I’m not the mother I thought I would be.
I thought I would be such a fun mummy. The one who was always playing. Someone who would completely lose themselves in whatever the game was and not care about the mess it made, or how long it was going to take to tidy up.
I imagined I’d be a mother who was totally enraptured by her child and gave them every single particle of their attention, every minute of the day. Not one to sit distractedly typing on their phone and scattering the meaningless words, “Not now”, onto the floor among the pile of offerings that have been proffered in a bid for recognition.
I wanted to be a mother whose tether was so long it could never be reached. Who only ever used the word, “No”, in a firm, calm voice when she really meant it. So that her child recognised that word was worth something.
But I am not that mother.
I look for her when I am trying to find the temper I have just lost in the kitchen. Somewhere in the washing up bowl, when my daughter has just pulled a dish out of the cupboard and smashed it into a million pieces on the floor.
“What would that mother have done?”, I ask myself, as I breathe myself slowly back down to normal, apologise for shouting and try to explain why broken crockery is not a figure of fun.
She wouldn’t have been doing the washing up for a start. She would have been joining in at emptying the cupboards and playing the bongo drums on upside down saucepans.
That mummy pings into my brain like an e-mail alert when I snap, “Just give me one more minute!”, at the bored and eager child tugging at my leg, as I sit plugged into a computer trying to order some new gadget to make this parenting malarkey less of an effort, or find another job to escape to.
That other mother would wait until the mythical ‘nap time’ to do her admin. And she wouldn’t be so intent on getting out, not even for a few days a week.
The image of that mother stings me in the eyes like onions and catches in the back of my throat like sandpaper, as I yell at my daughter for her wilful disobedience in the face of danger yet again.
Would her child ever behave so badly that she would need to think of discipline? If they did, all she would have to do was sigh disappointedly and they would instantly take heed in meek obedience.
No, I am not that mother. And I am not sure I will ever find her.
But I am starting to realise that my daughter is not the only person learning new things about life. She is teaching me something too.
Every time I take some time to stop and join in her games I realise how much more important making a mess can be than tidying it up.
Every time I turn off the hullabaloo of humdrum life I find out something new about my daughter.
And every time she ignores my rules, I have to think up a new way to make her understand them.
No, I am not that mother. And I have learned to give up her ghost.
Because I can only be who I am. And the person I should be looking to find, is my daughter.