If you ask my friends, I'm the mother of the group.
If you ask me, I agree with the former and argue the latter.
I'm not a natural born mother. My mothering instinct comes out when my friends need me or if my children are poorly but never at any other time. I've been known to laugh when the children fall over. I've been known to tell them to man up and I've also been known to ignore them when they cry for no apparent reason. In my opinion I am raising self sufficient young men who can look after themselves. I am always there when they need a cuddle, but they have to come to me. I won't go to them no matter how loud they cry. I am always there if they need advice or just someone to talk to. I extend compassion and understanding but I expect them to be able to deal with any situation presented to them.
Except bullying. When my eldest started school last year, he came and told me that a bigger boy was picking on him.
I swear the office staff at the school started shaking when I stormed in there, children being dragged behind me, and demanded to talk to his teacher.
Luckily it was all sorted out but I think the staff learned very quickly that although I practice distant parenting, I will protect my children with the ferocity of a mama bear.
Anyway, as I was saying, being a mother does not come naturally to me. I try hard and I worry about my kids and their welfare, I would move the heavens if I had to, just to help them, but I'm not a very good mother. Which is why days like today are difficult for me.
My youngest, my 4 year old, started school.
Last year my eldest started school and though nervous and a bit shakey, I was fine with it. He was ready. He's tall for his age and he's so clever it's unreal. He was ready a long time before he started and honestly, it was a relief to get him out of the house. But this time around... It's so different. My youngest is still a baby. He's short and chunky with chubby cheeks an thighs like a baby, a slight speech impediment which means I sometimes have to translate for him when he talks to people. He's into trains and dinosaurs and not a lot else. He's still a baby. He's not ready for school.
Except he is.
It's me who isn't ready. I'm not ready to let go of being by his side all the time and let him into the big scary world. What will happen if he gets bullied?! Well, to be honest, probably nothing. I doubt he'd even notice. It's the older one that's the more sensitive child. The younger one is like a juggernaut. Hurtling through life, oblivious to anything except trains and sandwiches and cuddles. He's so like his mother.
And so at 8.30 this morning, he stood before me, in his uniform of shirt, tie, smart trousers and shoes and sweatshirt with the schools logo emblazoned on it and I'm not ashamed to say that I nearly cried. I held it in though. He was so excited. He kept jumping up and down and telling passers by that he was going to school. Everyone said what a big boy he was and how adorable he looked. It was like a fucking worthers advert.
My heart was breaking for the entire trip to school. The firstborn went in through the gates as he has done for a year now. All excited about being in year one now. Secondborn had to go in through the office as he started reception year.
As he wandered off, holding his teachers hand, a troop of other tiny people following behind him, I saw him look back and give me a massive smile and a tiny wave. He was ready. He was ready and I was not. And my heart was completely and utterly breaking.
They don't tell you, when you have kids, that no matter how bad you are at being a parent, the emotions are still stronger than anything you've ever felt before.
I stood there and I watched the third and final piece of my heart walk away from me and towards the big scary world. And I had to trust that it would be safe without me.
No one warns you that once you've shared a body with a small person, once you've created them and grown them inside you for 9 months, that you will never feel complete without them again. The only time I ever feel right is when they're both cuddled up to me. That's the only time I ever feel complete.
And now I have to trust that the world won't hurt them yet. Not until they're ready to deal with that. I have to trust that they'll be safe without me.
And knowing the state of the world, I know that they're not.
I'm a firm believer in not shying children away from the world, but raising them to improve it. And I'm doing pretty well with the firstborn. He said to me "mama, if I see someone at school crying, I'm going to go and see if they're ok because everybody should have a friend."
He's not even 6 yet. He's not even 6 and he knows compassion. I couldn't have been more proud of him.
I feel that the Secondborn would know to do that but he wouldn't say it. He'd just go and do it. He's not one to talk about his feelings or motives.
He's so like his mother.
Firstborn though... He's so empathetic I wonder where he gets it. Certainly not from me.
I marvel at these little people, each and every day.
I don't have a maternal instinct. I lack the capacity to be a soft and caring mother. But that doesn't mean that I can't raise empathetic and caring young men.
And as I watch them make their way into the big scary world, I can see them shining a little more light and kindness into it and I can't help but feel both heartbroken and joyful that they're doing it without me, and that they're doing it at all.