My darling Doodlebug
Your Granny arrives in the morning. I know she’s very excited about seeing you- I doubt she’ll have slept at all on the flight over. She is an extraordinary woman, who has been through a lot in the last ten years. Everything I know about being a mum, about raising a family and running a home, I learned from her. But I never knew it until I had to do it for myself.
My memory of her as a mother, when I was a child living in Cyprus, was of a formidable person. She had these staring eyes that flickered back and forth whilst she was telling you off. She was always the one who told you off, and the one who said no. The very threat of having our trousers taken down and being smacked in public was enough to make us all behave. Written down here it makes her even more intimidating. I don’t suppose I realised until long after I’d left home that the reason she seemed so fearsome was because she was the only one with us for most of the day. She had to be all things and, as I am rapidly learning, a lot of childcare is related to discipline. My mum was the one who taught me the rules: of the house, of life, of law.
When I imagined being a mum, I never thought about the tough stuff. I don’t think you do. I imagined the choosing your little outfits, the teaching you to wave goodbye to Daddy, the singing to you before you go to sleep, the pulling the duvet back over your little body whilst you sleep. I never imagined that I’d have to be the bad guy: telling you not to touch the TV, the oven, the knives; telling you not to draw on furniture, not to shout, not to pull hair or bite; the enforcing bedtimes, good behaviour, manners. I never imagined that I would have to become the image of my mother! It saddens me to think that this is the image you will have of me in years to come.
The thing is, Granny was also a wonderful mum. She taught me to read, to bake, to tidy the Tupperware cupboard (which doesn’t sound like much, but which was the beginning of my career as an organiser.) Granny knitted us cardigans and made us endless costumes with her sewing machine. She baked amazing cakes and organised fabulous birthday parties. She packed us up and took us across the world, then unpacked us all and made a home wherever we settled. She always put us first. There was nothing more important to her than her children. Even when things got really difficult after her marriage ended, she would give us what little she had, would drive through the night to get us, whatever we needed. It’s taken me until now, until I had you, to really see how much my mum did for me. To see how much I will do for you; to see how important my job as a mum is. I know that you won’t see any of this in me for a very long time (assuming I do a reasonable job), that I might be that formidable woman to you in the future, but that’s OK, because I can see it in my mum.
And in the mean time, I get to be the person who sings you to sleep and covers you with the duvet.
All my love,