Today I did something that I’m not proud of. I mean it was a low point in my parenting life so far. I was calculated and thought about it before I did it which makes it even worse. I lied, to make myself look better.
One of Oscar’s therapists was coming round at 11am. I knew that during the time she was here, Alfie, Oscar’s baby brother, would be desperate for his lunch (he likes his food and when he’s hungry, don’t you dare get in the way). Last time she was here she asked me about how Alfie’s feeding was going and when I said that I used Ella’s Kitchen readymade meal pouches, I felt her judgement. Knowing she would be turning up and knowing I hadn’t made Alfie a “proper” meal, I decanted a pouch into a bowl, put cling film over it, put it in the fridge and when it was time for his lunch I smugly presented it to him (and her) announcing, “Here you go, Alfie, here are last night’s leftovers for you”.
Mortifying!! I’m pleased I did do this, I might add, because as predicted she seemed genuinely interested in what was in said bowl. Thankful I got away with it I explained, “Oh… it’s just pasta, tomatoes (bugger, what else goes in a meal like this? scanning contents of bowl) … onion … Errrrr peppers?” And so it went on.
I did this because I felt guilty. Guilty that I’d been rubbish and hadn’t prepared 7 meals for the week on Sunday, frozen them and produced them each meal time. Who does THAT you might ask? My friend does. Seriously, she’s THAT amazing. She spends her Sundays doing just that for her little girl.
When I told Chris what I’d done, he laughed. He knows me well and knows my culinary efforts include throwing a Chicken Kiev in the oven or chopping an onion for HIM to cook. It got me thinking though. There are a lot of things in life I feel I’m failing at. Is it an inbuilt guilt that all mums have? Do we all feel like there’s never enough time or let’s face it in this case, inclination, to do the right thing by our child/children? Throw having a child with additional needs into the equation and I’m wondering if it’s heightened even more. I think it just might be.
One thing I’ve been mindful of recently is that to others, particularly if you look at my Facebook and Twitter page, that It might come across that I’m trying to be a “model parent”. I take my child to therapies after all. I teach him Makaton, I help him self-feed. I post videos of us practicing his flash cards or attending hydrotherapy classes with him. I’m pretty sure it looks idealistic. I’ll let you into a secret and this may help other mothers out there who may be feeling like they’re not doing enough… I really only post the good bits!
Another thing that alerted me to my failings, was back in August when I received a letter from the hospital. It read: “As Oscar was not brought to clinic today, we have rescheduled his appointment for January 2015.”
I had forgotten to take him to see his thyroid consultant and the next available appointment wasn’t until 5 months later!! I called the hospital. I apologised profusely. I asked for an earlier appointment but my request was met by a secretary, talking down to me with disgust in her voice. She didn’t say as much but I could read her tone. She thought I was one of those incompetent mothers who hadn’t cared enough to remember to attend his appointment. You see, it’s not like a dance class where you forget to take your kid and it’s fine because there are loads of other people there and they really don’t even notice you’re absent. This appointment was for Oscar only and with a top consultant. I know I manage to take him to all his other appointments so maybe I’m being a bit too hard on myself but of course, me being me, I focus on the one I forgot. And the truth? We’d been shopping. Nothing important. Just shopping. Epic fail on my part.
Guilt also sets in when I take Oscar to his hearing appointments and the audiologist asks, “How is Oscar tolerating his hearing aid?”
“Oh much, much better,” I reply, but inside I’m squirming because I know I should be more persistent in making him wear it. Knowing that these early years are so crucial in his development, I really do know how important it is that he’s wearing it regularly. But am I the best at popping it back on when he rips it off and throws it across the room? Absolutely not. And when the nursery say to me that he’s tolerating it brilliantly with them, I feel guilty that as his mother, I didn’t try harder with it.
The other day I posted on my page, a photograph of Oscar doing his joint attention games/therapies at home with me. The truth? We probably only get round to doing this once maybe twice a week. The rest of the time? We’re usually rushing here there and everywhere to various groups, have a play date somewhere or Alfie is around and interrupts us. We are too busy to have time to sit quietly, just the two of us and play together. And when there is a bit of time? I spend it tidying up the kitchen after the carnage that is dinner and stick “Mr Tumble” on the TV to keep them entertained. And I know, because the therapists tell me, that even once a day would be enough to go over some of his joint attention games… But yet still I don’t manage it!
And this isn’t about me pointing out all my flaws as a ploy to get people to turn around and say, “noooooo, you’re a great mum”. It’s about telling the people who feel they struggle sometimes to be a “good mum” or an equally “brilliant wife”, that you know what? You’re not alone. It’s very easy for people like me to only post the good stuff. The cute pictures, the happy family portraits, the “I’ve got my cr@p totally together” posts . The truth? My kids have meltdowns sometimes.
Chris and I? We argue sometimes.
And as for having my cr@p together? It’s very rare I do.
I remember when I first had Alfie, feeling like I was sinking a bit. Sure I may have looked like a swan on the surface, all calm and serene. Underneath however, I was a duck, paddling manically to keep my head above water. I remember asking my friend Karen (who has 3 children) “How do you do it? What’s your secret to being a good mum?”
Her reply was simple: “It’s survival. If all three of you (and by the three of us she meant myself, Oz and Alf… Chris was at work) are alive at the end of the day, you’ve done well. Survival is your base level, anything above that is good.”
On bad days I like to remind myself of these words. I’m not saying I’m a bad mum, just that at times I know I could do better.
I do know that instead of cooking meals from scratch, perhaps I should give myself a break and remember that my time is often better spent, just being with my boys.
And missing the appointment? I’m only human right? I gotta cut myself some slack I suppose.
The hearing aid? We’re getting there. With the help of the nursery, we’re definitely getting there quicker.
His therapies at home. Sure we could do more, but couldn’t we all do more as parents? And Mr Tumble is kind of educational… At least he’s learning his Makaton through watching that, right?
I’m pretty sure that all parents out there feel they could do more with their children but I’m also aware that parents of children with additional needs have that added pressure of wanting just that little bit more for their kids. It might take them just that bit longer to achieve certain milestones so for us, we NEED to put the time in. If we’re not careful though, it can consume us. Oscar happens to have Down syndrome. Does is define him though? No way. Does it have to be all about him, all the time? Definitely not. He has a brother. I have a husband. All three are of equal importance to me. I must try not to put too much pressure on myself and trust that Oscar will be the best he can possibly be, because of the love and support he has around him, not because I’ve spent 4 hours a day sat at a table teaching him his jolly phonics.
I reckon he’s doing pretty well on his shop bought meals. Will I ever get it together and be one of those mums that makes Hungarian goulash from scratch? Probably not. (FYI Oscar’s therapist, along with feeding advice, also gave me the recipe for this. I obviously pretended that I had the first clue what she was talking about and acted all earth mother type). HOWEVER, as a side note, I did outdo myself this week and make a seriously scary batch of Oreo Spiders for Halloween AND dress up as an alien. I mean seriously, What more does a kid need in a mother?