From my Instagram
I outsourced the last years of my attachment parenting to the dogs. They have slept with my son since he was eight. At twelve, he’s a very settled sleeper. No wonder people domesticated wolves.
The Adult Child
My friend is struggling with her children reaching adulthood and separating from her. But I hit that milestone years ago when the children lived part-time away from me with their father following my divorce.
That strangeness, when they return home with stories from somewhere else or with an unfamiliar haircut. The little celebration of return and how you try not to express it in a smothering way.
And the sweetness they bring into the home, when they come over briefly and unexpectedly. How they fly in to grab a forgotten pair of shoes and then back out the door, calling that they love you and will see you next week. Then, the lingering pleasure in having received a stolen moment but the encroaching sadness of freshly missing them.
Is that what you mean, I ask her.
The New Era
This same best friend says another new era has begun in their house. Yes, it is the era of being mostly superfluous as a mother, but nature also arranges for it to be the time of making fun of fathers. Young adults find their fathers ridiculous and they’re not afraid to show them. Men who were revered or longed for or slightly feared suddenly become just fallible.
But can this happen so freely with stepfathers? His power is not derived from a stake in your bloodline, but in your mother. What can you kick against safely, as the newly adult child?
There comes a point in mothering when you realise there are only a handful of years left where both of your children are still children. Whatever plans you had for mothering - the time for them is almost up.
(Some very revealing wishes will come to the surface when you ask yourself what have you always planned to do as a mother, but have not).
I thought I would take us on another overseas trip. It would be one for us, rather than for my parents. Vietnam had been with my father and New Zealand with my mother. So, I would give the children at least one overseas trip where both of them were old enough to remember it. And it would be a treasured childhood memory. Maybe we would go to Kenya or Sweden. Some kind of big adventure.
But I have only a year and a half left of mothering two children, and in the midst of a pandemic a trip overseas isn’t going to happen.
Anyway, the teenager is too unpredictable to book an overseas holiday with. Who knows what mood she will be in?
Last year I splashed out and bought us a holiday at the beach. We stayed in a house expensive enough to allow you to have your dogs with you, to cook a BBQ on the deck, and for you to be able to then walk directly to the sea. What a treat, I thought. And, in a window of opportunity in the middle of a pandemic!
But at the last minute the teenager refused to come and her younger brother spent the whole time feeling lost without her and wanting to get home.
Anyway, the children told me, we have had plenty of beach holidays. But those were not like this, I complained. They were when I was scrimping to stay in a caravan park miles from the beach or we were sleeping on the couch in a friend’s holiday rental for a single night. The children dismissed it.
Therefore, I’m left with two lessons.
1) Mothering goes very quickly in the teenage years so, if there is something you always wanted to do as a mother but haven’t, act now. (Hopefully your wishes are a little less expensive and border-dependent than mine).
2) The children love budget holidays so, don’t over-spend, or at least do not do over-spend for them.
Documentaries to See and Then Talk to Me About Over an Expensive Mocktail (Yes, I’m drinking a lot more alcohol-free drinks these days and no, apparently, it isn’t to save money)
Favourite Mocktail at the Moment
Best New Thing I Have Eaten
Ottolenghi’s Charred Cherry Tomatoes With Cold Yoghurt
Gripping Little Podcast on Queer Mothering by a Straight Single Mother
The AIDs Angel of Arkansas - this is an amazing story from Ruth Coker Burks with plenty of very moving moments and painful lessons from history, but there’s a kicker hidden in here to listen out for that I haven’t heard Coker Burks tell in other interviews. How did this perfectly ordinary woman come to be so extraordinarily fearless? Listen out for that description of the mothering she, herself, received as a child. It’s something I have observed in the people I have known in my life who are unnaturally courageous in the face of threat. (“I never had anybody to ever take care of me and my mother was scarier than anything in the outside world. Going home, to me, was the scariest. If I could handle my mother, I could handle anyone”).
Brilliant (But Bleak) Self-Portraits of the Tenderness and Exhaustion of Motherhood