I was 28, when my mum died. It was very sudden, no warning and no time for any last conversations. On the long drive up north, from London to say goodbye, my brother turned to me and said “she’ll never meet our children.” Bearing in mind that it wasn’t until six year later we had our first babies, the loss of mum, as a granny was there from day one.
I know what kind of granny, my mum was, my siblings had five kids between them when she was alive. She was a granny who loved reading them endless stories, never getting bored. She had a trunk in the kitchen full of glitter, arts and crafts, glue and stamps. When the grandkids arrived, mum loved nothing more than getting stuck in with them.
Granny Rosie (as they named her) loved pushing the kids round the garden in the wheelbarrow, raking leaves and making dens with them. I know what she was like as a granny, but I didn’t know what she would have said in answer to all of my parenting questions that began the minute I was pregnant.
What had my birth been like? I know that she and dad stopped at the pub, on the way to the hospital to have a drink (so I’m guessing she was pretty relaxed). I also know that I was blue, when I was born and they had to “slap you about” to start me breathing. The labour itself, I have no idea, and so it began. The endless questions, with no one to answer them.
Seven years on, three kids later and her absence has been felt every single day. Friends have suggested that I try to imagine what she would have said. The problem is, I have no idea. Our relationship was cut short at a time where I was partying and more concerned about having fun than having kids.
Last week, I was in the supermarket with the boys, when it suddenly occurred to me that I know exactly what she would say for many things. We were unpacking the trolley onto the conveyor belt and I explained to the boys that they should put the heavy items onto the belt first, then we could pack the lighter things on top and prevent squashing.
I flashed back to the weekly shop with mum, pre internet delivery days when we did it every week, shopping for our family of six. I loved this time with my mum, enjoyed the shop, we would chat all the way round. She was teaching me basic things, during that time, things that I am now teaching my own children.
Mum isn’t here to answer my day to day questions about the boys, marriage and life in general, but deep down her core values are in built and I am parenting much like she did. She was fun but firm, generous but not extravagant. She was an example to me as a mother, worked full time as a nurse and wouldn’t sit down at night until all the uniforms were out, the house was tidy and the breakfast table set.
I think that I need to take on a little more of this discipline in my own house. The boys often sit down for breakfast to find last nights’ dinner plates still there and before heading off to school we scramble to find socks from the giant laundry pile that is rarely empty.
However, Sunday nights are hair washing, nail cutting and nit inspections, just like in my childhood home. At bedtime, when the boys are attempting to escape from their rooms for a drink / wee / fake nightmare; I call out to them “stop with the delaying tactics.” Like I said, when I speak, my mum comes out.