I was sitting down to write an article about my Granny, and the thing that struck me most about her was the way she had always cheerily admitted, “I was a terrible mother.”
You see, she had no passion for parenting. She resented her children because it was the end of a hedonistic life that she loved before she was forced to return home to marry a boring man who lived in the country. Thus, she parented his children grudgingly. Though she was widely admired, she never had a strong relationship with her children. In her last years, they visited her out of duty. My father still carries the hallmark of his mother’s coldness though now in his eighties, he has made huge progress in overwriting his childhood programming. He has begun to give generously – and he says, in one of his rare vulnerable moments, that he feels happier now than he ever did.
Wow, I said to my brother, it has taken such a long time!
But I don’t think badly of my Granny. Parenting is a huge chore. You must have a passion for this thankless task to do it well. I didn’t always have a passion for it (probably due to the remnants of my Granny’s energy via my father). I was 17 when I first became a mother. All my friends were going off doing exciting things like Gap year abroad or planning to go to University whilst I was stuck with a clingy, colicky, difficult baby. I often didn’t know what to do with him. But my Ma, she had put so much into making me a good mother. She was always so happy when she held her first grandson in her arms even at 3am in the morning. She was never impatient with him.
And over time, despite my youth, I too learned to be patient with my eldest son and my subsequent children. Patience is the key to it all because with impatience often comes thoughtlessness and unkindness, a lack of care for the feelings of others. My Ma, through her example, showed me another way. I learned that my children will always be the most important people in my life. I learned that I will never have a more important job than being their mother. I learned to love my role as their mother. I didn’t want to raise another generation of people who did not know how to give until they are 80 years old like my father and I knew (scary!) that it all depended on me. But with love, it became natural.
I thought about this today as I was debating whether to go for the 5.15pm yoga class or to be at home when my youngest child came home from school. Had I gone for yoga, I would have missed opening the door and seeing her face as she steps out of the car. I would have missed that precious one hour of her. Her big smile, bug-like eyes and quirky sense of humour … I wouldn’t miss that for the world.