Being a mother is a game of give and take. Except that the game seems rather unfairly weighted towards the giving bit, and the taking bit seems to be virtually non-existent.
The first gift I gave my children was the gift of life. Quite a big gift really. Although my husband was crucially involved, I think it’s fair to say that the life-giving bit is 99% down to the female of the species. I gave them intra-uterine sustenance; they gave me nausea and water-retention. I gave them their first journey into the world; they gave me third degree tears *down there*. I gave them their first meal, totally homebrewed; they gave me bleeding nipples. You get the gist.
Now they are just 7 and nearly 5 and there is still a lot of giving to do. I give in to them when they ask to watch CBeebies for the hundredth time, I give my daughter ‘what for’ when she decides maybe she doesn’t want a double French plait today and takes it all out when my back’s turned and I give my son a flea in the ear when he loses his glasses for the third time in a week.
When caring for people is your main job, the inherent rule of thumb is that you will very, very rarely get anything back. Even prompting them to thank you is just another part of the job, ‘What do you say?’ I hear myself say till I’m blue in the face. But the flip side of all that thankless giving, is that when you do get something back, it is completely, overwhelmingly wonderful.
Take Mother’s Day. Over the years I have learnt that in order not to be a bit disappointed on Mother’s Day I just have to ask specifically for what I want. It’s less surprising, (I do like a surprise) but better for everyone in the long run. So, having requested breakfast in bed I went back to sleep and awoke to suppressed giggles next to the bed. I was then presented with a beautifully designed tray, which held: three ramekins of assorted cereals with three spoons, an egg cup of mini eggs with a chick on top, a cup of tea and a vase holding three mini daffodils, a random bit of greenery and a little stump of crocus. This was not your bog standard breakfast-in-bed, and it then became even less bog standard when son and daughter got into bed on either side and took a ramekin and spoon each, proceeding to fill up the bed with cereal crumbs. They then both presented me with a plethora of cards (some of which I’d bought myself), but all lovingly embellished, and a present (found around the house) from my 4 year old daughter, wrapped in almost a whole roll of sellotape.
“I love you Mummy, I love you so much” was what was in my daughter’s card. And suddenly, sitting there in bed with a child on both sides, it’s like a ray of unadulterated light pours directly into my heart, illuminating every inch of my slightly dusty house with pure radiance.