Saturday, 21 March 2009

Mothers' Day

No one ever tells you how hard it is to be a mother, and if they tried you would probably not believe it.

The hardest part is the letting go, and I know that some of my blogging friends are experiencing this.

It's tough when they go to school, even to playgroup or nursery. You have known their every breath, every nose-wipe - and even more intimate details. Then, suddenly, they are in this grey uniform with laced-up leather shoes and a manly, knotted tie (which you have sewn on to a strip of elastic).
"What did you do today?"
"Did you have a good time? Were you happy? Was everyone kind to you?"
"Yes, I suppose so."
"What do you mean, you suppose so? Did anything bad happen? Is there any sort of problem? You must tell me straight away..."
"I need food!"

Then, seemingly only a few minutes later:
"Have you done that course-work?"
"Have you really done that course-work? This is such an important year. Your whole future depends on these exam results. Are you taking this seriously?"

Another few moments pass:
"You can't go to university until you can iron a shirt."
"Mum, no one, but no one wears shirts these days. And if they do they never, ever iron them."

And then, quite soon:
"Mum, if you need help with the gardening you only have to say. I will even pay for someone to come and remove cobwebs if you need help."
"Thank you, but I like cobwebs. This is an ecologically balanced house."
"Now don't be difficult, Mum."

The bouquet arrived today, from both my sons, and in the background is the statue their father regarded as a guardian of our home: St. Joseph, who had the toughest parenting role of all.
I don't see much of my sons, these days. They are busy. They have Significant Others in their lives. Mothering is on the shelf, with St. Joseph, but it's always there, quietly in the background now.

I tread a delicate tightrope between expressions of love and care, the balance of independence and support.
When you set people completely free there is a risk that they may not realise just how much you care. Giving this freedom is probably the hardest part of love, the hardest part of parenting.

I hope they know.
I believe they know.

And this one came later....From Russia, With Love!


Anonymous said...

Hi Mum, those flowers are just from me actually.
Hugh bought you the big ones that are coming later! X

Relatively Retiring said...

Dear Anonymous,
I'm really bowled over. Thank you so very much!

persiflage said...

Dear RR, you have expressed so much about motherhood,with clearsighted truthfulness and love. I agree with all you said. It is a delicate balance, to be carefully maintained.

Zhoen said...

My dear cousins seem to be the gathering place for their children and grandchildren, as well as a plethora of other family and friends and strays like D and I. It looks like as soon as their kids reached adulthood, they were promoted to Friend status, with all due respect and space accorded.

I have come to believe this is the way to keep that parent/offspring relationship warm and loving. I also suspect it's very difficult for most people.

Relatively Retiring said...

Persiflage: thank you for your generous comment.

Zhoen: I think 'respect' is the key-word in what you say, and, of course, giving freedom applies to all close relationships - and is equally tough in all close relationships.

Judith said...

RR - that is so true about the delicate tightrope, and I think I erred on the letting go side. Did you ever feel "oh, I mustn't intrude, this is a special family time for them" - only to realise too late that it was so special that they expected their Mum to be there? I think I undervalued my own importance to them at times.

Relatively Retiring said...

Judith: I appreciate your comment and realise that is a risk I run, too. It really is a tightrope, isn't it - with the possibility of a tumble on either side?

mm said...

Beautiful flowers. Happy Mother's Day, RR. Am thinking of my own mother today ....

Relatively Retiring said...

mm: Hello - good to see you back again. I hope you're recovering?

pohanginapete said...

Particularly loved those first two comments ;^) The post's great too — so true.

Relatively Retiring said...

PPete: Thank you. It's that letting go and giving freedom that's so hard to balance with mothering. When they come home I try to stop myself saying, 'Don't you need a coat in this weather?''Have you had a proper breakfast?' etc. etc. etc. even though I care passionately about their warmth and nutrition - STILL!

Beth said...

A lovely blog. I'm beginning to "let go" of my eldest, who has recently discovered the joy of going out with his mates on an evening to hang out and socialise. I hope he is not causing upset to others by being a loud, fun loving teenager. I hope I have encouraged in him the skills necessary to avoid trouble. When he was little I thought I would worry less when he grew up - but now there are new things to worry about. I think I will have to learn to trust him more and worry less as part of the letting go process.

Relatively Retiring said...

Beth: It's almost impossible to do the total trust thing when they are still living under your roof. I never once deliberately stayed awake for a late-night-reveller's return - but it was impossible to sleep properly until I'd heard the stairs creaking! (Interestingly not so for my husband, who snored resoundingly throughout. Dads have different wiring.)

carol b said...

all this letting go lies ahead of me, and I've been wondering whether I treasure every nose wipe just a little too much...

letting go is filed in my 'so much to learn' category; your post and it's comments will help me when the time comes.

Relatively Retiring said...

Carol: Just carry on enjoying the nose-wipes - she'll be doing it herself very soon.
(In one of my more memorable mothering moments I heard myself saying, 'Don't wipe your nose on the carpet!')

Mouse said...

It is So difficult.
We give birth to such beautiful babies and as soon as they're born we can't imagine how we were ever happy before they were in our lives and then, before we know it, they have grown and gone
I was happiest as a stay-at-home mum. Nothing since has come close to the joy of those years
IS there life after kids?
Can an empty nest ever feel like home again?

Relatively Retiring said...

Mouse; I'm so sorry to hear your sadness.
Yes, there is life in the empty nest, and there is always a place for them to return....but it's not easy.
Thinking of you.

Peregrina said...

R.R., how I understand the mere moments that flash by between having the first brand-new baby (even if, at the time, I felt as if I'd be getting up in the middle of the night to feed him for ever), to the empty bedrooms and the nights unbroken by - in my case - the sound of the garage door opening so bikes could be put away. (One ... two ... three ... Ah! Now I can sleep soundly for the rest of the night.) Some years after our eldest left home, and while he and I were working together in the kitchen at Christmas time, I remember saying to him, "Your childhood seemed to go so quickly. Was I around when you were growing up?" I was relieved to get a very firm, positive response. He's the one who twinkles at me and calls me "Mother Hen".

As for ironing: our younger son came home from university one evening and, with a huge grin on his face, told us that his tutor had said that students have far more important things to do than iron their clothes. When he finally succumbed more than ten years after being given this advice and bought both iron and ironing-board, he felt it sufficiently noteworthy and amusing to ring and tell me.

At least they do come back and stay from time to time, and the change in the relationship is a different and unexpected joy.

Relatively Retiring said...

Peregrina: Mothering is just that, whichever side of the world.
I love the converstion with your son about his childhood. I recall a very pious priest explaining to a bemused congregation that Mary was such a wonderful mother, she was there at the birth of her son!

Isabelle said...

Ah, how wonderful it is to have children and how terrible it is to lose them when they leave home; it makes it worse that it's only natural and has always happened and will always happen. I wonder if the sadness will ever go.

Relatively Retiring said...

Isabelle: You are one of the blogging friends I referred to.
I hope the sadness will pass for you. I can now rejoice to see them making their way out there, and then to have the joy of meeting them all over again as fully fledged adults.

Anonymous said...

In three short conversations you have summed up motherhood. Your writing is wonderful and I am always very touched by it. You are able to get right to the heart of things in a few words. I hope you will write a book.

Relatively Retiring said...

Anonymous: Thank you for your kind comments. I really appreciate them.