Motherhood is hard work. And sometimes it feels just like that – work.
And then there are moments that, for me, really define what it is to be a mum. Things that bring the role into sharp focus, that challenge me and help me grow. Things that tap into my primal mothering self.
Two such things occurred recently, one with each of my children. On reflection, I think both times I hesitated, unsure, instead of going with what was in my Mumma heart.
The first was with Zig. A little fella but a force. See that blur go by? That was my Zig. He is full-on in ways that Luca never was at the same age. He demands far more of me, tests me far more. But then, everything Ziggy does is more. That's just his style. Most of the time, I actually really dig it.
So when, last Wednesday, he spent the afternoon alternately lying on me or the floor, I knew something was wrong. Prior to this, he had been normal. Eating, playing. Normal. And even now, there was no temp. Just a kid with all the zing somehow gone. A deflated little balloon. Worrying.
I immediately feared the dreaded stomach bug. And when he attempted to eat one bite of pasta at dinner and promptly vomited, I assumed my suspicions were confirmed. But strangely, that little chuck seemed to revive him and he regained some of the Ziggy spark and proceeded to eat three pieces of toast. Went off to bed without a problem. Huh. Not sure what that was?
Some time during the night, he came into my bedroom and proceeded to toss and turn and cry. He wouldn't settle. I prepared for more vomiting but none came. Still no temp.
The next morning, he didn't seem quite back to normal but ate his breakfast happily enough. By lunch time, he was lying in my arms crying. I asked him if something hurt. He pointed to his tummy. "Tummy hurts?" I asked. "Yeah," he replied.
I spent the next hour or so just snuggling him which was the only way he was comfortable. He would cry and sleep intermittently. We were both exhausted from the restless night before. I called the Nurse Hotline and chatted through his symptoms (or lack thereof). One vomit, no temp, feeling miserable, indicating his tummy hurt. They advised me to take him to the doctor just to have him checked over.
I don't know why but I often hesitate before making an appointment with the GP. I know there is little they can do for colds and viruses. Strangely, I worry about over-reacting or wasting their time.
But by this stage, Zig had woken quite distressed and I was feeling the same way. I rang Bren and tearfully requested he come home early from work. I couldn't get my head around shuttling two small children, one possibly screaming all the way, to the doctor's on my own.
He arrived home and we headed straight to the GP who discovered that our poor little fella had inflamed tonsils. Huh. So much for the sore tummy. We left with a prescription for antibiotics.
Knowing what was wrong was an incredible relief. A sick child who can't adequately explain what they are feeling is heart-wrenching. I don't know why I waited as long as I did to get him seen by a professional. Next time I'm going to listen to my instincts.
The second defining moment was at Luca's kinder Christmas party. It was held at a park on a gorgeous summer evening last week and we were all incredibly excited about it. All the kids had been practising Christmas carols to sing for the parents. Luca knew that when he heard his teacher ring the bell, it meant he had to line up ready to sing.
About ten minutes after arriving, Luca came looking for us, crying hard. This wasn't a normal, "That kid took my spot on the swing" kind of thing. Our little boy was really shaken and finding it hard to catch his breath.
He explained, through gasped breaths, that a 'man' had pushed him. Immediately, I felt my heart start to race.When I asked if he could point the man out, he clung to me, frightened. Way, way out of character for this kid.
Gently, I suggested we go play again and if he saw the man, he could point him out if he wanted to. He agreed to that.
I was able to decipher that Luca had thrown the man's sunnies off the edge of the play equipment. Why he had left them there in the first place with a billion kids running around is anyones guess. Luca also mentioned something about the man's 'baby.'
All the while, I could feel the blood pulsing through my veins. I was absolutely spoiling for a fight. I wanted someones fucking head on a stick.
Having calmed down, Luca played for a bit as I stood by and then he pointed out a man to me. The guy overheard and looked over.
"Me?" he said gesturing to himself. "Nah." He shook his head, dismissive.
I asked Luca if he was sure and he said he thought he was.
But I hesitated. I realised I had not seen the incident and this guy had very quickly fobbed me off so to what extent was I willing to pursue it? And would a potential argument with this guy make Luca feel any safer anyway?
Luca and I rejoined Bren and Ziggy on our picnic rug but my mind was still racing, trying to process the limited information I had. I kept seeing this guy in the crowd and I stared at his face, trying to find within it the potential to push a child. I thought about the sunnies and I thought about his small daughter who had developmental delays. Had Luca gotten too close to her? Had the sunnies thing annoyed him that much?
To say it ruined the evening for me is an understatement.
When Luca heard that bell ring and ran to join his fellow students as they prepared to sing for us all, the thing he had been so very excited about now seemed to completely overwhelm him and I had to rescue him from the line of children and hold him in my lap as the other children sang.
It was then I thought it had ruined my kid's evening, too.
Would he have choked with stage fright anyway? Who knows? Maybe.
But the more I have thought about it, the more this guy's response seems so odd. If a child pointed me out as having pushed them and I had done no such thing, I would be mortified. I'd try to determine exactly what had happened and with whom. I wouldn't just shake my head dismissively. Who does that?
And then, if there had been an incident of some kind preceding the 'push', which Luca indicated with the business of the sunnies, then wouldn't you want to clear up the story with the parent? Tell them what really happened? As someone said to me, even if the guy hadn't pushed him, Luca perceived the event as having been aggressive in some way.
I don't know. I wish to hell I had seen it so that I might have defended my child and also, if necessary, reprimanded him for whatever he had done to provoke the push.
But bottom line? What grown man pushes a kid? For fuck's sake, who does that shit?
The best thing now is to move on. If I dwell, Luca will dwell and I don't want that. In the end, I told him it was an accident and the man was sorry. Because I think that is what my kid needed to hear.
Motherhood challenges me to my very core. But never moreso than when I suspect I may have let my kids down. When I haven't protected them as I should.
Feeling like we’ve failed to protect our kids is the most awful feeling… but you know what? We can also be our own harshest critics. The two different situations you’ve described – I’m pretty sure I’d have responded the same way, for the same reasons (in fact, I KNOW I’ve been in similar places and outcomes). I also know I’d be beating myself up over it afterwards, and nothing anyone says makes it less so.
Go easy on yourself, though. Really. You do a fantastic job with those beautiful boys of yours, and it’s just a fact of life we can’t be their eyes, ears or voice 100% of the time. x
Thank you, MJ. You are right. We can’t always be there and always have the answer. I think that’s the hardest part of this gig. Admitting sometimes life will happen to your kids whether you like it or not.
In some cases, pausing to think is totally warranted. A measured, thoughtful response is almost always the way to go. But then, I just feel like I floundered on these two occasions, too foggy to make a firm choice. And I hate that.
I am blaming pregnancy and Christmas madness equally. Yes?
I would agree with what MJ said. I’m sorry I’m coming so late to this as obviously it was weighing heavily on your mind for you to blog about it.
The first incident: I know how hard it can be to work out what is going on with the kids. I’ve spent so much time on the phone to Nurse on Call (thank goodness for them) because something has told me that things just aren’t right.
The second issue is just … well I’ve been in a similar situation and like you have wondered about the adult involved. Really wondered. Some people are just not very evolved, that is all I can think. No balls. He has none.
There is nothing wrong with your instincts or your choices. Sometimes the way is not clear and it is only in hindsight, we look again and think “Why didn’t I do that?” Easy to do then of course.
Yep, I agree with melbo too, there are some odd balls out there.