I found it hard enough naming her. She was handed to me, swathed in a white towel, all pink skinned and dark blue eyed and staring, tiny fists opening and closing…
Hello little person.
Seeing her for the first time was like seeing her for the millionth time because of course the baby in my arms was the one I had been carrying in my belly and feeling kick and hiccup and dance with alarming vivacity on my cervix. But a name? I’ve only known her five minutes, a name stays with you forever. It will get misspelt and mispronounced and shouted and whispered, written in clumsy four year old handwriting and on school work and job applications andandand…I’ve not even changed her nappy, no, I don’t know what her name is…And then, woah what plane of evil did the contents of that nappy come from, are you sure we can name her, is she human?
The secret, unless I am getting things desperately wrong here, is that none of us know what we’re doing. As parents, adults, people, no one has a clue. It’s all best guess stuff. Whatever, I give up, this is the only sensible option, let’s wing it. And then we close our eyes tight against the blinding light of real life and take that first step forwards and hope that we didn’t screw up too badly this time.
What kind of mum am I? I honestly don’t know. One who tries. One who loses her patience sometimes, who turns a blind eye to some things and who is irrationally irritated by others. I don’t know what I’m doing or how to do it or if it even needs doing, the only thing that I know for sure is that in a few years time my decisions will be thrown back in my face along with a snarled ‘shut up mum’ and the brutal slam of a door because it’s a rite of passage isn’t it?
Wait…that’s not the only thing. The other only thing that I know for sure is love. Because I have so much of that, it swells with every thump of my heart and it is in every single thing that I do.
I hope she likes her name. It suits her. It is easy to spell and pronounce and shorten if that’s her bag. It was chosen with love and while burping the as yet nameless half asleep baby on my knee while watching Deal or No Deal in those hazy (oh, so hazy) early days of newborn-ness.
She can say it, heck, she can spell it and write it now, grasping her identity in those little fists and taking on the world with it. (How do you want your hair cut? Like mummy’s? Like daddys? Like your friends? No. Like mine. I want hair like me.)
Watching a kid grow and in the moments where I can forget that I have no idea and just watch in awe I find myself wanting to be more like her. Watch a baby who is learning to walk for half an hour and tell me you don’t want to be a bit like them. From the deliberate, careful pull to stand followed by a shaky step, fall, up, step, fall, up, wobble, fall…over and over but never giving up, only getting pissed off when totally exhausted from the physical effort of trying to control this weird new body with all it’s arms and legs and stupid gravity and carpet burned foreheads.
All of these qualities that kids show us with their unfailing determination and kindness and frustration and wide eyed desperation for knowledge and ice cream, I want to nurture that, to support it as it grows. I don’t want to extinguish it. I don’t want to control her. I don’t want her to conform, I want her to question, to search for the answers and question them some more.
I don’t want to fuck her up.
But, once more for emphasis, I have no idea what I am doing.
I don’t want to battle with her, I’d lose anyway because ain’t no one out will-powering a three year old, but at the same time, there’s stuff that has to be done sometimes. The grown up bits that we’re all forced to do; shopping or cleaning or cooking…Darling I love your fierce sense of self and your unwavering spirit but OMG it’s 9:45pm and Mummy just needs you to go to sleep now okay?
Run bare foot on the grass and skip naked into the sea and dream that you’ll grow as tall as the sky because everything is a possibility but please, please, don’t rip the pages from your books or get up at 2am for an enthusiastic round of hide and seek and no we don’t need to show everyone your new pants…
So how do I do that? Where’s the balance between nurturing her innate curiosity/passion/spirit and not losing my shit on a daily basis because unfortunately at some point, we all have to conform to some things some times.