A letter to my many mothers

Parenting Honestly

A letter to my many mothers

3.7K May 15, 2018
I pull the sections of hair tighter, not so much as they hurt her thin little scalp but just enough that I can braid them together into a not-so-terrible-for-8am french plait. Younger daughter is next — I smooth down the floaty blonde halo that frames her little face and deftly cross the plaits over each other, crisscrossing and re-crisscrossing over and over again.  It is a daily ritual and an unusually mundane highlight of my day. I probe the reason why I enjoy this moment every day and realise it is because it reminds me of my own mother neatly plaiting our hair every morning, her warm fingers making quick strokes through my hair, weaving in love along with the gentle babble of advice, scolding and ribbing that every little girl knows.
 
My mother's face fades slightly now. I knew it by heart. When I was 10, I remember telling her I'd never love anyone as much as I loved her and she laughed a little sadly and told me she was sure I would. Now I look at my children and wonder when mothers are supposed to stop kissing their faces off? What day is the last day for those nearly nips of fierce kisses that I am sure I can't live without? That's why the Mother's Day cards all say 'special' (beside the pink tulips and behind the bears hugging). Motherhood is all kinds of deeply complicated, exhausting, frustrating, amazing and yes, truly special. But it is not only those who birth us that we celebrate -  I've found nurture from other places and been mothered by many — a gift that is made even more remarkable by the ease in which it's offered. 
 
When I was left physically fatherless in my early 20's, I also became effectively motherless. An emotional orphaning of five children in their formative years. It was my sister who stepped in and mothered her siblings while our mother was stricken solid with grief. Buddy up, she suggested — mind each other. She made sure our brothers had ties and that we didn't run out of tea — all the while never leaving my mother's side. On the morning before the funeral, I found her ironing the outfit she had picked for my father to be buried in. None of us had considered it after his very sudden passing. I watched her flatten the boxer shorts with the steam from the iron, taking some kind of control over an uncontrollable situation despite her own private devastation, and that deep admiration I had for her remains today. She's still my best port in a storm. To hold the ship steady is now my own role as a mother. Motherhood is about more than just about nurturing — it's about understanding that you are the centre of the universe for these little people and that's no small responsibility. 
 
In later years, the mother-shaped hole in my life was filled at the same time as I met my husband. My mother-in-law is quick-witted, kind and wise. Like most mothers, she knows when I have something I need to talk out, and despite the odd 'are you sure she's not too cold' comments when my daughter was born, I tend to gravitate towards her when I need a little minding of my own. 
 
The mothering community is another metaphorical bosom to which I've turned to time and time again. I scroll through Instagram comforted that there are fellow mums who have beans and waffles on occasion and have been caught without wipes. Over cups of tea that turn into wine, we lament our mum bods and cackle about 'was it chocolate, was it poop moments?' when the kids are in bed. The sisterhood of motherhood gets a bad rap but there is nothing to 'mummy shame' about when a friend breaks down over her son's learning difficulties or another loses her child during pregnancy. We may not all do things the same but there is a unity in coming out the other side of childbirth that sticks you together for life. 
 
And then there are the things I whisper to my children. I hear them repeat them to their dolls, their friends and hopefully their future selves.I've got you. You're ok. I love you. You're my whole world. Nurture begets nurture. The delicious hugs I wrap around my son and daughters are for me as much as them. We hold on tightly, minding each other., each unwilling to let go. I'll always be in your heart, I tell my children when they are nervous to do something alone in the world. Even when you can't see me, I'll be there. That to me is what motherhood is all about — knowing that you will always be fine because you are loved by your mother.
Parenting Honestly
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About me

I'm a writer and mum to three adventure-loving cuties. I enjoy trying to show my family as much of the world as possible in-between the school runs and writing about our latest adventure. 

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