Thursday, 1 November 2012

Call yourself a Good Mum?

I was in Starbucks having a much needed injection of caffeine, (grande skinny latte with an extra shot...I know, but if I top up before 11am I can still sleep that night). It had been one of those mornings so I stopped off at my local coffee shop for a much needed change of scenery.
I looked around and saw a number of women sitting round a table, hemmed in by some very fancy buggies - I guess these machines are the 4x4s of the stroller world nowadays. I thought back to the double buggy I had for my kids and remembered that it was always a balancing act. I couldn’t hook too many bags of shopping on the handles and let go for fear of the buggy collapsing and my children being catapulted backwards through the air. But that was long ago and far away.

I couldn’t quite catch what this group of young mums were discussing but one posed the question, “So that’s being a good mum is it?”  Her face was perfectly made up and she had the most amazing long nails, (how does she cope with them I wondered, and immediately winced as an image of her changing the baby’s nappy, and a tiny bit of pooh getting stuck under a nail flashed before my eyes - oh the horror!)
She was very animated with the enviable ability to raise just one perfectly plucked eye brow as she talked. I have always been slightly in awe of people who can do this, as try as I might I can’t. I can do both brows going up into a surprised face, or both going down into a scowly face, but fail miserably at the single brow trick.

I guess these women could be classed as Yummy Mummies: with not a hair out of place and nails and faces perfect. They were immaculate, as were their charges. I would even go as far to say co-ordinated, which was a little scary but even so I was slightly envious. My mind went back to when I was about their age, but I was a manic, single working mum with three very small children who never had any spare time, and if I did I used it for one thing - sleeping, (which was a treat in itself in the early years!)
But the question made me think. What is being a ‘Good Mum’? I mean I have never mislaid any of my kids, does that count? And then a memory, long buried, resurfaced.  I was in a supermarket, almost twenty years ago and my youngest, Ash, would not sit in the seat of a double shopping trolley. Rosie, who was a year older, but the same size, had slotted in perfectly, but Ash had gone rigid. Trying to force his unbending legs between the metal bars whilst keeping a smile on my face, (so that everyone knew I had this under control), and starting to feel the burn in my arms, (as children are always a lot heavier than they look), became impossible. I gave up, telling him to hold on to my hand, which soon became impractical as I had one of those trolleys with a wheel that goes in a different direction to the others. So I told him to hold onto the trolley.
I went whizzing down the aisles, grabbing the bogofs, (buy one get one free), whilst keeping an eye on the time. Things were going well, shopping almost done, mind racing about the twenty things that had to be completed in the day and then I heard it: the ding dong of the public address system. A nasally women started speaking, “Would the parent or guardian of a small boy wearing a Spiderman outfit please come to Customer Services where we have your child.”
 I froze...

I closed my eyes for a second and then looked down at the empty space, although already well aware that Ash would not be there. Let’s face it how many small boys are there at any one time wearing Spiderman outfits in a supermarket? C’mon it was 1992 - it was okay back then...
As I made my way to Customer Services Rosie started to cry. I took a deep breath as I reached the counter, “I’m here to collect my son...the one in the Spiderman outfit...the announcement said ...” my voice trailed off and I tried a ‘whoops silly me’ face and smiled.
A stick thin woman in her 50s, whose perfectly coiffed grey hair was kept in place with a can of hairspray, looked over her glasses at me. She said nothing at first, just slowly looked me up and down as I self consciously tried to hide the stain on my jacket where Rosie has been sick the previous day. She looked across to the wailing Rosie, face bright red by now and snot hanging from her nose. I then followed her gaze as she noted all the special offers in my trolley and I knew that she was judging me.  I became conscious that my face was make- up free and my hair, scraped back in an elastic band, was in need of a wash. She raised just one perfectly plucked eyebrow and said:
“Call yourself a Good Mum then?”

I remember shrinking to the size of a small insect and wanting the floor to open up. But then, as if by magic, Rosie stopped crying and smiled as she saw her brother. I grabbed Spiderman who hugged me as if I had been gone forever and I also smiled, a big beaming smile, a smile that goes all the way across your face and makes your eyes go all crinkly, and my world was once again happy, perfect and complete.

I have three incredible children: Ash got out of his Spiderman habit and is now a soldier in the British Army, having served in Afghanistan last year during Operation Herrick 14; Rosie has turned into a beautiful woman and has just completed a Masters in Forensic Computing at Portsmouth University, and landed herself a fantastic job;  my eldest, Gary, has made it to his 30th birthday, despite having me as a mum, and is amazing person as well as an inspirational Master Personal Trainer and all round good egg.

Ooh, I’ve just remembered - I’ve got to dash, as I am having hair, nails and face done, in practice; so when the time is right I want to have a shot at Call Yourself a Good Nan then?!

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