for my lost, pre-kid independence, they need a Mum who looks at them with joy in her eyes. On those days, when I lose the battle and scream and yell because I’m not the perfect Mum that I aspire to be in the late, guilt-riddled hours before sleep, I will always take the time to apologise and explain that Mummy is tired and that just like them, I feel grumpy sometimes. I make sure they see that I am fallible and flawed and, more importantly, that I will always own my failures and apologise for hurt feelings.
My kids know that their Mummy is not perfect. They know because I openly (and frequently) point out my mistakes, my failures and my flaws and I fix what I can. They see that I’m a work in progress and I hope that they are learning that mistakes and imperfections are a normal and beautiful part of life. These moments are where we all learn.
My son, on the eve of his ninth birthday said an incredibly poignant thing to me. It filled my heart with contentment and calm because his words reinforced that Darren and I are doing something right when we fail openly in front of our children and then shine a light on our downfalls.
As I tucked him into bed, Little Man said,
“Mummy, I have decided that this year (now that I am nine) I am going to choose to fail a lot. Do you know why? Because if I only do the things I am good at, I’ll always win but I won’t learn new things. I want to do lots of new things that are a little bit scary and I won’t mind if I fail because every time I fail then I’ll know another new thing about how to do it better next time. Each time I fail, it will make a kind of a step towards success and maybe when I turn ten I’ll be able to do a whole lot of new things. But I won’t be able to do new things if I don’t choose to fail. Know what I mean?”
My Little Man… only nine, yet so wise.
Yes, there are some days when motherhood is hard, so hard I feel desperately overwhelmed. Thank goodness those days are peppered amongst other days – days when I’m woken with butterfly kisses and declarations of love and big brown eyes looking into mine, filled with an awe that says that they are seeing the most beautiful creature this Earth has to offer. Days when my tween squeezes my hand in a silent assurance that she isn’t too big to need me. Days when my kitchen counter is covered with hundreds of pieces of paper, each with a drawing of two girls surrounded by hearts, holding hands and bearing the name tags “Mum” and “Me”. Days when I look across the table at Darren and he looks back at me with a smile and the wordless agreement that we are blessed beyond comprehension.
Every day, all day, I am Mummy.
As they grow, I’m seeing glimpses of Michelle resurfacing, too. Soon enough, I’ll be more Michelle than Mummy as they grow their wings and discover their next chapter. Until then, I’ll take the desperate, crying-in-the-shower days with gratitude because they come hand in hand with fairy wings and potato stamped love letters and three sets of wide-open, unquestioningly loving eyes that regard me – and only me – as Mummy.
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