Thursday, December 06, 2007

The pride and the pain of motherhood

There is nothing which makes a mother’s heart sink to her boots as much as being told her previously darling three year-old has taken it upon himself to turn into an extra from ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ and high-kicked a fellow classmate at nursery school.
The injured party (a girl, which makes it all the worse - I’m raising a woman beater) survived with minor injuries and after a scolding from me, his teacher, his daddy, his granny, his auntie and his overbearing five year-old granny-mush of a cousin, the fruit of my loins is suitably mortified and promises never, ever, ever to do it again - not even if someone hits him first, or kicks him or steals his favourite toy.
It has been a hard lesson to learn that once children step out of the warmth and love of your home, they will spend the next 15 years (or longer) making you both cringe with embarrassment and burn with pride as they find their way in the world.
I take him to school each morning, watching in that uber paranoid manner of mine which children he talks to and which talk back to him. I smile when I see him run off with his little friends, or help them find their name symbols to stick on the register board. When his teacher told me she was impressed with his verbal skills I grinned with pride. That’ll be because I’ve pushed his language development from the day he was born, chatting nine to the dozen to him about almost anything and everything, I thought smugly.
When she commented on his imaginative play, I beamed. Sure, wasn’t I just great? Encouraging my child’s wild imagination. He is surely a wee creative soul like his mammy.
Somehow that pride evaporated in 0.3 seconds when I learned of his Hong-Kong-Fuey moves at school. I was horrified. I started thinking back - had I let him see something unsuitable on TV? Had I given him any indication that lashing out was acceptable?
Had I been too lenient with naughty-step punishments, letting him away with the odd minute here and there or finding myself unable to stop the laughter at some of his recent indiscretions? (The child protesting his innocence while covered in chocolate with sweetie wrappers from the Advent calendar all around him was too cute to take seriously). It dawned on me that much as I know and accept my child is an individual with his own personality, I will always in some way see him as a reflection of me and my parenting.
I desperately don’t want him to be the class bully - the one child the other mammies steer their little darlings away from in case he becomes a bad influence on them. And up until now, he hasn’t given me too many worries on that front. For the most part he is a caring, loving and very sensitive child. If I’m sick, or upset, he will run over and smother me in kisses until I’m better.
When his darling Grandpa was ill in hospital he insisted on praying every night for his recovery. When we told him the doctor’s weren’t able to make Grandpa better he simply said he would take Grandpa to his doctor instead, as his doctor always made people better. I myself succumbed to a nasty stomach bug on Monday (not great news for my stomach, wonderful news for my diet), Joseph played the role of mammy’s nursemaid beautifully. “Mammy, I’ll get you a basin. Hold the sickies in, I’ll be quick,” he shouted, bumming his way down the stairs at the speed of light.
And when the said basin was in place, he demonstrated how I should lie over the edge of the bed and be sick and that “getting rid of all the bad sickies would make me better”. At times like that I want to keep him close to me always (Not in a weird Norman Bates /Psycho way, you understand - just in a Derry mammy way) but there are other times when I would gladly stick him up on Ebay. (One child, almost new, in good condition, obsessed with ham sandwiches.)
I doubt Joseph will forget in a hurry the lesson he learned this week at school - that if you do hit out no-one will want to be your friend. (Although bless the wee classmate who made him a pretend cup of tea after the incident to cheer him up). At the same time I won’t forget it in a hurry either.
When I left the wee man into school the following day I scanned the classroom for a sign of a wee girl in obvious distress or with any bruising so that I could personally apologise to her mammy and let her know that such behaviour is not typical of my son. Because believe me I don’t want to turn into one of those mammies who shrugs such things off with a “kids will be kids” attitude, or worse still a “My wain wouldn’t do that” attitude.
I imagine before school days are done - and probably well into adulthood - there will be many (well, hopefully only a few) such embarrassing episodes and I suppose like all aspects of parenthood I’ll have to take the rough with the smooth - encourage the good and deal with the bad head on and hope the former outweighs the latter. And if all else fails, there is always Ebay.

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