I clutch him under one arm, his legs flailing, his arms thrashing at me trying to connect to something – anything – that will make his injustice heard. I lift my head high, square my shoulders back, and carry him to the check out with a half smile, confidently, so that everyone staring at me can see that I’m fine. In control. Totally an old hand at all this. A veteran. A maestro. A grocery-store-with-kids shark.
The elderly couple in front of me at the check-out line smile on kindly and in their smile I see they’ve been here before. A long time ago maybe, but when it comes to parenting children, the experience is as universal as it is timeless. I recognise them from ten minutes earlier, passing us in the pasta aisle, Ella and Billy trailing along behind me each wheeling a green grocery basket, running into everyone, knocking cans off shelves, grabbing couscous and taco shells and ghee and tossing them into their baskets, giggling. “Look at your little convoy”, the elderly man had said, warmth and tenderness oozing from his smile. “It’s made my day.” I smiled back and the little encounter had made me stand back and try to take in my current situation with new perspective. That children are actually precious. That silly, frustrating grocery outings aren’t the end of the world. That I need to find the humour in the grind.
I looked back at him in the check-out line, a kid screaming under one arm, another run off to shove things in the guide dog collection box slot and I said, “Still made your day now?”.
He laughed. “How old is your little one?” he asked. I told him Billy was two. “Oh,” he said while he nodded knowingly.
And then he helped me unpack my groceries.
He said nothing more. But then he told me everything. That, yes, it’s hard. The hardest. But that it’s precious. The most precious. Remember that. Remember that it’s precious. That it’s this great, big, messy, relentless, ridiculous journey that you never really appreciate while you’re on because dear god the intensity is fierce. But then you find yourself 75 years old, those years over, perspective gained, and you just want to tell these young mothers with their misbehaving children that even though it’s intense, don’t let the intensity blind you. It’s no big deal. Grocery tantrums are no big deal. Meltdowns over car seats and grapes cut the wrong way and hair washing days are no big deal.
But he didn’t say any of that because it’s like telling a 19 year old to treasure their youth and their freedom. As if they’re going to understand the weight of what you’re saying. They need to figure it out for themselves.
I just watched this smiling, wise old man carefully stack my packets of pasta and all I heard was this: Laugh and let people help you.
But then, I don’t know, he could have been saying, “Lady, you seem nice and all, but for the love of God, have you ever heard of online grocery delivery?”
Some less-than perfect but still precious moments of life lately: (You can take the camera from the girl but you can’t take the girl from the…wait, that doesn’t even make any sense. Never mind.)
Sleeping little boys.
And awake little boys who are a bit naughty and need new sleeping arrangements.
You have not lived until you’ve seen a four year old dance to Taylor Swift.
We dedicated Trouble to her brother. “I KNEW you WERE trouble when you walked I-I-IIIN,” we belted out while he looked on, confused. Have I mentioned he’s two? Lord have mercy.
Dress ups (“Mum! I’m a pirate! Call me Captain Wizz. Like the wee.”)
Hide and seek spots.
Pajama Pier Walks. Letting off the last bit of evening steam.
Making flower crowns in the backyard.
Collecting chicken eggs – always a daily highlight when we watch Billy scramble to the back door every day, run down to the chicken coop and shout, “Mama! Eggs!”
And lastly – Early Mother’s Day spa night at Ella’s kindy. My hands were massaged, my nails polished, my hair brushed and my daughter made me some fairy bread which she then ate.
And as I sat there watching it all, I just felt really lucky that I am even in this club at all.
Which brings me to this weekend. Mother’s Day. It’s an emotional one, this holiday, loaded with all the feelings. The motherless. The childless. The highs and lows of showing up every day as one. Those who have perfect mothers and those whose mothers could not love them the way they deserved to be loved. Those who’ve lost mothers and those losing mothers right now. Those with nothing but burning, painful dreams to have a child, and those who have lost one. The women who help us be better mums. The women who love our kids like their own. The married mums and single mums and fathers doing the fathering and the mothering and all the hard-working mothers who can’t find a single person to celebrate them.
There are so many, many people who deserve to be celebrated this Sunday and I will be having extra champagnes all day long in honour of you, toasting you silently in my heart, and throwing out some life line texts to those who struggle through this day.
There’s nothing like the word Mother to thrown this world in a spin.
Happy nearly Friday, sisters.
Laugh and let people help. It’s our new mantra.