The morning rush. 

Daddy left for work an hour ago.  We have snoozed and snuggled in the big bed too long.  You watching cartoons on the tablet, me drifting between sleep and feeding your sister.

We have to get up.  Now.  Get up, get dressed, have breakfast, get in the car and drive to nursery.  

Our morning is routine only in it’s lack of one.  I rush you into your bedroom to get dressed.  You get distracted; by a new Christmas gift, a sticker that has made its way upstairs on someone’s sock, by a dragon, a dinosaur, a teeeny tiny fairy, by your own imagination.  

I shout.  I shouldn’t shout but I do.  Eventually you are dressed, your sister has her nappy changed and she too is dressed.  Somewhere in this I have, miraculously, manage to dress myself, and, with me still nagging, we make it downstairs. 

You are telling me a story, about a game you want to play, I have to ask three times what you would like for breakfast. Your sister plays on her mat, watching you, with those wide eyes and the smile that she reserves only for you. Breakfast is on the table while I stick washing in the machine, pack bags and de-ice the car. I’m ready to load the last two things into the car. My children.  But you haven’t touched breakfast, instead you are deciding which of your toys you would like to take to nursery today.  Which item will receive the honour of being shown to your friends.

You have no concept of time, my increasingly more frantic and pleading voice means nothing to you.  So what if we are late?  What does late mean anyway? 

Nothing.  It means nothing.  

You teach me so much. There is plenty of time for rushing later.  There are alarms and clocks and deadlines galore in your future.  Now, this small window, of no work, no school, no expectations, this is our chance to slow down.

Slow down. Lie on the play mat.  Fight the dragons.  Tell the story.  Play. Laugh. Love.

Time: right now we have it.  Let’s not rush it. 

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To the mums I met before I was one. I’m sorry.

Some things in life you will not understand until you have experienced them. Parenthood is top of that list. There is much I have said, or thought, before my daughter was born, that I am totally ashamed of now. To all those who embarked on the motherhood journey before me, I am sorry.

I am sorry for asking you “does she sleep through the night?”
I know now this was wrong. Not only wrong, but frustrating, inflammatory and down right none of my business. To start with, sleeping through means different things to different people, secondly, babies aren’t supposed to sleep through, and finally, my question set you up to criticise your child. I should never have asked you this. I am truly sorry.

I am sorry for tutting at your bed sharing.
I confess, I thought you were odd still sharing a bed with your daughter when she was nearly 2. I couldn’t understand why you didn’t want your space, or why you were not forcing independence on her. I realise now that being independent comes only after being dependant.

I am sorry for asking “how long are you going to do that for?” when you breastfed your six week old.
I really didn’t mean to judge, I just didn’t know. I didn’t know the bond created when you nourish your child. I didn’t know then, that the NHS recommends breastfeeding exclusively until six months. I had no idea that the World Health Organisation suggests breastfeeding alongside food to two years ‘and beyond’. I know now, now I preach what I once misunderstood. I am sorry.

I am sorry for judging your lack of “discipline”.
I had been fooled by TV personalities who taught me how to “tame” toddlers, (as if they were wild animals and not children). I had been misled and I believed that you were spoiling your child when you did not sit them on the naughty step, or leave them to cry. I know now I was wrong to judge. Yes it works for some, but not for you, and, turns out, not for me either.

I am sorry for thinking you were boring for talking about your baby all the time.
I am now more boring that you could ever be. And I am not sorry for that. But I am sorry that I didn’t understand your desire to share your pride, and I am sorry for not listening.

I am sorry for the sleep and behavioural “tips” I offered unsolicited when we met in the street.
I was a back seat parent. So much worse than the back seat driver. It was none of my business, I had no experience, I had no attachment. Yet I thought myself an expert. Thank you for not punching me.

I am sorry. I had no clue. I didn’t understand.

How true it is that you should never judge a person before you have walked a mile in their shoes.

Parenthood is one hell of a mile.

My Mother’s Hands.

4am and I am downstairs with an overactive toddler on top of me. As I try to convince her to let me snooze on the sofa, she tries to convince me to read just one more book. As the hard and cold board book is shoved in my face I look down and see my mother’s hands as they delicately open the book and pull the toddler onto their lap.

My mother’s hands. These hands have given love beyond all measure.

They have wiped snot from sore noses. As the face attached to that nose squeals and twists away, making things harder and the quick job a long one.

They have tapped out a beat on the steering wheel as the voice has sung along to the radio. Driving the child wherever she needs to be this time.

They have rocked and stroked to sleep. The daughter who couldn’t settle without her mother there and then later, the grandchild who needed someone to soothe her while her mother had a moment’s rest.

They have patted the baby’s back. Mimicking the mother’s heartbeat in the womb they have continued to provide safety and security in the unpredictable and so much scarier “real” world.

They have held back hair. As the head leaned over the bucket or toilet the mother’s hands held back the hair and soothed the child. Sickness bugs received the same care and sympathy as the alcohol induced moments in the teenage years.

They have applied lipstick. On the wedding day, when hands were quivering and tears were rolling the mother’s hands calmly applied the pink gloss and sent the daughter to her happy ever after.

They have squeezed and stroked and held me with joy. They have clapped and covered gasping mouths. They have taken the grandchild into their arms as she entered their heart.

As I look down once again at these hands, my mother’s hands, I realise they are my hands.

The long fingers are paler than I remember, less plump and seem more aged. The palms are lined with tales of love and laughter and I am sure that a clairvoyant would see happiness in their future.

I am awash with a sense of both gratitude and pride.

My mother’s hands have held me up when all was falling around me, and I couldn’t be prouder that my hands are set to do the same for my daughter.