I started this blog at the beginning of this week. Two days before I turned 55. I was feeling emotional about things. A distinct sense of melancholy and the constant weighing up of where I was in my life.
But when I came to re-read it, it was so lame! I cringed at the words.
I forced myself to forget about it, decided to just let it go and other things happened. Work and a birthday.
But it’s been bothering me that I didn’t finish it. It’s probably the most important thing I want to write.
Here it is. Take what you want from it. (And yes, I could just write this in a letter and give it to them privately like the little notes I put in their lunchboxes, on their desks, scribbled on their birthday cards but I want this to be on my blog. Don’t ask me why.)
Balance is something I’ve gone on about quite a lot in my writing. The elusive balance that women aspire to getting right: family and other.
But what matters now more than ever, is that while we go about our lives as best as we can, the bizarre thing is that we are living through an interminable pandemic. Everything is so discombobulated. And I now know for sure, pandemic or not, it’s family, not other.
Since my 18-year- old can now drive to school and off they go, the youngest two of my precious four in that little box on wheels through the crazy streets of Cape Town, there was a day (or was it two?) that I didn’t get up at all! No big goodbye hugs. I took advantage of some extra moments to lie under the duvet and barely sat up when they came in. But when I realized they were leaving, I dashed like a mad thing through the house as they reversed out the driveway. And I felt so sad.
Our routines have all started changing so much: they get up themselves with their alarm clock (no more me getting up first and putting their lights on with a ‘wakey wakey’ or even a short lie next to them in bed) they make their coffee and prepare their oats for breakfast at school, cut up their carrots and things, fill water bottles and off they go.
Always on time.
When all four were at school I would do all that, even for the two older ones. Well, mostly. And it was always chaotic, racing against time.
Then earlier this week when I heard them come down to the kitchen (from up in my study since about 5am, unable to sleep, thinking of things, typing away, scrolling through stuff, too preoccupied with my own life, my own agenda) I decided to come down and sat in the kitchen with them while they readied themselves for school.
We chatted about the shopping list- honey, more oats, some vegan options – when they would be on holiday (I can’t keep up with changing calendars anymore), some of their teachers, the shape of eyebrows, why they should attend hockey practice when they’re not allowed to practice with sticks, let alone not have any more games, and what was for dinner. (If only I was better at delegating more and being more organized, thinking of supper wouldn’t be so annoying. But I’m not going to change. I cannot bear thinking what’s for dinner. )
And when they were out the gate and the dogs had settled themselves back on their cushions, I wanted to do nothing else but sit down and write this:
A love letter to my children
I want you to know something, my precious children.
No one could have imagined this weird kind of life we’re living.
No one could prepare for it, and no one knows how to go about it.
It’s all entirely unpredictable.
But for all the sadness and grief that surrounds us, I feel desperately upset for the simple ordinariness of life that you have lost, you, in the prime of your youth.
And I want you to know this:
I am indescribably proud of the way in which you all go through this life (and perhaps that’s why I’m sharing it on my blog. When mum’s feel proud, they want to tell the whole damn world!)
Since March last year, you have put your heads down and dealt with whatever has been thrown at you.
You finished university, missed two graduation ceremonies, secured a great job but work mostly at home. You can’t hang out next to the coffee machine at the office with colleagues for a long chat, get a casual slap on the back for a job well done or go casually go out for beers on a Friday night and party freely ‘til any hour of the night.
(PS. Your hard hugs are deeply treasured, and your cheery happiness heaven sent.)
You are constantly deciding where you feel safest and where you can work best because university campus life doesn’t really exist, and you never really know where you are. You’ve adapted to so many changes but never bemoan your fate. Or a missed graduation.
You adapt to changing school calendars and sit in your rooms for hours on end, tuning in to your lessons, not always able to hear or understand. But seldom complain.
When you’ve had a vague contact with a positive case, you self -isolate and take this in your stride. You smile through the window and text me when you want some tea.
You cannot see your friends when you want to and when you do, you have to make sure that it’s outside or it’s not too many all at once.
You cannot really plan a birthday party, sing in your beloved choir or just make impromptu plans.
Sport has all but disappeared, but you keep making a plan, running on your own, staying in shape and maintaining discipline.
I’m astounded by your tenacity and capacity. For your resilience and strength. For your positivity and for just keeping calm and carrying on.
And now I want to tell you something else. (Yes, I’ve told you this before. Bear with me.)
Of everything I’ve done in my life – no extraordinary stuff coming out here- I am most proud of being your mother. Nothing comes close. Nothing brings more joy. I would do it all again, right from the very beginning. Every single minute. All the bum wipes and constant mess.
I cannot tell you enough how I now treasure those little kitchen chats, the sneaky swims at sunrise. Car trips and walks down the road, around the farm, evening meals at the table. And though sometimes I feel as though I never have enough time to do things I have want to do, and I’m irritable or impatient, or complain about the effort and expense of raising children while trying to live my own life, my life would mean not a single thing without you in it.