On Sunday, flower power ruled Leith. The pavements thronged with bairns bearing bouquets as big as their heads. Mother’s Day had landed.
We never went in for Mother’s Day in our family. This was mainly due to the slightly chilly nature of the relationship between my mum and her mum.
It is safe to say that my maternal grandmother owed much to the Queen Alexandra School of Motherhood and preferred to maintain an icy coolness in the face of her all female brood.
No, none of that soft-centred mush about supportive mothering for my gran. Touching was strictly limited to spitting on hankies for emergency washing of faces and any display of emotion beyond a mild tut coupled with the phrase “oh dearie me” was regarded as the sort of thing Americans went in for.
She belonged to an earlier time really, when women were expected to have children but not required to like them. Now, of course, not only are we expected to have those children and not just like them but be their biggest cheerleaders, travelling support and bestest buddies ever.
Your child is just the greatest, dammit, and the whole world is gonna know that.
Well, I’m not advocating that we return to the Arctic ways of my grandmother, but I have some rather bad news for the my-kid-is-my-pal school of childrearing. You can’t be your children’s friend. Not at least until they are older. Your job is to say no. It’s hard. I remember the Boy Child hearing that word in the Early Learning Centre. It was like some kind of Civil Rights protest re-enactment. The Boy played the role of martyr, being dragged bodily across the floor whilescreaming at the top of his lungs. I was cast in the role of fat Good Ol’ Boy cop, very much in the mould of Rod Steiger’s police chief in the Oscar-winning In the Heat Of The Night. It’s a thankless task in those first few years. Babies, after all, are the most selfish things on the planet. Their job description basically involves lying about, getting carried everywhere and being fed on demand. It’s like looking after a very small Pharoah, only with disposable nappies. Mother Nature ensures that we love them by making them look cute.
But slowly this little thing will have to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them and that, my friends, is our job as parents. And you can’t lay down boundaries if you are too busy being their pal.
Let’s go for a pint down the Queen’s Head
An old and very wise friend once told me that the best view a parent ever sees is the back of your child’s head, as she takes her first steps, runs into school, then walks across that stage to collect her degree.
Parents are supposed to build in our own obsolescence from the minute our kids are born.
But don’t panic. It’s all worth it in the end, yes, even the hysteria of the teenage years, because one day your child will become your friend. Especially when they hit 18 and you can send them to the supermarket to get your gin.
Actually, when I was a kid I thought my gran was both the queen and Annie Walker, the stalwart matriarch of the Rovers Return in Cornonation Street.
To me, Anne and the Queen were one and the same person, which makes me wonder what a pub run Liz Windsor would be like.
For one thing, you really could call it the Queen’s Head. And second, I bet Philip would love to be a pub landlord in some rural mock Tudor monstrosity in the stockbroker belt, serving warm lager, white wine for the ladies with a side serving of 1970s jokes about women drivers and foreigners.
Perhaps they’d have a rival pub down the road. The Prince of Wales. This could make a great sitcom…
Smother’s Day is not a cause for celebration
The Smother Mother is probably the most extreme mamapal you’ll see. They bring their children everywhere, even if it’s a girly get-together at an upscale wine bar, and throw strops if the wedding invitations don’t include their best beloveds.
Smother Mothers do everything with their offspring. They are a unit. It’s great. It starts with being a mother and toddler group for two and ends with clubbing nights together in Ibiza. Just the two of them, eh?
They are the terror of parents’ evening in school, because these kids can do no wrong. They are the despair of employers everywhere because these kids don’t learn. Why should they? Mamma told them they were perfect.
Of course, one day our little prince or princess will wake, still living at home and wondering why they have no friends, but hey ho, it’s all worked out well for mamma who has an increasingly resentful chum dependent on her forever.