After I dropped you off at school today, I sat down with my giant coffee to write this post and I started to tear up every time I tried to think of what to write. You see, part of me wants to pour my heart out and gush about my girl, and part of me doesn’t want the world to know that if you ever want to turn me into a blithering mess, just ask me how I feel about my daughter. See, because then they would know that I am human, and that I am hopelessly in love with someone other than myself, and that can’t be good for anyone. I have a rep to protect after all.
I sit here, a whole lot more emotional about you being 6 than I ever thought I would be. I think its partly because I forgot my happy pills yesterday, but also because I just feel like… everything is OK. You know how you go through something, spend so long just surviving to get through it, that you don’t realise how far you’ve come? Like, the last year, for me, spending the last year just recovering physically, that a year on, the emotion of it all hit me like a tonne of bricks. I had literally just spent the last year just surviving that I had not stopped to really think about things. Also, as I approach 30, I start to think more about my childhood, and how it really wasn’t that great. And I get mad that I had to work 2 jobs just to get through University, that I had to pay my way through everything, that I never got to have “fun” like other teenagers. But then, I realise that it’s over. I am now a woman, and a mother, and I don’t need to fight anymore.
That’s a tremendous burden that has been lifted, and it has taken this long to be able to sit back, and just see my life for what it is: amazing.
You see, I have copped a lot of flak over the years for how I parent you. Some of it was well intentioned advice, some of it just plain malicious. There are many people over the years who have thought that I was too permissive, or too open with you, or too relaxed, or worried too much about being your friend and not your mother. There are those people on parenting boards (that I no longer visit) who told me that my child was going to be unhealthy, a criminal, or worse, purely because I didn’t subscribe to their own militant views on parenting. And for a long time, part of me believed them.
I never had a lot of confidence as a mother. I had you at the age of 22, which, now seems so young. I hit the ground running in many ways, barely an adult myself, with no real reference point on how to be a good Mum. So, all I did was love you, and look after you, the best way I knew how. And it did play on my mind for a long time. I often wondered if I needed to be ‘tougher’, or put more distance between us, for fear of “overmothering” you. I also occasionally wondered if I was too tough, by encouraging you to be independent, and not hover around you obsessively like so many mothers do. I cuddled you when you wanted to be cuddled, and let you go when you wanted to be left alone. I don’t know if I have got the balance right yet, but I am still learning!
When I first found out I was having a girl, I was terrified. I think that fear came from the strained relationship with my own mother, where my biggest fear for you would be that you would feel like I did so many times when I was younger — unloved, or unwanted, or low priority, or that you can’t rely on me, vent with me, cry in my arms, in your times of need. Or that you wouldn’t know that I would lay my life on the line, and endure the most severe torture or ruin, just to see you happy. I’d prefer to not have to do that, of course, but if it came down to it, I hope that you know that I would.
So you being 6 is representative of a whole lot of things for me that are bigger than you understand right now. Just this last few weeks I have been sitting back and looking at my life. I watch you interact with your little brother, and I find myself grinning from ear to ear, even when you’re thumping each other. These 2 confident little people that have come out of the relationship I have with your Dad inspires and amazes me every day. I truly feel blessed to sit next to your Dad, watching both of you play, all of us teasing each other in that anyone-outside-the-Brennan-family-thinks-we’re-weird sort of way, and I have this strong sense that I have, in fact, the most wonderful family on the planet.
And all I want to do is be a good example to you, and show you that women can, in fact, have everything. And that having everything does not necessarily mean doing everything. I may not be a great housekeeper, and yes, occasionally I am distracted with the business, but I would much rather have dishes in the sink and laundry left undone, than to make you feel like you came second to maintaining a facade.
Just now I finished making the cupcakes for your party this afternoon. As I am sure you know by now (when you’re old enough to read this), I always have the best of intentions, and will quite happily go to the cake decorating shop and empty my wallet on all sorts of new fangled plastic devices so that I can make you a perfect cake. Your Dad doesn’t really understand why I want to make your cakes, and they often end up costing me 3 times as much to make as to buy, but, I enjoy it. Well, this year, we did a cupcake thing on a cake stand, and, well, despite my good intentions, the cakes that I intended to look like this:
Actually turned out like this:
And furthermore, the cake stand that I hired (that looked perfect in the store and made me go into a creative frenzy and buy a special hot-to-make cupcakes book JUST for the occasion) decided to collapse with the cupcakes on it. Which also meant that I had re-ice a couple of them. OK, half of them.
But, as I was saying, I am sure you know by now that despite my attempts to be Martha Stewart, more often that not, I end up being more like Roseanne. I bought this icing called Dreamwhip. Which, despite the cake store owner’s assurances that it was easy, I did, in fact, overwhip. But hey, at least it wasn’t like your first birthday cake, where I managed to curdle the icing by over mixing it. It was lovely, pink blobs with bright red liquid. But hey, you ate it anyway.
At which point I should say, if you have inherited my incapacity to bake anything that resembles the recipe, RAINBOW SPRINKLES COVER EVERY MISTAKE.
So, let’s talk a little bit about who you are and what you’re into. You surely are a girl that is hard to categorise. You are just as happy playing dressups as you are climbing a tree in the backyard — and often you will do both at the same time, which often makes me giggle to myself as I watch you trying to negotiate a sandpit in Cinderella glass slippers, or riding your bike like a street hoon with 4 Barbie dolls sitting in the basket.
You are also the only 6 year old girl that I know that is into 90’s music. There have been a number of times that I have walked in your room and have overheard you singing something that was a hit 10 years before you were born. You have the funniest, most eclectic taste in music, listening to everything from the Pixies to Nellie McKay to the Bratz Rock Angels CD.
You have shown a natural affinity for music, which you get from both your Dad and I (after all, music brought us together!), and have lately showed a real aptitude for singing. I have been trying to teach you a little piano, and you love strumming my guitar and really just love music. I hope that you keep this love of music forever.
Watching you start school and blossom into a self confident, independent, and capable kid, makes me prouder than I can ever express in words. Watching you walk off into your classroom, and make friends, and come home with stories about all the things you’ve learned, just amazes me. I am proud that you are slowly learning to read and write, and sound out words. You make little notes and letters for your friends and you draw me so many wonderful pictures, that I am running out of room on my walls. You have also taken to computers with a strong enthusiasm, and I love how I have been able to train you in Firefox. Its not uncommon to see you with 5 tabs all going at once, and you don’t even know what Internet Explorer is. And this nerdy Mum loves you for that!
You really are a beautiful, smart, funny and articulate kid. Which is why, when I sit back and look at the last 6 years of ups and downs, all that surviving and all that self doubt and all the late nights and the “for God’s sake, go to bed” and the “bloody hell, clean your room” and that other stuff and I see a girl that somehow, in spite of me and all my issues, I think that it’s all going to be okay. And that I just might be an OK Mum after all.
Happy Birthday Mina,
Love Mum 🙂