Both of my children delight in asking me very random and spontaneous questions. Now don’t get me wrong, I am pleased that they come to ask, it is just that these questions often begin at around 6.30am. Upon opening my eyes I more often than not come face-to-face with that little face waiting for an all important answer.
I always try my best to answer, although of late I am much slower to. It takes me while to come round in a morning nowadays, and ‘quick fire rounds’ of multiplication or addition take much longer than they should to answer – and sometimes I am ashamed to say that I cannot find the answer at all. This of course, is unacceptable to the child who loves his numbers.
And the curious questions about the world continue all day long.
Why is the lady in front of us in the queue wearing those clothes (a sari)?
Why does the man walking with a dog have a white stick?
Can men marry men, and women marry women?
Why do some people not have mummies or daddies?
Why are people different colours?
Why shouldn’t we eat too many biscuits?
When are we going on holiday? Followed by, how many sleeps will it be?
When will daddy be home? (x100)
More recently though my girl has taken to asking me repeatedly how old I am.
The thing is, she knows how old I am, and yet she insists on asking all the same. ‘Mummy, how old are you?’ ‘Isla, you know how old I am.’ ‘Are you thirty three or thirty four?’ ‘I am thirty four now, I had my birthday remember?’ This is followed swiftly by, ‘Will you be going up to Heaven?’ I more often than not answer with the same thing. ‘No, not yet darling.’ Sometimes it ends there as she drifts off to sleep, sometimes she checks how old daddy is too. And I am happy to answer, of course I am – non of us will live forever that is a certainty, and yet it breaks my heart a little more every time she asks because I know her, and I know why she is asking me.
For all that I thought my children coped with my year of illness well, it seems that the fall out of our family’s change has in fact left its mark on them, whether I like it or not. My baby doesn’t want me to leave her, and the feeling is mutual. So I sit for that little bit longer where all the books would tell you to leave – I let her hold my hand or cuddle in, if she needs. Next I wander into her brother, who always stirs as I kiss his forehead and always asks me to stay a little while, and the answer is always, and will always be the same. For some reason, no matter how steadily I answer the Heaven question it never seems to get any easier, because in truth I do not know when or how long I have left with them and it would not be fair for me to say otherwise. To any of us.
I have noticed that as the day draws to a close all of the sporadic thoughts or worries often tumble out at bath time or, as a last ditch attempt to keep you talking instead of lying down in bed.
This evening was no different, after a busy day and a chosen story book, the question came out of the blue as I tucked my girl in. She looked me square in the eye and said, what is it like to be a mummy? And I was taken aback for a moment, searching her eyes to see if she had asked in jest or the words had somehow been jumbled up in a way only a four year old can. I wondered if I could in turn explain myself, the way I wanted to in that moment? So I replied.
To be a mummy is one of the proudest, most wonderful things that you could ever feel. It is like being in love more and more everyday and you both make me very happy. I stop and check her eyes to see if my hurried answer has met with her approval, and she flashes me a smile as I kiss her forehead.
I think I did it justice, I hope I did it justice. Had I been given more warning, more time, and perhaps had she been a little older, I could have articulated the feelings a little better. I could have explained that it is the hardest job in the world in one way, to feel so responsible for the things that you love the most in the world. The never-ending feelings of letting them down when I am cross or grumpy or shouty. Followed oh so closely by the surges of pride and emotion that accompany either of them doing or saying something for the very first time.
So for now I will look forward to my next question tomorrow morning, jumping straight into the day ahead. I will continue to be thankful that I have another day to answer as many questions thrown at me as I possibly can (no matter how big or small), and hope that I answer them correctly.
What is it like to be a mummy? It is exhaustingly, most wonderfully, most frustratingly the best job in the world. (even though I am not particularly good at it, most days) More than anything I hope that I will one day get to see my girl become a mummy, because I know she will be the very best that she can be.