I frequently feel enormously unqualified with most things parenting-related. And I fail, often. I’m a big fan of free-range parenting, letting them ride in the back of the ute up the driveway, teaching them dangerous things, taking risks with climbing and jumping and experiments. I have taught Archie to light a match, to check a beehive, to use sharp knives.
And I understand that they will hurt themselves, sometimes. I would rather they learn their own limitations, their own boundaries, than me enforce them under some abstract idea of safety.
But the times when I accidentally hurt them? Oof. It does not feel good.
I once accidentally punched Archie in the face, and his nose started bleeding (I was reaching in front of him as he turned). Why did you hurt me? He stares, bewildered, as blood and tears ran down his face.
They have both fallen off the kitchen bench, onto an open drawer, leaving huge bruises on their backs.
One time, in a supermarket carpark, I was carrying a load of shopping bags and turned around quickly, and completely knocked Jed over. Then I stepped on his hand and dropped a bunch of bananas on his face. A comedy of errors. A comedy of apologies.
So I kiss them, and I make it better, and I say sorry, darling. Mum’s so sorry.
I know that part of my job as a parent is to make decisions that they don’t agree with (no, you can’t take a jar of Nutella and a spoon in your lunchbox). And, as Archie likes to remind me, sometimes I make him cry.
But crying because I made them go to bed is different to crying because I accidentally gave Archie a bloodnose, or because I blasted Jed with my hairdryer and he was extremely unamused, or I accidentally dropped a fork on Archie’s leg and it left a mark.
I visited a friend’s brand new baby this week. And seeing the way the new mama looked at that little lady baby, full of love and exhaustion, reminded me that we are all just surviving, second by second. Trying our best to love our little humans, our partners, ourselves.
I am constantly stuffing up, blundering along, banging into walls and crying in the front seat of the car, looking straight ahead so the kids can’t see me. But I am human, and present.
And I hope (I really do hope) that they will look back at their childhoods and see a mum who is doing her best.