Parenting for the unprepared! – Part One

I have been blessed with children all my life.

Babies, toddlers and teens have surrounded me: from cousins to siblings, to yet more siblings (once I was old enough to love ‘playing mum’ rather than wanting to throttle them in the throes of infant sibling rivalry). Then, as I got older, wards of my days as a nanny and babysitter, school children (innocents and adolescents), children of my now older and wiser childhood friends, and friends from Uni, the children from my beloved husband’s first marriage, and the newest edition to my world, my god-daughter, baby Hope….fast becoming less of a baby and more of a beautiful, and clever, if insanely small person.

I love Hope, she reminds me how precious life is, and how much I love children….especially my own.

Hannah and Holly brought new meaning to my life. Not in the once expected package of wrinkly bundles of tiny limbs, nappies, spittle, and squeals….I was spared that part! Never-the-less, at the tentative pre-teen stage of their lives I suddenly appeared, and my life changed for ever, and much for the better.

I love being a mum (if only in the role of the rather unflatteringly termed ‘step-mum’). I appreciate this is easier to say from my perspective….there are lots of things that people enjoy on a part-time basis that they wouldn’t necessarily entertain full-time! That said, I would have had the girls full-time in a heartbeat, if circumstances might have made it possible. It would have been a challenge, I’ll admit (probably more for the girls than me!). The girls are, and always have been, impeccably behaved and, unlike my brother and I at a similar age, they don’t seem to want to throttle each other on a regular basis. No, the greatest challenge for me would certainly have been the gradual thrashing of years of super-tidy (ever-so-slightly neurotic) obsessive compulsive behaviours out of me. I still had to address these, but I had the mild luxury of reconditioning my brain in slow time!

Loving the girls was easy from the very start….they are beautiful, intelligent, talented, funny, warm-hearted, generous, kind, and loving. Strikingly individual with completely different characters and personalities, the girls enrich my life with every adventure, every phone call, with all their moments of excitement, and with every moment we spend together.

But don’t be fooled that it has been in any way easy…
Parenting from a distance has had some distinct advantages but, ultimately, because I love the girls as my own, not being there can be heartbreaking. As with any child there are highs and lows…with school, with friends, with siblings, with parents, and with life in general. When the girls are angry, frustrated , hurt or upset, I do the very best I physically can. With complete focus, with my full attention, and all the patience, kindness, love, and understanding I can muster. At these times, my resources seem suddenly limitless, like I could keep going, keep hanging in there, offering a lifeline of support that will carry the weight of their worries and woes. And when the storm has passed I feel incredibly lucky to have had their trust, and an opportunity to help…and perhaps even to heal.

At times like these, I feel I’ve earned the ‘mum’ in ‘step-mum’, I’ve done the very best I can, the very least they deserve from a parent, confidant or friend. I may not have had a nine-month breaking-in period to adjust to parenthood, but when the need has arisen , with every maternal instinct screaming in my body, I have tried to step up to the occasion, rise to the challenge, and I have hoped to god that I have been of some use, and been grateful I have something worth fighting for.

Hannah and Holly have grown so fast….I’ve seen them sleep and wake, laugh and cry, when they have been jubilant and joyful, irate and irrational. I’ve seen all the colours of the emotional rainbow and, though I stop and think daily how much I love them (…wondering what they’re up to…if they’ve had a good day…and when will I see them next!), there is one thing that I particularly like to ponder from time to time…

Today, with god-daughter Hope in my house and my heart I was reminded….how lucky I am…

Children are a gift.
To love a child (of any age) unconditionally, and to guide that much-loved child through the trials of life, isn’t always easy (even for a part-timer!). But when I see Hope, and the beautiful happy toddler she has become, I’m reminded that the children in my life are special.

Unconditional love for a child, for some, turns out to be brutally unrewarding. For me, unconditional love comes easily. I don’t need gratitude, thanks, ‘A’ grades at school, or a pat on the back to tell me if I’m doing a good job. I do the best I can…..and the love I have for my children, my younger siblings, and for Hope, is in itself a precious gift….wanting to make their lives better, richer, happier, makes me want to be a better person….the best person I can possibly be. What better motivation is there to lead a good life, and make the very most of it.


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