Anchored in what felt the baby and toddler time warp, I would think ahead to the future, because you know, ‘this to shall pass’ is the obligatory mother manta, and I would wonder what it would be like when there would be no more anxiety around sleeping, napping and wake times. No more smooshed sultanas and sticky vegemite fingers, no more showering with plastic dinosaurs at my feet and no small human losing their mind because a sandwich was served on the wrong coloured plate.
I thought a lot about the future and looking back, my only regret, is that I didn’t do the one thing that everyone tells you to do, to ‘enjoy it while it lasts’ because it goes by so fast you see. Stuck in state of exhaustion and anxiety I would think to the future, when I thought it would be easier (I know right?) I would imagine what the early primary school years might be like, the first day of school, in crisp, oversized school shorts and shiny shoes, wide eyed curiosity, a backpack filled with anticipation and adventure, of tuckshops and Saturday morning birthday parties.
An idealistic view of parenting through the lenses of my rose gold tinted glasses.
As is the case with most of my experience as a parent, I am wildly misinformed and frequently out of my depth and so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that parenting a primary school aged child is not the walk in the scooter park I had naively assumed it would be. It is instead parkour over the furniture and no pants, no worries. It is a blatant disregard of my polite requests, and negotiating with an activist who protests for freedom and personal liberty, it is sighs and objections and complaints that the biscuits aren’t biscuity enough. It’s debating the difference between a tummy and a stomach and realising that my view doesn’t matter anyway. It’s coming up with consequences and not following through with them because that’s sometimes the easier option, it’s a lot of muttering ‘is anyone listening to me?” It’s thinking, ‘surely I should be better at this?’ and lamenting that meal planning is a thing I do now. It’s equal parts gratitude and frustration and it’s unrelenting, unforgiving guilt. Guilt for scrolling instagram when I should be playing hide and seek. It’s watching Bluey and thinking ‘shit, I really should play more games’ and reconciling this with the thought that watching Bluey together is surely quality time?
Then just like that, one day I’m unexpectedly called Mum instead of Mummy and I don’t remember when this started to happen. It stopped me in my tracks and I wanted to hit replay, how long has it been since I’ve been called mum instead of mummy and why can’t I recall the exact moment? I’m caught off guard by how the simple use of the word ‘mum’ made me feel. So of course I corrected him, I told him I’m mummy not mum and he looked at me, confused and curious and I’m sure I saw him roll his eyes.
And so, not for the first time, I’m reminded of all the things I wanted to be over and wishing I had them back. We take snapshots of the ‘firsts’ and we treasure and safeguard those memories. First words, first foods, first steps. But what about the lasts? Those fleeting moments we don’t appreciate because we don’t recognise them for what they are.
They are the lasts only we don’t know that.
It made me think about all of the other lasts I have already missed and those that are still to come.
At seven, he is now too big for me to carry. We use to call them walking hugs. I don’t remember when was the last time I carried him. My hips are grateful, my heart, less so.
I don’t remember the last time he came into our bed on a Sunday morning. Hearing his door open and the sounds of him padding down the hallway, a disheveled delight of a child. Now he goes downstairs, pours his own cereal, turns on the TV and this should make me happy but I didn’t know that it would be one of those moments. I hear him wake up and before he goes down I call out to him but he ignores me.
He stills wants me to dry him after his bath and I accommodate this request though I know I should be teaching him independence but I’m holding on to this little ritual because I don’t know when it will be the last time.
Each night we say out good nights and we talk about our day and how we are feeling. He gestures for me to scratch his back as he narrates every inch of his day. Some nights I am silently begging him to stop talking and to go to sleep but motherhood is an abundance of contradictions so of course I never want him to stop talking to me.
Searching for a book to read, and he has a library of sorts, I stumble across it. It’s been years since we read “Where is the green sheep?” We use to read it every night but I don’t remember when we stopped reading it and in the big scheme of things it doesn’t matter. It’s just a book and let’s face it, we know the green sheep is fast asleep. But it’s the little things I wonder if I will miss the most.
I understand now, the temptations for mothers before us to tell us to ‘enjoy every moment’. They are right of course even though in reality it is impossible to do. Some day my son will no longer want to hold my hand, he won’t want me to jump on the trampoline or play hide and seek.
I will continue to enjoy the firsts, because I know we have many more of those to come but each time he calls me mum instead of mummy it reminds me to pay more attention to what might also be the lasts.
Many of course will be impossible to capture.