Mum, I finally understand what I put you through

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock 

OPINION: Last week my 3-year-old broke me. It was a particularly rough patch with very little sleep, a lot of tantrums, going back to work, my youngest starting daycare, and I was beyond exhausted.

I had bounced between all bedrooms the whole night, it was 3am and she wanted a drink of water.

'You have your drink bottle right there, you can do it' I mumbled as I sat on the side of her bed. She had a drink and then started playing with the lid.

'C'mon sweetpea, put the lid back on, sleepy-time now.'

A defiant 'No.'

'Put. the. lid. on.'

NO' with a kick for emphasis.

With no energy left for talking, I tried to grab the lid. Rookie mistake. 'NOOOOOOO!' Ferocious kicks landed on my legs and my stomach.

I started to cry. Really cry. Sobbing, I sat on my daughter's bed as snot and spit dribbled out of me. After a minute, more controlled breaths replaced the sobs and I realised it was extremely quiet and still in the bed.

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Then an angelic voice 'You need a hug Mumma?' Genuinely full of concern. 'I sure do.'

Small arms quickly wrapped themselves around me and I got a kiss on the arm as a bonus when I was released.

Thinking about this moment, combined with the millions of other moments of being a parent, directly correlates with increased respect and admiration for my own parents. There are countless moments that will be forever etched into my memory that my children will not consciously remember; years upon years of moments and memories.

How many clear memories do you have before you were 5-years-old? 7-years-old? 11-years-old? And yet all the while your parents were there every day and every night, changing your nappy, feeding you, singing, bathing you, reading to you, helping you learn how to hold a cup and use a spoon, teaching you how to brush your teeth, get (un)dressed, use the toilet, brush your hair, ride a bike, playing countless games of hide and seek and I spy, pushing a swing, doing jigsaw puzzles, making animals out of playdough, building sandcastles, practicing with you to paint, to draw, to write, to talk and to listen.

Our parents have said the same stuff, over and over and over again, listened and responded to our needs, our demands, our complaints, our pains and our joys. Usually for around 18 years. And then, this child, whose life has been so entwined with yours is gone in a heartbeat to be an 'adult' in the world outside the family home, and, if you were anything like me, without a backwards glance.

I remember Mum crying as I was moving out and I thought, 'c'mon Mum, it's not sad it's exciting!' I had close to zero comprehension of what she had been through and done for my brother and I. And even if I had bothered to think or talk to her about it, I still would have struggled to comprehend how much sacrifice and energy she had invested into her children.

So Mum, it took nearly 40 years, but now I have some understanding of what you did for me. You allowed me to have an incredibly blessed childhood where I always felt safe and loved. I am so grateful for every single thing you did for me; from the day I was born until today and I'm extremely thankful we are now there for each other.

It gives me great pause thinking about my friends whose mothers are no longer on this earth. Of course, any parent is immeasurably missed whenever they pass on, but it seems to me there must be an extra level of ache when you become a parent yourself and your own mum and/or dad are not there to share this special family member with.

So this Mother's Day, I ask you this: please reach out to anyone in your close circle whose mother is not here. And, especially in the wake of the tragic loss of life in Christchurch, please give an extra thought to those families who may have lost their mum (or child) recently and what Mother's Day might mean for them.

Mother's Day shouldn't be about presents, but about reflecting on your time with your mum, what you're doing for your children, what your grandmother did for your mum. If your mum is still here, tell her what you appreciated about your childhood.

A fond and comforting memory of mine from early childhood is having toasted sandwiches for Sunday dinners. I loved everything about it. The three options of spaghetti, creamed corn or pineapple (which I now understand to be controversial) all with cheese, obviously.

The way the toastie machine created perfect triangular pockets of tastiness. The way Mum would cut them in half and sit them on the window sill to lessen the chance of us getting greed burns. I remember the strawberry-vined wallpaper in the kitchen, sitting with my family and feeling happy.

Thank you Mum, for the years of doing absolutely everything for me, for supporting my every life decision, and for making me toasties.

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