Today marks two years since I lost my brave, wonderful mum to cancer. It’s a very strange kind of anniversary, if you can call it that – I wasn’t sure whether to do something to acknowledge it, or to shut myself away and wallow in my own grief…instead I chose to just go to work and get on with the day, because I really didn’t know what else to do.
When I was about 5, I remember thinking that when I turned 19, I would officially be a grown-up. I’m not sure what was so special about that age, but I knew that 19 meant I had arrived. So when 19 finally came and I didn’t particularly feel very grown up, I decided it would probably happen in my twenties. Or mid-twenties. Ok, when I hit 30 for definite. Nope, the moment of ‘grown-up’ still didn’t arrive.
I love my boys with all my heart. But sometimes, they are a breed unto themselves. In the short space of 3.5 years, here is what I have learned about being the mother of boys:
1) They are simple creatures – and I don’t mean that disparagingly. There’s a wonderful simplicity to how they work – as long as they’re fed, watered, have had enough sleep and have a toy to play with, they’re happy. Same goes for the hub – swap the toy for his iPhone and I have a house full of contented boys.
2) They have more energy that I thought was humanly possibly – seriously, it’s like they are the Duracell Bunny’s love-children. They just don’t stop. From the minute they’re awake to the (highly anticipated) moment they drift off to sleep, these boys are climbing, jumping, swinging, running, crawling and rolling their way through the day. Their energy knows no limits and it’s exhausting to try and keep up with them. This is exactly why I sometimes hide in the bathroom with a packet of biscuits.
3) They have selective hearing – ok, to be fair on them, it has been scientifically proved that boys’ hearing is less sensitive than girls, particularly in the early years. But funny how I have to ask Big Monkey to pick up his toys at least 5 times before I get a response, yet he can hear the word ‘cake’ within a 10-mile radius.
4) Obsessions with bodily functions are inbuilt – I always thought this was a bit of a stereotype, but I am slowly coming round to the idea that these creatures were born with a fascination about what comes out of their bodies and have no qualms telling you about it. In detail. Whether you like it or not. Flatulence is funny. Burps are hilarious. And nothing makes them prouder than producing a huge poo. Lovely.
5) They have no volume control – ok, that’s a little unfair. They have three levels of volume: loud, louder and loudest. Whether they’re shouting with glee or having a meltdown because I peeled the banana the wrong way (yes, this happened), you can hear them a mile away. Batten down the hatches neighbours, we’ve got a good few noisy years ahead of us yet.
6) We don’t have time for that – before I had children, I had sweet visions of sitting down and doing colouring and puzzles with my boys. Oh how I laugh at my naivety. Big Monkey’s sole ambition in life is to run, jump and be Spiderman. Colouring? Nope, we don’t have time to sit down and concentrate! Silly mummy. Oh and puzzles? Well, the pieces make great ammunition to fling across the room. Thrown at the right angle, they pick up quite a speed, you know.
7) Anything is a gun – and weapons are cool. In the beginning, I was that mother who declared, “I will never let my boys play with toy guns.” Yes, well, I soon ate those words. Sticks, wooden spoons, empty kitchen roll tubes, the tv remote – apparently they can all double-up as a gun. I never encouraged play-shooting but it’s something that seems in-built. Big Monkey loves nothing better than ‘shooting a bad man’ (a part which I play rather well, I might add) and we now have an impressive armoury in our house, complete with guns, swords and an axe on our list from Santa. How very festive.
8) Hard shells with soft centres – underneath these noisy, shouty, shooty, energetic, flatulence-loving creatures are actually very sensitive little boys. I have seen Big Monkey develop a beautiful sense of empathy and learn to express his emotions. And after a long day, when all the effort of shooting a bad man begins to take its toll, I see my little boy who is loving, vulnerable and tired – and in need of a cuddle from his mummy.
9) Obsessions will happen – so embrace them. I don’t know if this is a ‘boy-thing’ or just a ‘Big Monkey thing’, but when he gets an obsession, wow, is he dedicated to the cause. We’ve had minis (at one-year-old he could recognise a mini car from just the tail light, in a traffic jam, with one eye shut), we had The Snowman (we were still watching the film and reading christmas books in June), then came soldiers – now this was a biggie. We had the costume, we had to march everywhere, he watched the changing of the guards of YouTube more that was probably healthy, we spoke about soldiers from dawn til dusk, perfected a rather good slow march and it made his year when we went to see the changing of the guards in Windsor. That topic of conversation lasted for months. And now we’re onto Spiderman. Socks, pants, toys, costume, web shooter, mask, bag; you name it, we’ve got it.
10) Heart-breakers in the making – and I don’t mean other girls’ hearts, I mean my own. Every now and then I catch a glimpse of the man-in-the-making and it makes my heart swell with pride. But it also reminds me that one day these beautiful boys that I would give my life for, will leave home, find a girl who steals their heart, won’t necessarily speak to their mummy everyday and won’t need me in the way they do now. And that’s all just as it should be. And I would always encourage and support them. But I know I’ll miss the days when they jumped off my sofa, filled my house with noise and chaos and left a trail of glorious little-boy-destruction wherever they went.
It’s funny how quickly you forget what life was like with one, when you have two. Not that I would change things for a second; Little Monkey has completed our family and stolen my heart. But with two, I find I try to split my time between them, make sure they both feel included and have their needs met…which is, of course, impossible to do 100% of the time. If I’m not trying to stop Little Monkey from sticking his fingers in a plug socket, I’m explaining – for the umpteenth time – why you can’t swordfight with a one-year-old. There’s a good chance that at some point during the day, one, two or all three of us will end up in tears.