Mothers: Admit It, We Never Stop Worrying About Our Kids

Mothers, be careful with those little comments you drop into the conversation each time you see your adult kids (who have left home) and look like they haven’t eaten a square meal that month.

You know the type – How much fruit are you eating? ARE YOU EATING? You’re looking a bit pale, or How firm are your stools? The type that all of us mums just can’t help ourselves from asking.

Well, take my advice and shut the f..ck up, because those comments could come back to haunt you. Such is my fate since I foolishly peered into my son’s fridge and made an innocent comment about his beer diet.

‘Well, I was thinking…’ he replied the other night when he came around to ours for what looked like his first feed this month, (having obviously decided that this was the perfect window of opportunity for some long overdue Mum -manipulation), “that maybe you could deliver me a care package, once a week, for those difficult days leading up to pay day?’

‘What does a care package entail?’ I asked naively.

‘You know…a batch of Shepherd’s Pie, Bubble and Squeak – I’ll even eat your Lasagne if I have to. Something I can knock up easily myself…’ Ie. In his frying pan, which happens to be the only pan in his unit.

‘Perhaps you need to learn some money management,’ I replied wryly, fully aware of how he prioritises the half of his earnings that don’t go on rent.

‘Perhaps you need to remember that you were young once too,’ he reminded me with that twinkle in his eye that he knows makes me melt at the knees.

And he has got a point. I spent a considerable part of my twenties on the Marlboro and hot chip diet, and it’s not like I’ve got anything better to do in between my three jobs and nagging my husband (!). Of course I can sacrifice a few hours a week slaving away in the kitchen to make sure that my twenty-one year old little boy doesn’t waste away.

But just putting this out there – no one bought me care packages.

So, anyway, call me a “Sad-Fuck-Of-A-Helicopter-Parent, but three Shepherds Pies were dutifully delivered to the next suburb on Saturday afternoon, along with step-by-step instructions for how to heat them up. Of course, the old man refused to have any part of what he calls my “pathetic enabling”, although he did mention that if there were any leftovers, he’d have one instead of salmon on our next fish night.

‘Where are my care packages,’ NC grumbled in a text when she sniffed signs of sibling favouritism from the city.

And so, it appears that the old man was right about one thing and wrong about another. He was wrong when he told me that no one really likes my home cooking – as was the dead fox outside our bins all those years ago that I have been reminded about after every one of my cooking fails. But he has been right all of those millions of times when he has said that I will never stop worrying about our kids.

Whereas, he appears to be coping quite admirably.

Kids’ Birthday Cakes: Or As I Like To Call It, The Public Shaming Of Mothers That Can’t Bake

Yep, there it is – new evidence of my failure at motherhood in one of its major disciplines – Kurt’s twenty-first birthday cake.

Kids’ birthday cakes have always felt to me like one of the ultimate tests of motherhood; rather like keeping your kids alive when as toddlers they seem hellbent on killing themselves.

In my experience, there is a scale of acceptability when it comes to kids’ birthday cakes if you are a mum that can’t bake. You can either spend a month’s rent on an all-singing, all-dancing, Zumbo-styled, perfectly-themed cake with gold-plating and a chocolate fountain at its epicenter – leaving you feeling like a cheat (and broke), or you can create the type of annual home-made disaster I specialize in and retain some sense of pride. The second option also solidifies your status as worst cook/mother ever.

Lately, my cakes have fallen somewhere in the middle of that scale, and my signature birthday cake has evolved into what I like to think of as a hybrid – as in, half-bought and half-ruined by me.

This year marks my twenty-fourth year of this onerous responsibility, and I have no idea why I continue to feel the need to prove something or to torture myself in this stubbornly idiotic fashion. In general, I am not a stoic, yet for some reason, when it comes to the kids’ birthday cakes I turn into Joan of Arc in the kitchen. 

Needless to say, the only cake Kurt truly remembers from his childhood is the super-expensive, perfectly-iced, fire engine cake that cost me half of my salary for his sixth birthday. Obviously, he has chosen to blank from his memory the amazing skateboard cake with its licorice wheels, and the guitar cake with its licorice strings – (he recently admitted to me that he hates licorice) – or the multitude of sunken sponge cakes, with sinkholes at their center.

Mention of the cake in the lead up to their birthdays provokes an eye-roll from both of my kids, which I have interpreted as a defense mechanism for coping with this annual disappointment. But since they haven’t told me not to bother, and they’re now in their twenties, I can only assume that they must derive an inordinate amount of pleasure from my suffering.

I was certain that Kurt would accept my offer of a shop-bought cake for his birthday this year – an offer made in part to demonstrate the importance of the milestone, and in part to get me off the hook. But, unfortunately, giving Kurt choices is never a good thing. It gave him something else to worry about ahead of what is always an overwhelming day. When I presented him with my Donna Hay Chocolate book and I saw him flick miserably through the pages with a – ‘You choose, Mum – just make it creative’ – I knew I had to take back control.

Anyway, if there’s one thing my kids can guarantee, it’s that their cakes will be creative – although there was that one year when the cake slipped my mind completely…

So I ummed and I ahhed about which cake to make. A large chocolate brownie cake? A red velvet cake? The chocolate candy bar cake I made the previous year – which pre-empted the old man’s brief hospitalization? I knew the cake needed some wow factor, but I wasn’t prepared to risk another lava cake *should have been a sponge cake*. So, eventually, I decided to play safe and create another hybrid – something simple, yet fancy enough to sate mine and Kurt’s creative whims.

The vertically-challenged, Croquembouche materialized – minus the spun sugar, or indeed anything that involved technique or cooking. Coles ready-made profiteroles stuck together with icing; some stick on chocolate stars and gold dust for the wow factor – et voila, a new birthday masterpiece!

Zero shame. Almost.

My Kids Will Be Able To Say A Lot Of Things About Me, But Never That I Didn’t Love them.

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A friend asked me the other day about how I felt about Mothers Day, and I knew that the question was loaded – you see, I haven’t had a mother for a long time. And for the first time, it struck me that I don’t view the celebration from the perspective of my own mother. I lost her too young to remember her as a real person, so my only association with the day is as a mother to my own kids.

 

There are times when I would love to be able to recount stories of our time together. And in those fourteen years, we did make stories  – on family days out, cheap holidays, when we grew vegetables together at the end of the garden or searched for our runaway tortoise – and yet most of those memories are clouded by her struggles as a single mother, her battle to keep working to provide for three small children, to keep the car running, to keep the smile on her face.

 

Perhaps, that’s why I’ve never allowed myself to fully commit to Mothers Day, with no mother to spoil, to take out to dinner, or to have a monthly spat with – which I understand is very common. And perhaps that’s why I can be somewhat cynical about these ‘special’ days, which can throw up all sorts of pain for those that are excluded or feel isolated – mothers that have lost children, children that have lost mothers, adopted children, mothers that have lost connection with their children. And Mother Day, in particular, sugarcoats a biological responsibility that is not necessarily ‘the best thing’ EVERY woman has ever done. The day can highlight shame and failure for some, as well as the smug gratitude of those women lucky enough to have cultivated perfect relationships with their children – if they do, in fact, exist.

 

Relationships between parents and their children are not always Waltons or Brady-esque. Sometimes, they are not straightforward, as Nikki Gemmell exposes in her book, ‘After,’ which I picked up recently as research for my manuscript. Nikki’s story covers the ways she handled grief after the death of her mother, and yet for me, the greatest comfort I took from the book is her honesty about her tricky relationship with her mother, because it forced me to recognize similarities between her mother’s behavior and my own.

 

Sadly, only after years of distance between them was Nikki finally able to make peace with her mother, only to be shattered a few years later by her mother’s suicide – perhaps, her final act of revenge, in Nikki’s eyes. Personally, I can’t imagine the guilt attached to losing your mother to suicide. Can you imagine the questions you would be forced to ask yourself, even if you knew that chronic pain was at the root of her reasoning? Can you imagine the sense of betrayal? That the person that gave birth to you should choose to leave you in such a way?

 

I’ve said this many times before, and I’ll say it again: relationships are complicated –  particularly family relationships, where the blood connection can force us to continue with toxic, destructive alliances. Anyone who has produced a child that went against the grain will recognize the sense of shock and the grief for the child you expected to have.

 

The death of my own mother, along with the distant relationship I have experienced with my father at various periods of my life has affected my relationships with my children. Not necessarily for the worst. At times, my insecurity has made me cling too hard and suffocate them; at others, my aloofness, lack of empathy and lack of a filter have left them feeling confused and unloved. I am not a perfect mother; and yet I am the only mother they have. And in the end, when they describe to my grandchildren the ways I fucked up their lives, they won’t be able to say that I didn’t love them. Just like I can’t about my own mother.

 

The Sins Of The Mothers

In view of Mothers Day in the UK yesterday, I thought I’d tell you about a funny little conversation I had with my son last week. For those of you with younger kids, be warned that like me you will reach a point with your almost-adult kids – usually at the end of  seven years of testosterone-fuelled silence with boys – when they believe they have a right to use the limited wisdom they’ve acquired in their twenty years, to judge your choices and more poignantly, your parenting skills.

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And let me assure you, it’s too soon.

 

I mean, I’m glad that my son feels he can reach out and share the disappointments of his young life with me. I assume that means we’ve forged some bond, (although with his ADHD, saying what he thinks has rarely been a problem), that he is comfortable about airing his views about the not so finer points of our journey together. But what I know – and what he has yet to find out, (and when he does I will be thousands of miles in a world of silence in a nunnery in India), is that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to parenting.

 

And I have learned from our time together – and unless I become one of those fifty-three-year-old women that fall pregnant in menopause because I haven’t been punished enough – the wisdom I will take away from him is not to try and mold our kids into our expectations, not to catastrophise too much about their refusal to conform. I would also recommend making friends with the local policeman, hiding the car keys once they have their license and access to Valium at all times.

 

We were in the car the other day, unusually only one row down about where exactly he is going with his life, when out of blue, he turned to me and said, ‘Remember when you changed the pin on the Disney channel, Mum? I’ve gotta tell you, that was badass. That scarred me.’

 

‘Well, you were becoming like those Disney brats with your whatevers every time I asked you to do anything – like go to school.’

 

‘You mean, you made me the victim of your own anxiety about bringing up a brat?’

 

‘Maybe…,’ I said, ‘Anyway, changing the pin didn’t work, did it?’ I said with a cheeky grin.

 

‘No, but it made me hate you for a really long time. A boy needs his daily dose of Hannah Montana,’ he said with a wink.

 

‘Mylie has a lot to answer for then.’

 

And I lectured him reminded him about how none of us parents really know what the fuck we’re doing most of the time, and while it definitely would have been a smoother ride if I’d had a textbook Dr. Spock kid, the rules of parenting keep changing anyway. (Although it never gets easier – I’ve lost count the number of times my fifty-something friends and I have spotted the toddler tantrum in the Coles cereal aisle and been forced to abort our Pods mission).

 

My parents didn’t have to worry about the influence of The Prince of Bel Air or that their daughter would think killing people on Grand Theft Auto (while they believed I was at school) outstripped education on every level. And in the same way that I look back and think my parents had it easier – because in the seventies you could put your needs ahead of your kids and you didn’t have parenting psycho-babble bullshit pushed in your face each day – my kids will probably say the same thing each time they dump the grandkids on me in the future and do a runner.

 

‘Yeah, remember how you hid my PS controllers as well?’ Kurt went on, obviously really bitter.

 

‘And how did that fuck you up, exactly?’

 

‘Lets just say I wasted a lot of time hunting through your cupboards, finding shit I didn’t need to find at age of eleven – if you know what I’m saying,’ he said, eyeballing me. ‘That was pretty scarring.’ I was forced to look away.

 

‘Well, that was a pre-meditated life lesson?’ I lied. ‘In a perverse way, my anxiety about you getting Carpal Tunnel Syndrome by the age of twenty taught you not to invade the privacy of others. How is your thumb, by the way?’

 

‘We both know that’s not why you did it, Mum,’ he said. ‘You did it to be mean. It was a power trip. But do you think any of that shit actually worked?’

 

‘Probably not,’ I said, ‘but it felt really good at the time.’

 

 

 

Motherhood, Togetherness, Warts and All

I’m not proud of the fact that I was so hung-over on Mothers Day that I was on diet soda for my celebratory lunch with my kids. 

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I could blame the friends we had lunch with the day before – a lunch that turned into dinner – although, in our defense, the whole idea of lunch was so we would be able to function the next day. And I might have got away with it if we hadn’t walked into the latest family crisis as soon as we opened the front door – a crisis that required instant love, cuddles and more wine to help us put the pieces back together.

 

It’s called being a mom. It’s not about being perfect and waiting around for the balls to drop, it’s about doing your best when the shit hits the fan. It’s about when your Mother’s Day lunch – meticulously planned by your daughter – goes pear-shaped because everyone’s tired and emotional and one child still hasn’t got over his crisis, turns up an hour late and eyeballs you with genuine hatred throughout the meal. And you feel his pain viscerally – almost as intensely as when you gave birth to him – and want to help him even if he is an adult and has hijacked the one day of the year that should rightfully be yours. Again.

 

But you also know that there is only so much you can do, and your head still hurts from those countless bottles of Rose you succumbed to the day before because kind ears wanted to listen, and although the steak pie is hot and steaming and should be a comfort, there are more mushrooms than steak and it is still not as appealing as your bed.

 

And you look at those two beings opposite you at the table that you made and remember that they are yours, and even if you aren’t that perfect family in the soap powder ads, and those pink balloons above your table are likely to burst at any minute, a rush of emotion and gratitude comes over you, because you are together, warts and all.

This Time Last Year My Son Should Have Been Sitting His HSC  

 

woman-1246318_1280Don’t worry, I’m not torturing myself with this fact, but this post is one that I’ve wanted to write for a long time about my son. It’s similar in vein to the piece Jenny Lawson, “The Bloggess”, wrote on election day in the US – It’s Going To Be Okay. It’s about holding onto the belief that if the fundamentals are there and we make the assumption that most people are genuinely good, everything will be okay.

 

Many of you will know about the ‘phase’ we have been through over the past few years with our son Kurt. His problems are routed in many medical labels, but to be honest, none of those have helped him or us in the scheme of things. He is Kurt. A young man now. A kid who has faced more struggles than some and nowhere near as many at fitting into the conventions and what he sees as the limitations of society because being the proverbial “round peg”, society hasn’t treated him all that well so far.

 

I now know that no-one is really to blame, although I’m sure that like every teenager Kurt blames us sometimes. His problems may be caused by chemical imbalance, trauma, his particular pattern of  DNA, but what I do understand is that “knowing why” doesn’t matter really, the counter side to his behaviours being that he apologises profusely after each bad choice he makes, which means I can console myself that we must have done something right.

 

When we set out on this journey called “parenting”, our white privilege led us to assume that because we could give them the best of everything, our kids would turn out okay; that they would be normal, happy and well-adjusted. What I’ve come to terms with since, is that just like cancer, mental illness, “difference” and disassociation from society is not something that we cause necessarily. It can be inherent. It can happen whether you have a white picket fence or barbed wire around your home.

 

If I’m honest, I expected both my kids to go to university. We did. Being more creative than academic, I wasn’t so narrow-minded to believe that tertiary education was the only route to a good career, but I never imagined a kid of mine dropping out of school and getting caught up in worlds that were alien to us, that previously we had only witnessed in movies.

 

This time last year our son should have been sitting his HSC with his peers and I would love to give you a Disney happy ending and tell you that instead he has taken up a trade, become a successful entrepreneur or set the world on fire in some other way. There has been progress, small successes in terms of most parents’ expectations, but the past twelve months have also been a steep climb, with several sharp edges, a few  falls and many steps back down the mountain.

 

But we are in a better place than I could have imagined two years ago, because we still have our son. He continues to communicate and confide in us, he has a part-time job – hence he is beginning to understand responsibility and his place in the world. And although I cannot say, hand on heart, that he has slipped easily back into the bosom of our family like the prodigal son, wounds are healing and trust is being restored. We are starting to recognise in him now the strands of our DNA.

 

Perhaps it was simply a question of maturity all along or that his “conditions” created barriers to learning that no school could handle, and that combination of errors affected him in ways we will never understand. Perhaps there were traumas that triggered the inherent anger. Nevertheless, he has finally reached a threshold of approachability so we can talk things through with him. His knee-jerk reaction is still to shout first and listen afterwards, but now he reflects before he makes those final judgment calls. Since we stopped enabling him, he has learnt that his decisions affect him personally as well as us.

 

I grieved through those years for the son I thought I’d have, the one who opened doors for me, wore collared shirts, was clean-shaven and polite and I secretly rued the fact that I couldn’t mould him into who I expected him to be.

 

On bad days it was easy to forget that I have a son who cuddles me, seeks my company and tells me he loves me every day.

 

And I have evolved with him. Somewhere on this journey I reached an acceptance that he will create his own destiny, and if that turns out to be prison or rehab, I will be there for him, but I am not responsible for it. Just as an experience such as cancer makes you value every day, an experience such as ours makes you more embracing of difference, less judgmental of other people’s choices and I have much more empathy and respect for those that struggle with invisible illnesses.

 

It may also have something to do with my age, but my expectations for my children and myself are now focused on the simple goals in life, such as health, happiness, goodness and personal fulfilment rather than financial success and one-upmanship.

 

Kurt will find his way. And it will be his way.

And The Oscar For Mother Of Worst Toddler/Toddler Of Worst Mother Goes to…

Those photos of poor Charlize Theron trying to deal with her son’s tantrum in the full glare of the media made me wince painfully the other day. baby-155178_1280

 

In a kind of sentimental way, really, because we’ve all been there, and they weren’t much fun when you’re a nobody from suburbia, let alone a Hollywood celebrity being stalked by the paparazzi.

 

So I’d like to dedicate this post to all those stoic young mums of imperfect toddlers, forced daily to do the dragging and pulling walk of shame dance to the car that toddlers force you to do when they don’t want to get in their car seat. Because all mums know that it’s traumatic enough to be on the receiving end of a full-blown tanty in your own private space, but a public one is triple points.

 

I’ve earned my stars in this department and so can speak from experience. In fact, I swear I wore the tee-shirt for birthing the most tantrumming toddler in NC, which I realise may be hard to believe from what I’ve divulged about my nerd… daughter in previous posts, but I have loads of friends that will vouch for me.

 

NC was a troubled child until around the age of ten, but the most trying period was in the four torturous years before she started school, when I was still green in the parenting department – AKA not having a fucking clue what I was doing. What made it worse was that the old man and I were one of the first in our peer group to fall pregnant, so we had nothing to compare NC to, just those Disney-like fantasies of raising the perfect baby I’d devoured through my pregnancy.

 

After the first post-natural childbirth-birth classes where everyone sat around and smugged on about what an amazing time they were having with their new baby, I remember one of my friends, who had obviously caught the look of contorted pain on my face whenever I looked NC, attempted to make me feel better after my precious bundle had screamed solo the whole way through baby massage. (I will always be grateful to you for that, Alice). She suggested that NC’s irritability might be because she was so bright – obviously trying to be kind – which the old man interpreted later that evening to mean that NC was obviously bored with the limited intelligence level of my postpartum company.

 

Whatever the reason behind my daughter’s disappointment with life and her new family – and truthfully there could have been any number of reasons such as not eating, hating the clown wallpaper I’d chosen for the nursery or the realisation that she had been unfortunate enough to get the fruitcake for a mother with not an ounce of maternal intuition – I’m certain that her anger was due to the debilitating tiredness bought on by her refusal to sleep at any point during the day, which meant that by witching hour our house would resemble Armageddon.

 

NC was a child who was fundamentally very unhappy in her own skin.

 

Anything and everything set her off. She screamed at the sight of men she didn’t know, hated being strapped into the pushchair, threw herself out of the car seat and screamed when I left her with the child minder. Once she even bit me when I came to pick her up to go back home.

 

Is it any wonder that wine time became quickly synonymous with witching time in our relationship?

 

And it’s why, these days, whenever I witness a child over-heat in the supermarket and some poor mother try to calm the situation down without giving in, I find it hard to know how to react towards her. What I really want her to know is that it’s okay, that most of us have been through what she’s suffering, to offer her my best ‘been there’, ‘feeling your pain’ kind of sympathetic smile, without coming across as some patronising, judgmental middle-aged smug. Perhaps it would be better to ignore her completely so that she doesn’t feel like there is some national conspiracy to make her feel like she’s the worst mother in the world.

 

Because that’s how I felt.

 

We feel your pain, Charlize, and if it wasn’t for Kurt I could tell you with my hand on my heart that it will get better.

 

 

Worst Christmas Cookie Recipe and How To Succeed At Not Being Perfect

I decided to dedicate my last post before Christmas to reminding you that it’s seriously okay not to be perfect; especially at this time of the year. And that I am quite happy to be your role model of imperfection. 

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Nailed them!

If I reflect back on the past year, there have been no really outstanding personal achievements to brag about on Facebook. I haven’t got pregnant or forged a new and exciting career, and my kids haven’t shone at the top of their school or field. Furthermore, I’ve gained weight, I’m drinking more, I still refuse to take exercise seriously or touch a Kale smoothie and a lot of the time I am not very happy.

 

But I am alive, and my dearest and dearest are healthy.

 

I still don’t get why we women continue to torment ourselves with trying to be perfect all the time; and I am the worst offender. Only the other day the strangest urge came over me to show NC and Kurt that I can be a real ‘mom’ by baking for them, and as usual the experience left me feeling about as useful as a snow plough in Sydney over Christmas.

 

There is an underlying fear in my head that my kids’ memories of their childhood will be of this last-minute, anti-mum, who always bought the shop-bought cake to functions and winged everything.

 

‘How hard can it really be to make a few Christmas cookies’, I remember thinking?

 

IMG_0337I didn’t over-stretch myself. I did my research and asked the Google gods to send me down the simplest cookie recipe – yet still assumed that I could modify it a little, if needs be.

 

After all, Jamie does that all the time.

 

But I hit the first roadblock immediately, when in my haste to get a photo of my perfect Christmas cookies up on Instagram, I selected a shortbread recipe instead of a cookie recipe, but didn’t realize my error until my dough was not ‘firm to the touch’, but closer to the consistency of butter icing.

 

It was wet, sticky, about as malleable as a jellyfish and impossible to peel off the work top, let alone shape into a star.

 

You can do this!’ I buoyed myself as the sweat dripped down from my forehead into the yellow goo stuck to my hands and an image of how fabulous Nigella always looks in the kitchen began to torment me.

 

And there were the inevitable ‘FUCKS!” of frustration at my hopelessness when it comes to baking, and I might have even sobbed a little and been forced to resort to some Rescue Remedy (a.k.a wine) for medicinal purposes, to calm me down.IMG_0339

 

But at least the Princess appreciated them.

 

Be kind to each other at this time of the year and remember that no-one is perfect and Christmas is not everyone’s idea of fun. Even as I write this post, the jelly is yet to set on my trifle, I can’t even squeeze into my Christmas dress and my son hasn’t spoken to me for 48 hours. 

 

Star Christmas Shortbread Cookies

250g butter, chopped

½ cup caster sugar

1 1/2cups plain flour

¾ cups rice flour

White icing

 

Combine together all ingredients.

Say ‘FUCK’ liberally.

PANIC when the consistency of your dough feels like wallpaper glue and you can’t even roll it out, then add loads more flour until you can cut those bastard cookies (you wished you’d never started in the first place) into something resembling a star shape with your cookie cutter.

Completely ignore the ridiculous timing suggested by the recipe and cook the fuckers for as long as they need for you to be able to prise them off the tray.

Smear with enough white icing to disguise their fugliness.

 

Merry Christmas and thank you for putting up with me for another year. xxx

 

 

The True Meaning of Charlotte: We Can Get Back To Our Lives Now

The Real Meaning of Charlotte
Princess 1 Taken by Chrissy and found on http://www.flickr.com

Forgive my withering cynicism, for believe it or not, I am as clucky as the next person at the sight and smell of a cute newborn, but do we really have to dissect the origins of the name Charlotte from every historical angle for the next two weeks?

I chose my kids names because they sounded nice and because they were the only names the old man would agree to – my choices of Noah and Florence being rejected as ‘ridiculous’ – not because of some upper-class, historical significance or to brownnose my ancestors.

Did it ever occur to anyone that maybe Will and Kate just like the name ‘Charlotte’?

Kurt got his name because I knew this really chilled-out, hot guy at uni who drove an MG; and look how he turned out!

This Royal birth has dominated the media for a year now. We’ve been forced to endure every detail of each new phase of Kate’s pregnancy from the morning sickness that led to her hospitalisation, her lack of weight gain, the confusion over her due date, her labour and now the Russian conspiracy theories about when the birth actually took place.

And as if that wasn’t enough suspense, the Palace decided to torture us further by stretching out the release of the Princess’s name for two painful days.

Quite obviously, NO-ONE could get on with their lives without knowing the name of the Princess.

I am not a Royalist but I am a Brit and understand the deep-seated power of Royalty as status in many parts of the world, and the money Britain makes from associated tourism and merchandise. Even I am not immune to feeling a sense of pride in our culture and history – I should be, having had every important historical date rammed down my throat, rote fashion, for the entirety of my schooling.

And yes, I have been known to feel all soppy inside when I go back and revisit the wonderful sights of our history, like the Tower of London, the palaces, Stamford Bridge, David Beckham’s waxwork and other relics of flamboyant decadence of the Royals – in spite of the advice of their advisors to re-market themselves to be ‘just like one of us.’

But…

While Kate was gestating, lot of other serious shit has been happening in the world – surprisingly, more important shit than the birth of one of a billion new babies, and one who is a mere third-in-line to a throne and so has carte blanche now to become the next fucked up Royal wild child and follow in the footsteps of previous famous fucked up Royals who will never sit on the throne. No doubt she too will lead a life of covered-up debauchery in a regime that bears little relevance to the future of the UK or the world in general.

Which is why I’m also not immune to how fucking amazing Kate looked after the birth of Charlotte – I am a woman after all – and I’m not going to join the critics who have nothing better to do than slam her for getting the stylists onboard pronto to work their magic. That photo of the three of them on the steps of the Lindo Wing is going to be on every mug, plate and teapot until the poor girl drops her third child, so who in their right mind would want to look knackered and puffy or publicly demonstrate their difficult mobility due to stitches that were probably killing her?

Credit where credit is due, that cream dress was a brave call…

But can we please get back to our lives now?

A Mother’s Pride

Too many faces of grief-stricken mothers have haunted us in the media this week.

 

A Mother's Pride

 

It’s hard to remember another time when we’ve borne witness to such rawness of despair from so many mothers in the face of tragedy, as vividly as we have this week. We’ve watched the pain of loss etched visibly on the faces of those who have lost their most precious possessions – their children.

 

There were the haunting images of the mothers of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran as they wept for the senseless loss of their sons, just before they were finally executed after ten years of hope; we watched the impulsive actions of the mother of a sixteen-year old boy in the Baltimore riots, when she publicly and physically lashed out at her son so driven was she by the fear of him becoming another black casualty; and we saw the pain of all those mothers in Nepal – mothers to the thousands buried, mothers to the mountaineers and mothers to their guides.

 

And let’s not forget the faceless mothers of the ANZACs as well.

 

We mothers all share the same ferociously protective instinct for our cubs. Human children remain in the nest longer than other animals, and even when they do strike out for independence, we never stop worrying about the safety of our progeny.

 


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I can’t begin to imagine what the mothers of Andrew and Myuran are experiencing right now, or indeed have experienced over the last ten years since their boys made that fatal decision. I have a child who could so easily make a similarly wrong choice as those boys did and screw up his future.

 

Unfortunately, the best mothering in the world can’t change impulsive, risk-taking behaviour. And there are no certainties in this life, either. No guarantees. No way of knowing how your kids will turn out. The only guarantee is that you won’t stop loving them.

 

Yet no matter how proud those mothers were of their kids climbing Everest last week, or trying to fight for justice, or trying to make amends for mistakes committed with the naivety of youth, pride becomes a worthless currency in the face of loss.

 

Which is why we mums try so tirelessly to wrap our babies in the protective armour of knowledge; to helicopter them into making the right choices and understanding  the difference between right and wrong and good and bad calls.

 

But we can only do that for so long. At some point, the cubs develop into adults and are ready to make their own decisions, make their own mark on the world, possibly even take risks. And even we know that it would be wrong to hamper their free spirit with talk of fear, all our instincts tell us to.

 

And we have to accept that consequences will be part of our kids’ learning process – that is, when they are given the opportunity to learn from their decisions, rather than be indefinitely held responsible for them, without forgiveness, as in the case of Andrew and Myuran.

 

I felt the stabbing pain of loss for those boys when I heard that they had left this life with so much dignity at their executions.

 

Pride’ in their boys may still be too complex and distant an emotion for those women who lost their children this week to truly embrace yet. There are stages to go through with any healing process – there will be anger, grief and finally acceptance, and all those mothers who lost their children this week will still be angry.

 

But pride will return.