Sure, being a mum is one of the best things a woman could ever do, it remains and always will be, my greatest achievement in life. But with the territory, along comes the shitful too. And so far I’ve learned there are two things you dread doing as a mum. Hell, there’s a giant elephant’s shitload more than two, I know, but right up the pointy end of things you’d rather pluck your eyelashes out one-by-one than do is 1. have your child go through grief and 2. be the one who has to tell them.
Nine years ago, when I was first taught the hardest lesson in MY LIFE EVER AS A MUM, I was given a book by one of my best friends, who’s also now a paediatrician and helped bring my baby into this world. What Colour Was the Car, Mummy? was a little book not more than 100 pages, with a yellow cover. Back then (and I doubt much has changed now) there was little to zilch written by young widows, and even less for young widowed mums. No road maps, I was just driving blind. It was about a doctor from New Zealand who had also lost her husband in a car accident when her baby was just days old. One of the questions her little boy asked some years later was ‘What colour was the car?’ That’s all he wanted to know. Not how it happened, when it happened or even who was involved, just simply the colour of the ‘other’ car who hit and killed his dad. A simple line with so much to say…a message of a child suffering from grief-far-too-y0ung.
As I began raising my own boy through his fuckful sea of grief, I soon realised there’s no way for a tiny mind to truly digest death as a real and finite thing like an adult would (or at least an adult might attempt to). He’d pick out tiny bits here and there, when was he coming back home from heaven? Who would wear his clothes that still hung in the wardrobe for months afterwards. What would he eat for his dinner up in heaven?
It punches holes right in the middle of your heart when you see how a three-year-old kid doesn’t think the same way as a five, or even a 10-year-old. When you’re so little there’s just today and tomorrow. There’s blue cars and favourite cups. There’s Spiderman backpacks and your favourite little red shoes with the velcro you can do up all by yourself. There’s photos, books, pictures and newspaper articles. There’s videos and stories you hear adults telling all the time, sometimes in hushed tones so you can’t quite hear. There’s footage on the web and articles in magazines. Photos all around you, on every wall, of the person who left your life far too early. There’s tributes on a concrete wall far away from your home and the names of fans you’ll never know written on a flag. Little reminders and messages everywhere but you’re too little to see them.
A few years later when we lost our beloved family mutt, our golden retriever who’d made the journey over with us when we moved here, the then-six-year-old completely fell to pieces. He was devastated. I’d taken the dog to the vet in the morning and couldn’t quite deal with telling him the inevitable, so I lied. When he asked me why the dog was in the back of the car, I said he was just going to see the vet. ‘He’ll be fine,’ I told him. He wasn’t. He had to be put to sleep that night and my little boy never got to see him again. Grief had come back into his life, back again so soon he’d hardly had a chance to notice its absence. Maybe he would never forgive me or trust me again when I said everything would be fine. He still worries too much like his mum does and holds everyone close in his life, tight to his chest. He’s terrified of losing The Vet, or me. Grief will do that to a person. Even a little one.
When you’re a mum there are a gazillion tonnes of incredibly wonderful.
But some of the time there’s a whole lot of shitful too…
For every minute of these 12-and-a-half years I’ve had someone so much more important than myself to love. Someone who comes first above all else in the world, who I’d walk to the ends of the earth to protect, who I’d cut my arm off for if I had to. Someone to make me see the best in everyone and who with one single smile, can make everything in the world shine like gold…if just for a moment. For nine of those years I have hiked up the mountain of grief, I’ve waded through mud-like fear up to my fucking earlobes, felt every tinge of his pain and tried to wish it away…worried every minute of those years if he would be okay. It won’t ever stop.
And I would do every second of it all over again because I am his Mum. I am the person who delivered him into this world. Fuck it, I’ve done the bloody best I could. I’ve fought emotional wars and ridden great whopping tidal waves of fear…and so far I’ve managed to keep him bouyant and healthy and safe. We mums catch the falls…we wipe the tears and we fix the hearts. We protect our babies even well after they’re old enough to protect themselves.
These days there’s a rolling supermarket docket full of different things to worry about. It’s hormones and pecking order. Fitting in and being on the sharp end of bullying. It’s social media and popularity. Making the top team and scoring the most points. Exposure to drugs, alcohol and suicide…it’s wishing you could shrink them back down to itty bitty when all you had to worry about was how much formula they’d swallowed in their tiny bellies. Or if your baby was happy eating lamp cutlets and mushy peas for the nineteenth night running. It’s wanting desperately to make him so little I can carry him around on my hip, keep him up high enough so he’s out of danger. But I know I can’t.
This mother’s day I’m celebrating the incredible little life I’ve raised so far. I’m even more proud than a mother fucking hen of the beautiful 12 y o I’ve raised…to be kind, loving, thoughtful and generous. To think of others and always be considerate, charming and true to himself. I couldn’t ask for a better kid. You are my number one, lil nugget…lov yah guts forever and always. Keep being you. Lady MamaG xox