Yesterday we celebrated the 7th birthday of our eldest daughter. The story of her birth back in 2011 is a running joke in our family. Seven years on, I still get ribbed, mostly at family get-togethers that involve alcohol, about how I packed a full case of make-up, hair straighteners and magazines in my hospital bag and spent the days leading up to the birth ironing little newborn sleep-suits and spritzing them with orchard-scented ironing water singing to myself and imagining the flower-garland-wearing mother I was about to become. You can imagine my shock when all of the orchard-scented garments had been thoroughly shit through by my daughter within hours of her birth, leaving me with a screaming (and very naked) baby; thankfully there was a seasoned second timer in the neighbouring cubicle who was kind enough to chuck me over a couple of her (non-ironed) spares.
How utterly deluded I was about impending motherhood still makes me laugh 7 years on. The woman who had time to apply make-up, read magazines and iron anything more than what was absolutely necessary is now a very distant memory and these days I count myself lucky if I find 10 minutes to slap on a hasty layer of ill-applied concealer to hide the (refuse sack-sized) bags under my eyes.
The day of the birth of my first child set the tone for the years to follow. Parenthood has been a series of shocks to the system. A steep learning curve peppered with daily “what the f**k??!!” moments and a whole spectrum of overwhelming emotions. I wish I could say I had all the answers by now. I wish I could write a conclusive “how to” handbook on being a parent. But the reality is, I still don’t have a bloody clue, 7 years, 3 kids and a whole lot of shit in. Notwithstanding that minor issue, and with more of an apology than a “you’re welcome,” here are 7 things I’ve learnt in my 7 years of being a mum:-
1. Kids vomit without warning
Most adults display worrisome symptoms before expelling the contents of their stomach. A bit of abdomen clutching here, some pre-show retching there. Kids? They’ll go from playing happily with Lego to chundering a litre of Capri Sun-themed spew in amongst all those teeny (and regrettably hollow) pieces without so much as a considerate, “Mummy I feel sick.” Parenting is mostly about being persistently inept at getting basins under chins in time.
2. Birthdays are EVERYTHING
Most non-narcissistic adults care only for a small, low-key gathering by way of celebration of their birth date. Kids, however, in all their self-absorbed glory, will speak of their birthday for MONTHS beforehand (from around a fortnight after their last birthday to be precise). Careful planning and forethought will go into the exact Disney princess that NEEDS to be on the paper plates for the party and the list of in-depth reasons why they are definitely NOT inviting Jamie from swimming lessons (“he once took the orange float when I really neeeeeeeeded the orange float!!” to name but one). Then there’s the bi-daily requirement to know exactly how many sleeps it is until their birthday, which ramps up to a vicious 5 times daily by the 6 week point.
3. Kids Don’t Lie
If little Sally was round playing and told you her Daddy likes to dress up in Mummy’s clothes, then chances are it’s true. Sorry Sally’s mum (and Sally, who’s probably taken to a life of crime by now).
I’ve mostly learnt phonics during my 7 years as a parent. These days, I spend a solid 45% of my time bellowing “Sound it out!!! SOUND IT OUT!!!!!!!!!”
5. Medical Knowledge
Having obtained my medical degree from the University of Google, I feel qualified in being able to recognise the early symptoms of all possible childhood illnesses, including those that are no longer present in our country but at any moment may be carried here via an stowaway exotic insect nestled amongst a crate of unsuspecting kumquats.
6. All the words to “Let it Go”
And also the words to the parody my children discovered entitled “Let One Go.” This joyous discovery was followed by 4 consecutive days of howling laughter and a readiness to perform it, complete with sound effects, for anyone who’d have the misfortune to listen.
Quite honestly, I did not know what my heart was capable of until I had my children. The love is intense, unconditional, fierce and unwavering. I would never have anticipated having the capacity to love someone who throws themselves onto supermarket floors just because you say no to a 40 pack of Monster Munch, but I do.
Oh how I do.