In my heart, I want to hold my two living boys in my arms forever. I want to feel the weight of them against me and inhale the last vestiges of lingering baby smell. I want them to remain small and dependant, their arms eagerly reaching up for cuddles. I don’t want my six year old’s incessant babble about absolutely everything to morph into the grunts of a teenage boy. I don’t want my two year old’s innocence and enthusiasm about the world to dampen. Even when it’s draining, I love that I am the only one they want. Above everyone else. That I must soothe night-time fears and day-time scrapes. I am terrified when they are sick or hurt. Experience being a difficult lesson to unlearn. When their temperatures peak and their eyes glaze, my heart lurches from its chest, panicked and imaging the worst. And I realize the incredible depth of love that I have for my boys. A depth that I cannot fathom, let alone express to them. Let alone have them understand. My heart is full when my bed is full of my darling children, creeping in during the early light. Sleep replaced by cozy contentment that the people I love more than anything are all within arms reach. In my heart, I want to protect them forever. I don’t want them to outgrow my embrace.
In my head, I want my boys to grow. Strong, resilient, healthy, intelligent, thoughtful and kind. I want to share everything I know about the world. I want to immerse them in music, art, science, sport and words. In my world of perfect mothering I read to them constantly, play with them always and never fail to see the wonder. I take them to libraries and museums, parks and concerts, galleries and forests. I want to teach them that the world is theirs – for the taking and the taking care of. I want them to believe in themselves. To have a quiet and bold confidence. I want them to know themselves, to discover passions and to be invested in life. I want them to know that dreams can become reality through hard work and unwavering self-belief. I want to give them tools that will allow them to make good decisions. I want them to be respectful. Of the environment, of the past, of others, of history and of themselves. I want them to grow into the kind of men that will make the world a better place.
In my reality, there are days I am so exhausted that I ignore my boys and let the television take over. When the early morning wake ups have taken their toll and I shed frustrated tears over lost sleep. There are times when deadlines loom and an iPad and Peppa Pig provide the easiest solution to my dual responsibilities. There are the days when I wonder if my two year old’s ability to play independently is a result of sporadically attentive mothering. There are the moments when I am trawling through Facebook rather than paying attention to my children. When I only stop when they demand, “Mummy! Listen to me!” And I turn, shame-faced, to the little person that means more to me than anyone on my newsfeed. There are times when my voice is raised, when my temper flares, when I set an example completely opposite to what I yearn to teach. There are the evenings when I just want to go to bed. There are times when practical priorities over take my children. It’s not all the time. But it happens enough, these real things that rail against my mother head and my mother heart.
I am human. This mother heart, full of love but also weary. This mother head, with its dreams and hopes for her boys and its need for solitude and rest. When I fail, I will pick myself up, hug my children and they will know me to be imperfect. But trying to be better. And I wonder, whether these windows I perceive as failure are teaching my children something important. I stand as part of a parenting generation accused of constant hovering. Accused of raising children that cannot function on their own, who are not resilient. So, maybe the moments that I think of as neglect are just as important as the moments I am involved. Perhaps all this pressure we are putting ourselves to be perfect parents is actually back-firing. Maybe, in actuality, my reality helps them prepare for theirs’.