Have you noticed how, in order for a miracle to occur, a whole lot of smaller miracles have to line up first?
At time of writing, I’m 13 years and 17 minutes into a 2020 Mother’s Day miracle.
Which is to say: I’m in my home, alone, for the first time in at least 138 days. My first time alone, at all, in 56 days.
You cannot imagine how miraculous this is.
For this to happen, everyone in our house and the grandparents had to stay well through the first wave of COVID-19. Australia’s curve had to flatline and the Queensland government had to decide to allow the first tentative lifting of restrictions.
Quite apart from all that, we needed a whole string of tiny, personal miracles right here at home: we had to casually broach the idea of the Skeptic taking the kids to see their Omi without me, yesterday, mentioning it a time or two, so that no one felt either surprised or pressured by the idea.
Then the kids had to get to sleep at a decent hour. (This itself involved the miracle of CraftyFish having recently decided she does like reading after all, and choosing Harry Potter rather than a kung-fu rave haka for her pre-bedtime activity.)
They had to wake at a decent hour, too, not so early they felt tired and incapable but early enough to have a solid hour acclimating to Earth, before The Skeptic tried to move them out of the house. They had to be willing to go. This is always the most precarious moment, given that separation anxiety has its cruel claws deep in my kids’ psyches, entwined in their guts, and if I haven’t had any time off in 56 days, well, neither have they.
Spare me your ‘Mummies have needs, too’.
Of course we do. Gimme some credit, darl. I’ve been playing this gig for 13 years now and I was two hundred years old when I started. I’m fully aware of my needs – and of my kids’ need to learn independence and blah blah you know what? Hush up. I have been there, tried that. Bought the t-shirt so long ago, it’s now only good for gently polishing my gin bottles.
Because here’s the kicker: you know that thing about alcoholics, junkies, and bad relationships? About how, no matter what you know and however good your intentions, the person you want to help, has to want to change? Well, guess what? CHILDREN ARE PEOPLE TOO. Just like adults, they have to want to change – or at least, not be primed to full-body-contact fight to the death every single idea that didn’t originate in their own stubborn-as-fuck brains. And they will never, ever be un-primed if they’re feeling pushed.
Trying to get my kids to separate before they were ready has, over the past 13 years, earned me backlash you cannot imagine. I know that because in all that time I’ve only ever met one momma who said, “aw hell, backlash, I hear ya hon, pass the gin”. If you’re not that one momma, you’ll have to wait for the book. Meanwhile, please trust me when I say it took every minute of those 13 years for me to learn to leave it the fuck alone. My kids did not get their SAF genes from nowhere, no ma’am, so for years – YEARS – I pushed and they pushed back and I pushed harder and they threw things and I screamed and everybody cried. And then the next time I needed a bit of space, we’d do it all again.
Until I figured out that the struggle was not about my kids, it was about me. It’s about fighting my fear that they won’t ever get there and accepting that they’re doing the best they can. It’s about trusting that it is okay not to fight them. That it is not, in fact, my job to ‘make them’ anything, but to open the door and keep calm until they’re ready to go through it themselves. That last bit – the keeping calm part? That, my friends, is the fight, and I’m thrilled that these days, it’s one I’ve kinda sorta mostly mastered.
Not all the time, of course. I had a little cry about it last night, truth be told. Come on. 56 days without a break, and the chance that I still might not get the space I so desperately craved? ‘Course I cried. Duh. But just a little, and only at hubby. Does this make me some kind of patron saint of maternal patience? HELL, NO. Go back and re-read the part about the screaming and the throwing things. And the bit about the backlash. This is nothing to do with sanctity, and everything to do with practicing a hard-won skill.
But the fact that I’ve mostly got it – that I’ve learned (slowly, painfully) not to lose my shit when I’m not getting my needs met; to show my kids respect and tolerance instead of panic and anger; to not try and force them meet my needs; to instead nurse myself until I catch a break (to trust that I will catch a break, eventually); to let them know that sometimes, needs aren’t met immediately and while that’s no fun, it’s survivable; to be, in short, strong enough to hold space for them and show them how to do that – coming from where I was, that is a very big miracle indeed, 13 years in the making.
I would not be this person, without my kids. That’s the miracle.
Happy Mother’s Day, me.