I took a rare day off on Thursday – beauty just didn’t seem terribly relevant and actually, I just found myself needing some contemplation time. Being a mum is bitter-sweet and events in London on Wednesday amplified all of the fears I have for my family living in a big city. Fear is part and parcel of being a mum. Amongst all of the joy, the tedium (how many Lego towers can one woman be expected to build for their kids to knock down) and the fun, there are tendrils of fear that creep around your heart.
I moved to London when I was 17 so I left my family very young. Somehow, I managed to be just round the corner when the Harrods bomb went off, living in Brixton at the time of the Brixton riots and driving to my parents’ house past strewn suitcases and chunks of seat rows just after the Lockerbie plane bomb. I’m not a stranger to these things although I fairly breezed through them – I didn’t have a single concern that anything would happen to me. They were horrible things that happened to other people.
As soon as I had children though – that’s when I realised that a part of me would be afraid forever. From whether I could get them across a road without them being mown down, to cooking chicken to a boiled lump because I was so terrified I’d somehow poison them and banning blue sweets because.. well, because blue sweets. I can’t even remember what was supposed to be wrong them!
We had another difficult situation with rioting very near us a few years ago. I could see people heading in swathes to the centre going right past our house. I immediately texted both my children and said I would drive (the two minutes) to the station and pick them up when their trains got in because it wasn’t safe to walk. In the meantime, I made sure that I ran the hose from the back of the house through the hall to the front door – I mean, what I am going to do if faced with attack? Squirt them to death? But it just seemed a reasonable thing – and the only thing – to do at the time. Meanwhile, my kids just sauntered up the road wondering what I was making a fuss about!
When I was little we used to make my mum breakfast in bed for Mother’s Day. It’s only when my own kids tried to do the same that I know she was probably lying in bed trembling at all of the dangers (boiling a kettle, using the toaster, knives!!) and expecting a trip to A&E (30 miles away) at any second. We were, naturally, completely oblivious as we served up burnt toast and some horribly grey looking tea that she dutifully devoured. My sister did, although thankfully not on Mother’s Day, wrap the metal dog lead round her head and dip the other end into the toaster. And then pressed it down. She was thrown from one end of the kitchen to the other, perfectly unharmed. As a mum, you have no training for the ridiculous and unpredictable things that your kids do, and as adults, there is no manual about how to deal with what unpredictable, fanatical grown-ups do. You just have to incorporate that fear for your family into your life and keep it low down. We live in a city that exists at all times on a high alert for attacks like Wednesday’s, and no amount of shielding my children from blue sweets (they still don’t eat blue sweets by the way!) can deal with that.
Mums exist on high alert and it doesn’t matter the age of your children. But, without love, those shivers of worry wouldn’t exist. It’s because it’s all so valuable and all so precious that it matters so much.
I’m always very aware that not everyone still has their mum and Mother’s Day can cut very deep. But, you can always know that whatever fears your mum had for you, and they would be many, they were wrapped with love. Because you cannot have one without the other. That’s just how it is, was and always will be.
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