THE Beast has taken to smacking his lips and saying ‘Ahhh, that’s Bass’ whenever he takes a sip of his drink, in an uncanny imitation of our former Taoiseach.
It’s very unsettling.
He also says cheerfully ‘Down the hatch!’ and ‘Eat up everybody!’ whenever he sees anybody eating or drinking anything, even when we’re out in public.
If you’ve ever been in a restaurant and a small blonde boy has enthusiastically cheered you on throughout your meal, that was us, and I apologise.
I’m not really sure where he picked up these phrases, most probably parroting us or his grandparents or cousins, but I probably should be worried that he’s already an advertiser’s dream.
I worry a lot actually. Mainly about my own prowess as a mother. And hearing him rattle off advertising slogans for beer from the 80s doesn’t really help my confidence.
When he was a tiny baby and I was ill with post natal depression, I was forced to put myself first, to get myself well so that I could care for him. So beyond feeding, changing and loving him, I didn’t worry about a whole lot else. And I didn’t DO a whole lot else with him either.
Now though, it’s different. I’ve recovered (for now) from PND, I am well again and I feel strong in that sense – but now I have to actually mother him.
The responsibility has moved on from quite literally keeping him alive, to actually nurturing him. To actually teaching him things. To actually knowing what the fuck I’m doing.
And I often fear that I don’t.
He was ill recently, with a fever that rocketed to 40.9 degrees (105F) and in my utter panic I physically looked over my shoulder for a more adulty adult to help me.
An abstract part of my brain thought ‘God, poor little thing, his mother is going to have to do something about that temperature’ before realising with a start that I was his mother and it was I who was going to have to do something about it.
So I did. With shaking hands I administered Calpol, took off both our t-shirts so he could cuddle next to me skin-to-skin to help regulate his temperature and for comfort, and then laid him down to rest in his cool bedroom, sitting up holding his hand for the rest of the night.
The temperature dropped after a few hours and he slept and within a few days was right as rain again. I even managed to get him to the doctor and to get a urine sample out of him (The Beast, not the doctor, that’d be just plain weird). And ridiculous as it sounds I was proud of myself for managing to mind him while he was ill, something every mother in the world does every day, probably without thinking about it.
Having a baby is a huge responsibility and it starts the moment the baby enters the world; but for me, the responsibility hadn’t really bothered me up until this point when The Beast has started to turn from a helpless baby into a little person, a person I am responsible for, that I have to guide through life.
I even spoke to my GP about it, a few months ago, that while I felt recovered from the PND and ready to move on with my life that I still didn’t feel like a good mother.
He looked at me kindly from over his spectacles and told me my problem was simply confidence, that he suspected I was a “very good mother indeed” but that lack of confidence can hold anybody back.
He spoke to me then about possible counselling to come to terms with my new life now as a mother and while I don’t feel like I need that quite yet, I do have that in my back pocket for future reference.
For now, instead, I’ve been slowly trying to build my own confidence by focusing on the things that I’m doing right with my son.
Ok, so he winks and spouts 80s advertising slogans like a politician in training, watches too much TV, is stubborn as a mule and has an unhealthy obsession with Milkyway chocolate stars, but he can also count to ten, ream off his colours, name any animal in a farmyard and a fair few in the Zoo too.
I did that.
He knows all the words to the Thomas the Tank Engine theme song, can name all the trains and their associated numbers, and can recite most of his Thomas books off by heart. He says please and thank you and excuse me when he burps.
I did that.
He adores hopscotch, the slide, chalk drawing, stickers, examining leaves in the woods, collecting sticks by the stream and feeding the ducks and he’s never happier than when he’s digging in mud making up elaborate games for his toys.
I did that.
He’s happy and healthy and loved and smart and funny and crazy and full of chat and goes to bed each night knowing that he is the light of our lives.
I did that.
At least, I did some of that. I suppose that’s all any of us can do, isn’t it, keep moving forward, keep trying.
And for now anyway, the kid is alright.
WHEN we bought our first house a few years back it took myself and Yer Man a good while to settle in together.
There was the whole ‘learning how not to stab him in the face with a fork when he snored’ period and the ‘learning how not to go mental when she forgot to put out the food bin and we got maggots, again’ period and then an entire month of ‘It’s not MY turn to clean the bathroom, fuck off for yourself’.
But more than that was the feeling that we were just playing at living together, playing at owning a house. It felt kind of like a B&B, we moved carefully around, putting things back in their rightful place, waiting for the real owners to show up.
If we wanted to move a piece of furniture around we looked fearfully at each other, wondering if it was ok, so used were we to living in either our parents’ houses or rented accommodation where you’re pretty much stuck with what you’ve got.
It took a while to realise that this house belonged to us, that we were responsible for it, that we paid for it and we could pretty much do what we liked to it.
It took a while for it to feel like home, but gradually we got there. I feel like a homeowner now, this is my home, my haven.
Tomorrow is Mother’s Day – my first Mother’s Day – and this week all those same feelings I had when we moved in here first have resurfaced. I had a home but didn’t feel like a homeowner. I have a baby but I don’t feel like a mother.
I don’t know how better to explain it, but I feel, again, like I’m playing a role, I’m playing at being a mother and any minute now Seán’s real mother will show up to claim him.
It’s odd because the rational part of my brain tells me that I am a mother – of course I am. I was pregnant, I gave birth to him, I have the c-section scar and the post natal depression to prove it. Of course I’m his mother.
I feel love – all-encompassing, consuming, sunlight bright love – for him. That never wavers, it only grows, it only gets brighter. But I still don’t feel fully like a mother.
There’s the comedy element to it, I suppose. I’ve yet to ask Seán if he’s turned off the immersion; I don’t have hair like Brenda Fricker; I don’t air vests or warn people about getting a cold in their kidneys. So I’m not your typical Irish Mammy. Not yet, anyway. (Though, seriously, music these days really IS just white noise.)
I guess, more than the practicalities of it, I don’t mentally feel like I’m someone’s mother. Perhaps I don’t feel old enough, though the mirror tells me that I’m plenty old enough thank you very much. Those aren’t laughter lines, you deluded fool, they’re wrinkles.
When it comes down to it, I suppose I don’t feel good enough. It’s such a responsibility to be someone’s mother, it is at times completely overwhelming. It is my job to guide this perfect little boy through life and to help him to learn, to grow, to be the best human being that he can be. That’s some job and I’m still not quite sure if I’m the best person for it.
So this Mother’s Day I dedicate this post to Seán – I’m not sure what I did to deserve your beautiful little spirit but I hope one day you’ll be glad that you were sent to me and that I can prove myself worthy. Happy Mother’s Day baba and by the way, turn off the immersion! Do you think I’m made of money?