It is the month marking Mother’s Day and one word that we hear – gushed out by family, friends and strangers – is “Aww”.
I must admit I am partly (alright fully) responsible for this trend. It began when I first showed my scan pictures proudly to my girlfriends (and emailed it to the ones living abroad).
It reached its peak when my son was born – each milestone was marked with “awws”. And I am crazy about children, so I noticed that it had become a disease and I joined the bandwagon of aw-spouting women – if the baby drooled on someone it was an aw moment (eww for others, aww for me). If the baby had a half smile, I had my camera out – it was perennially hanging around my neck like a dog tag.
Men in the family are not behind. My dad would often say that when a baby is conceived, the mum may carry it in her womb, but the dad carries it in his heart for nine months. I agree, but motherhood is really something special. For one, parenthood changes you and your life. I have only three levels right now – ditzy, ditzier and ditziest – people say labour was hard. Nope. It’s what comes later that can be tougher, crazier, yet blissfully enriching. It feels like your heart is walking outside of you – everything everything suddenly and forever – revolves around your child.
I have told my ‘bestest’ friend that if anything happens to me, I’d want my son taken care of. You want to protect your child, you want to be the best parent, you want him to do well, you want him to get the best. And if you can get some fun and plenty of love and laughter thrown in, perfect. And you are amused at yourself for being so tuned to mommyhood that when even an adult calls out to ‘Mummy’, you turn around and look.
When new mums share about their lack of sleep, I smile because my son is a teen and I still try to juggle work and home. I’ll probably fall asleep writing this. Paediatrician is still on speed dial. That guy deserves an award for answering crazy queries from us mums 24/7. I remember a friend telling me that she had taken her 10 month old to a doctor because there was no sign of teething. The doctor told her that he had practised medicine for 25 years and was yet to see an adult who had not had a tooth.
For an entire year, I had a cartoon with me – of a harassed-looking mum speaking to a desolate looking child in her car – ‘If Sallie is in school, Mick is at football practice and Emma is at ballet class, then who the heck are you?’ How well do I know that feeling!
We had promised ourselves that we would never talk baby talk to our baby (read that in one of those thick baby care related books that I read from cover to cover and can even today quote from at midnight) and I am not ashamed to say that I violated that rule from day one – babies just need baby talk and I just ignored Professor What’s His Name and went on lisping all year. I still do when we have our mum and son chit chats after I get back from work and he tells me how his day went. Just call out ‘Mommy’ and you will have me awake from a coma.
Adventurous? You bet. I used to take my sons to play areaa for a jamboree – which is something I find time for once a week. It’s a very organised, mutually enriching game plan – we play in the water, we play in the sand, we play in the play pen, we snack on junk food which he is permitted only once a week and then we play some more. It has just changed a bit – same scene, different setting.
The watching kids make me climb all the poles and rings in the area – kids can twist me around their little fingers. It sends chills down my own mother’s spine. But I love their laughter – a baby’s giggle is the most beautiful sound in the world. And so many of these little ones have laughed at me – right from the time I took my son along while I practiced yoga with other new mums and struggled to disentangle myself from a lotus pose and the roomful of babies laughed. Cheeky.
I have become more creative. I can make varieties of desserts even with two diabetics in the house because my son and his little friends love cake. I can fashion cool hats out of soup tins. I strongly believe that I can give these children’s writers a run for their money because I can easily squeeze in a moral into a daily school anecdote and Mowgli or Pooh Bear into a Bible story. And vice versa.
I do get lot of advice on how to raise a child – moms can tell you that begins when the world knows you are pregnant. When I took my son for his first vaccination, I had one sweet aunt of mine calling up to warn he would get fever and should not be bathed, an elderly neighbour in the building warning me he would be cranky so please give him a warm bath and a grand mum I saw in the hospital telling me that…well something…because I fell asleep somewhere in between the conversation.
She was a grandma, she knew, so she let me sleep and later kindly told me it would be okay, when I ran to her to apologise. She told me I was doing a great job and it would all be fine. Kids are kids, they would fall sick, but they would get better. Thank God for older mums.
Oh and the unpredictability of it all. His first day of school – any mum can tell you it’s not much fun hearing a cacophony of crying – I expected him to be clingy – he was not. I expected him to cry. He did not, I did. I went back two hours later, assured that everything was well, fairly bursting with pride for raising a strong and confident lad.
But he ran stormily into my arms and declared he hated school. The teacher disentangled him off my neck and politely asked me to leave him alone – like I read in a book – I don’t know if the teacher meant – just on that day or for life. I still laugh with Kenneth over that memory. No doubt we always will.
Another instance of unpredictable excitement – you make a stack of mini animal shaped cookies and your toddler decides he wants fruit. You dress for an important meeting at work and he decides he would puke all over your suit. And it is not milk, it has to be something that will cake onto your suit, like oats. It has happened at home and it took me a while to get suits tidied up. I am still afraid of oats. I remember pureeing his favourite fruit and adding ice cream to it to make it yummy, following the advice of other mums. He spat it out in a second. I ducked and saved our clothes.
I must admit some guilt comes with motherhood. Working women worry if they are spending enough time with their child, homemakers worry if they should get back to work.
I sterilised everything in sight when my son was born. And each time he came near a small toy, I stood by ready to do the Heimlich Manoeuvre if he ever choked. Then one wise older mum told me that the first baby eats out of sterilised, matching bowls and spoons, the second one eats from washed bowls and the third eats straight out of the can. You don’t love them any lesser, you just mature.
Oh, motherhood is special. I have chains of thought that somehow turn Kenneth-ward several times during the day. Some one discusses a new aquarium in town and I want my son to see it. The fashion editor may talk about Jimmy Choo shoes at a meeting and I remember my son needs new shoes for school. He may not get the most expensive toy in town, but he sure knows he is loved to bits. Because I tell him so every day. I tell him little things that happen to me at work, I pray with him, tell him to respect people around him, be nice to friends and let him be happy. I make him laugh, if making monkey faces helps, I will do it, any age, any season.
Bad behaviour and mess is never excused, but he always knows I am fighting his battles with him. If playing in the beach helps him cheer up, I let him get dirty. If he says he’d rather learn to play tennis than football which I love, I let him. I sang him to sleep even though my annoying little brother told me the baby was driven to sleep out of sheer boredom. Kenneth knows he is loved just as he is. By God and by family.
I am off to mother-son quality time in a few minutes. And I have my son hovering around right now. This article has been interrupted countless times and I must have learned patience after becoming a mother, because I now enjoy being interrupted.
My own mum often joins us for lunch – she often helps us out with mommying tips. My friends join us with their kids and we mums make a day of it all, packing picnic snacks – anything fun, NOT oats.
This year, all of us mums are cooped up at home, shielding our treasures – our children – from a virus. May the world and our children see better years ahead. May our children learn to help live, rather than let live. We pray that, Lord Jesus.
Happy Mother’s day to every woman out there. My mum, my nana, my sisters, my aunts and my wonderful girlfriends. You will never stop being a mum, even if you are twenty five or eighty. You really are blessed. Have some time just with your baby. You can join us for some day long fun some day. The noise should guide you to the right spot and we mums would love to baby sit.
And by late afternoon, you’d probably find me asleep in a corner there.
By Linda Joseph Kavalackal,
Christ & Co.