Dear Musical M, you’re 12.
I know it never really means anything to others when they see their social media feeds flooded with pictures of kids growing up and the customary ‘I can’t believe s/he is x yrs old!’ from the parents.
But…fact is, I simply can’t believe you’re 12. Frankly, I spent so long grappling with you turning 10, in denial and wondering where it had all gone, that 11 came along almost unnoticed but now that 12 is here…I’m in shock all over again. 12 is different, perhaps because it is the last year before the teenage years start.
So I sat down to write something for your 12th birthday. After all I wrote something for your 10th. That was hard enough; the more I wrote, the more I had to face how I’d just let those years slip through my fingers. I could hardly blame not spending proper time with you on being a working mum whose job took me away from you. I’d been there the whole time as a SAHM…yet one who very often wasn’t (isn’t?) mentally or emotionally there for you. (I don’t know what makes me that way.) And writing Ten Candles just killed me. I know you laugh and say “Oh mummy!” when I admit I still can’t read that poem without dissolving in tears at the final verse. I tried not to cry as I read it again the other day, for the first time in a while, when it was featured on another site. Hopeless.
I am not sure there will ever be any explanation or justification for why I have simply failed to be the mother that you always deserved.
I sometimes wonder if I need to see someone about it (actually I know I ought to see someone about it…). That is one hard thing to admit here, on a blog that quite a few people read. Why expose such bitter inexcusable failings? Who does that?! Who fails their child over and over and then writes about it publicly?!
I think it is this: when I go to my resting place, I really do think it will be the single biggest thing in my life that will stop me from being in peace, when they lay me down or scatter my ashes.
I’m such a walking cliché but I really genuinely thought I’d just be…well…better at it. The thing is, people will read this and probably do an inward eye roll and mentally tune out. A mother talking about how she’s not a great mother? A mother attributing her own parenting behaviour to events and emotions from her childhood. Oh purleese. Must we really watch this film/hear the song/read the book again? Seen it. Heard it. Read it. No, we don’t wanna buy the bloody t-shirt thanks, Prabs.
Repetitive, tiresome, obvious, cringey and predictable. #Snore.
I’m repetitive with my rants about you not listening to me (although if you just listened…?), I have become tiresome with my promises to be a more patient less shouty mother. I have become obvious in the way I speak to you in an unforgiveably sarcastic snarling manner. It’s almost cringey how I half-heartedly try to make up for the day’s failings at bedtime asking you about your favourite part of the day. I am predictable with the way I fly off the handle too easily. Honestly I hear myself starting off on you and I just think Shut up, just stop bloody talking Prabs, I’m that bored of my own voice. But then you snap at your siblings, and I go mad again…wondering where you get it from! If I can’t control my own short temper and lack of patience, how can I expect you to be any better towards your siblings? You’re only 12 for heaven’s sake! That’s the thing…on the one hand I can’t believe you’re ‘already 12′ but on the other hand, I know you’re still really just a child. Yet day after day I trot out the cliché “You’re old enough to know better’ and “Just grow up” when some aspect of your behaviour irks me.
And as you know, your poor sweet girl, so much of your behaviour irks me.
I guess you’re not the only 12 year old who leaves the house without thinking about the same vital things they need every day (and who then complains the whole time while they’re out). I’m sure there must be other 12 year olds who don’t listen to the words anyone says and then asks what they said four times (forgetting what they said immediately afterwards anyway). There have been other 12 year olds before you and plenty to come I’m sure, who wreck a computer or phone the minute they touch it. In fact the world is probably full of preteens who will try to lie their way out of a situation rather own up to a wrongdoing.
So I guess it’s not fair that I get so annoyed. Especially because…
When I’m pissed off that you start searching for face paint just one hour before we need to leave for a school play, it’s not your fault, it’s mine. I’m the one paying for a class gift or RSVP’ing to a party invite or filling in a school trip form on the day they’re due.
When I’m mad that you’ve not tidied your room AGAIN, it’s not your fault, it’s mine. We don’t exactly live in the tidiest of houses do we…?
When you leave a bag or lose an item of clothing at a cafe or somewhere at school, it’s not your fault, it’s mine. I’ve managed to lose a pushchair for heaven’s sake.
When you argue with me about every little thing until you’ve got barely any breath left, it’s (sort of) not your fault. It’s mine. A man whom we both know says I always need to have the last word…
You see, here’s the thing. it’s not you I’m having a go at M. It’s actually me….
I’ve known it for years. I first realised when you were just two. As I watched your facial expressions, noticed your mannerisms, listened to your voice, heard your intonation…I realised, with dismay…I was in fact raising myself. As if the world needed another Prabs, here I was raising another one. A mirror image of myself, my carbon copy in every way. It’s just too much. In fact, everyone uses those terms to describe you don’t they? We can hardly go anywhere or see anyone without hearing “Oh you look just like your mother?” with reference to you. Who’d have thought it would be such a major issue, that it would in fact define my parenting of you?
I can barely get through a day with myself…how do I get through a life with myself and a mini me?!
And over the last two or three years, it has come to a head a few times. You’ve dissolved in tears… A sentence I can’t bring myself to elaborate on or complete…too many ugly blanks to fill in. We stood on that street corner in Sliema during the Christmas holidays and you just crumbled and said I’m too hard on you. Other things were said. About my parenting. True things. Things I simply could not deny. Things I’ve tried to type here but…honest as I am on this blog…I just can’t bring myself to admit them. I typed some of them and deleted them. Shameful.
You know you’ve messed up with your child when you say (yet again…) that you will try to change how you treat them to be met with the response “I think it’s a little late for that.” History repeats itself. And how…
How can a mother bristle with irritation the second her older daughter opens her mouth to speak,
How can I call your father out when I feel he’s unfairly reprimanding you, then swing round and do the same myself?
How can I roll my eyes when you ask me something, yet answer the very same question without hesitation when your brother asks it?
How can I feel my heart harden when you don’t lay the table, or wipe your crumbs off the counter, or sweep up that little mess or fluff up the cushions you left in disarray when the fact is I hated doing all that at your age too?
How can I get so annoyed when I hear you making judgemental comments about someone when maybe (just maybe), you may have heard me unwittingly do that once upon a time (or a few)?
There are definitely things you could do to make things smoother between us, such as not pretending that you have numerous phobias or deciding you can’t do something without even trying first (so the opposite of your father and me) or relying on me to do things that you are more than capable of doing at your age (and we’re talking the most basic of stuff here…) And the thing is M, it’s all very well saying I’m hard on you but you also have to meet me halfway on the road to change.
I CAN’T make the journey all on my own whilst you stand at one end carrying on with the same behaviour.
When all is said and done however, Musical M, you’re just great.
Fact is you are actually so aware and in tune with certain things. I mean you heard the Chili Peppers for the first time the other day and loved them and John Mayer is one of your favourite artists. You think Julie Andrews is beautiful and inspirational even though most kids would think she’s uncool and as ancient as the very hills in the Sound of Music and say Carly Simon is amazing every time I play her. You watched Julie and Julia which is not a kids’ film, aged just 8, and fell in love with Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. I honestly love that despite me butting heads with you on so many things, we have this shared passion for music and film (and by the way I’m the one doing most of the head butting anyway).
And your laugh…there’s no laugh like it!
You love your brother and sister to bits (when you’re not moaning about them) and have a good heart. You are loyal to your friends which became really evident to me on your birthday when your friends gave you that amazing card describing your character. It blew me away and made me feel ashamed that I have a tendency to forget what a lovely spirit you have. Anyone who meets you loves you. You say the nicest things to your mum (heaven only knows why) and while my friends are lamenting that their preteen daughters no longer want to be seen with them, I have a 12 yo who can’t get enough hugs and still wants mummy’s kisses. What a shame that somewhere along the way, I stopped giving them. No wonder you adore your father. Thank goodness you do.
My shameful admission may not be much of a birthday gift.
But anyway, the bottom line in all of this is…
It was never you. It was always me.