I kind of look back on my early childhood as being idyllic. When I was growing up, my Mum was extremely ill. Sometimes she would be in hospital for months at a time, leaving us in the care of my Dad, and when he was at work, my Nan. However when she wasn’t in hospital (and even when she was) she was the perfect Mum. She didn’t work and was a stay at home Mum, which meant that she was always there for us. She walked is to school, she picked us up (and there are a lot of us). She would even have hot orange and hot chocolate ready for us on cold winter days. She always had time for us.
My Dad worked shifts and so worked irregular patterns, we’d never know when he would be home, but when he was he was great fun. He’d play tricks on us, like the time my brother and I were in the bath upstairs and it was snowing outside so he climbed a ladder up to the bathroom window and threw snowballs at us in the bath. One Christmas he made santa’s foot prints all across the front room. He built us a house in the garden. Life was good. Life was fun.
So when I had my eldest, despite all of the odds, I decided that my son would have the best childhood ever. I was going to be supermum. He would never want for anything. I would fulfil his every need. High expectations, even for someone who isn’t an addict, but as I was one it was nigh on impossible.
In my plan of me as a parent, I was going to give my son all the attention in the world, I would take him to the park, I would play cars with him on the floor, I’d build forts, Lego, do painting. Only, it soon became clear that I really wasn’t that type of mother; I am terrible at playing make believe games in which the rules change constantly. I don’t have the patience to build Lego cities, and even if I did I’ve not got a creative bone in my body. Basically. I sucked at being Mum. I was left with an unending feeling of guilt. I was failing at something that I should be perfect at.
It wasn’t that I didn’t love him or do my best for him, I just couldn’t live up to my own expectations. I had set the bar too high. Life got in the way. My need to go out and earn money, to clean the house or cook dinner interrupted my perfect Mum plans and the guilt of my failure got in the way. My patience failed me.
Roll forward a few years, I’ve now got 3 beautiful boys, each and every one I adore and love with all my heart. I am still not the supermum I always imagined myself to be. I don’t hit my own expectations of a perfect parent. I shout when I shouldn’t. I snap at them and get annoyed if they interrupt me doing something. Sometimes, I send them to bed early just so I can get some peace. I don’t always read them a bedtime story. I have missed school plays and “first” moments, because I’ve had to work. I use the TV as a babysitter. I moan when they make a mess.
I beat myself up about it. I wish I could enjoy those make believe games, ignore the chaos they leave in their wake, but I don’t. It’s just not me. I can’t play computer games, I’m rubbish at them, I get frustrated and irritable, I’m not good at this parenting malarkey!
However I have learned something in the last few years. I don’t need to be supermum. I don’t need to be perfect. If I talk to my parents, they tell me of things they did when I was a child that made them feel failures. And do you know what? I don’t remember any of them. The times they got parenting wrong, I don’t even remember! I just remember the good stuff. The times they got it right. I talk to my eldest and he remembers the day trips we took, not the time I shouted at him because I was feeling ill and he wouldn’t leave me alone. The time I didn’t turn up to the school nativity play is forgotten but he does remember the harvest festival that I took the day off work to see. The good kind of outweighs the bad. Nothing I have done has been so bad that it has overshadowed the good.
I am not a perfect parent, I’m not even a near perfect parent. I will hopefully manage to bring my kids up without doing too much damage to them. I might not be perfect but I am a good enough parent, and sometimes that is all you can do.