Flo: ‘Mummy, I wish I had your life’
Sam: ‘Flo, you probably don’t, you know.’
Flo: ‘I do. I wish I had your life, because it’s so pretty.’
Sam: ‘Flo, mum’s life is really hard.’
So here I am thinking sh*t, how many times have I told my son my life is hard?! Over the past few years I’ve always had a policy of being open and honest with my children, not hiding my feelings too much and not shying away from showing them when I’m upset. He must be thinking come on mum, change the record. Have I done this a bit too much?
Me: ‘Flo, why do you want my life? Your life is wonderful too, isn’t it.’ I mean come on, it really is.
Flo: ‘Mummeeee, where is your life?’
Ok, getting philosphical now. And here it comes, the big question from my son…
Sam: ‘Mum, do you know who you are yet?’
Jeez. There it is and I wonder where on earth, at age seven, he has got the concept of knowing who you really are from? Deep breath, be honest.
Me: ‘Well I’m not sure Sam, I mean I’m pretty sure I have a good idea who I am but I’m not totally sure.’
Is that the right answer? Is that what kids want their parents to say, or are they longing to hear them say that they have all the answers and they know who they are? That they’re all sorted and happy?
Because it’s clear from this conversation that my eldest is pretty clued up to the fact that I don’t really have all the answers, and things are not always certain and secure and happy in grown-up life.
He knows what it is for things to go wrong and I often feel so sad and guilty about that. I wish things were different and I could have protected him from seeing his parents so sad, seeing them go through the hardest thing they will have had to go through and seeing them at their absolute lowest points.
I’m talking about me here, not really Roger as I don’t think the children really saw their dad too outwardly upset in a way they wold recognise. He always put on a smile for them even when he really couldn’t face it.
They saw me at my lowest ebb, going through the motions of family life zombie-like and partly in denial. They saw me come home from the hospital looking tired and teary, pouring myself a glass of red while I made their tea and they probably never really noticed.
As long as I was capable of feeding them, cuddling them and putting them to bed, I don’t think they cared about the state I was I when I did it. Seeing me cry became the norm so much so that when it happens now, Sam just looks and says ‘is it dad?’ and Flo usually comes in with a much-needed hug and a kiss.
In their own ways they are there for me, and I hope they know I am there for them. I hope that by not having all the answers I’m not any less of a parent, and one day when they’re grown up and think about these things they may even think more of me for seeing me get through something so sad.
For now I need to teach them that whatever Barbie says, it’s not right to say to someone ‘I want your life’ but instead to make your own the best it can be. And as far as knowing who you are goes, well that’s definitely a work in progress for us all.