Monday, September 26, 2022

Mother’s Day: From Toddlers to Teens, You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone

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Guest writer Penny Lewis tells of her own motherhood journey, and asks if we really are doing right by our kids

I love my children with all my heart and I am so lucky to be a mother. But I used to laugh when people said being a parent keeps you young. It doesn’t really – it ages you. Because with privilege comes responsibility, and that can be overwhelming.

As a mum, one minute you’re marvelling in wonder as you hear your baby’s rapid heartbeat for the first time as the sonographer’s ultrasound scanner presses into the cold lubricant on your belly. Then, in the blink of a wrinkled eye it’s your own heart that flutters when your teenage children decide to give you a hug or a bend down to give you a rare kiss on the temple. It feels like no time has passed, but then it also feels like an eternity.

As a mother you love unconditionally. You expend lots of physical energy when your children are little, playing with them, supervising them and preparing endless carefully cut-up snacks. You always need to make sure the snacks are nutritious enough to pass scrutiny in the playground where the other mothers can see what you’ve packed in your always-bulging carry bag. Don’t be fooled. They do judge you. It’s their job to.

Even now I still make the occasional snack. I am the mother of teenage girls – aged 16 and nearly 14. At this stage of the game parents require emotional energy. Luckily our girls are still circling in our orbit, especially with lockdown. They’re good girls and haven’t made poor decisions yet. As far as we know they haven’t been stoned, then driven across town and collided with an expensive car, or flashed their boobs as their friend drives them past a crowded suburban takeaway joint. They haven’t caused us any grief. We are proud parents. We are lucky parents.

Penny with one of her gorgeous girls

Penny with one of her gorgeous girls

Unlike their Gen-X mum and dad, our girls are growing up with social media, where during normal times any teenage misdemeanours can be recorded for potential dissemination and humiliation. Our girls know this and can never forget because we tell them all the time. But on the flipside, we love the freedom and connection social media allows us to all to have. It is a good thing, especially now.

But can we have too much of a good thing? Are we parents (and I’ll call it, it’s usually mothers) guilty of sharing too much of our family’s lives on social media? From a ‘Mummy loves wine’ meme to venting about home-schooling, or simply following your toddler around with your phone and posting stories all day, are we invading our children’s right to privacy? Or maybe filming and sharing is a way for parents to document the good times and remember all the little things about these small people who are so precious to us?

Because if we don’t pay attention, our children grow up without us realising it’s happening. It’s an insidious and inevitable process. You usually don’t know at the time that you’re changing your toddler’s last-ever nappy. Sure, it’s a blessed relief to not deal with shit parcels anymore, but if you knew it was the last one wouldn’t it make it a bit special?

Before too long you realise you can’t remember the last time your child held your hand or climbed on to your lap or needed help brushing their teeth. There are probably lasts happening all the time but we just don’t realise we’re saying goodbye to so much until we look back later and it’s all a blank.

When our girls were babies we struggled to get them to sleep in their cots. Then they grew up and suddenly one day I realised they never go to bed before we do. If our teenagers get the chance, they sleep in until lunchtime. I would have celebrated that much alone-time when they were little, but in truth I miss them when it happens now. But that’s the thing about motherhood – like the song says you just don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Be grateful for what you’ve got, embrace it, and appreciate it while it lasts. It’s all worth it.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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