Earlier this March, my firstborn celebrated his first decade earthside. I know, I know, I am only writing about it now? Unfortunately, COVID happened. Mr 10 first contracted the virus, and then I got it too, as his main caregiver. While he recovered in time to celebrate being 10, I was still rather ill. Getting over COVID has taken a longer time, for me, than expected but that’s another story for another day.
Right now, this is about me being a mother for the past 10 years. If you had asked me to envision this milestone back then, I would have laughed bitterly. There was a time when troubles seemed too much to bear…I jest, I jest. Or not. Because there was a time when I didn’t know if I would ever cradle a child of my own in my arms, let alone imagine crossing this milestone. And then when the baby was born and in my arms, I was exhausted because he would not sleep. I thought I would never get a full night’s sleep, ever again.
And look at where I am today, 10 years on. I survived the lack of sleep, I survived juggling the many hats that I had on, I survived all the naysayers who told me I could not. I not only survived, but I did it DAMN. FUCKING. WELL.
So if I could go back in time to talk to my tired, uncertain, and determined self, this is what I would tell her:
This will not last forever, no matter how never ending it feels.
There are days when you feel frustrated. Because your baby is fighting sleep and you are spending hours pacing up and down the room, trying to get him to just. Fall. Asleep. For. Fuck’s. Sake. You contemplate sleep training him but you can’t. You wonder if you are dooming him (and yourself) to a lifetime of poor sleep.
The truth is, it will end. There will come a time when a switch will go off in his brain and he will sleep for hours at a stretch. And there will come a time when he does not need to be breastfed back to sleep, and so you can rely on your husband to take on the nighttime duties.
And there will come a time when he would be 10 years old, telling you, “Mummy, I want to go to sleep.”
On weekends, you get woken up by him early in the morning. If you are lucky, it’s close to 7am. If you are not, it can be as unearthly as 5am. You crawl out of bed, throw a few toys on the floor and hope that they can buy you some time as you try to catch a few more winks. Inevitably, the toys will outlive their purpose in less than 15 minutes and you begrudgingly command your body to get up. A while later, the three of you – including a similarly wretched looking husband – will bundle out of the home, in search of a cafe that is opened at this crazy hour to get your caffeine fix.
Eventually, you will gift the boy a little brother. And he and little brother will bond over their shared love for Roblox. And on weekends, he and little brother will continue to wake up at unearthly hours – yes, they do not bid 5am mornings farewell – but guess what? They will now conspire to sneak down the stairs, switch on the TV and watch YouTube videos on Roblox with the volume down. By themselves.
And you will get to wake up at glorious 9am, to a lounge with two couch potatoes and breakfast bought by the husband.
You know how that saying goes:
“Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body. ”Elizabeth Stone, author
When you first saw the positive pee stick, you were in disbelief. But at the same time, unconsciously, a burning flame had been lit in your heart. He might have just been a mass of cells in your uterus but from that moment on, you will give your unconditional love and protection to him. He is a part of you and you will do whatever it takes to ensure his happiness and growth.
When you first felt him flutter in your womb. When you saw his body take shape in the ultrasound. When that first kick took your breath away. When you first held him in your arms, tears flooding your eyes. When you marveled at the perfection of his little body. When you carried him close to your heart in that baby carrier. When he first giggled in the backseat of the car. When you took him everywhere with you on your first trip to Sydney. When he gurgled and celebrated his first birthday. When he nearly broke your – and the husband’s back – by wanting to walk for months before he was ready. When you heard him say his first word, “mama”. When he cried and cried when he first went to the childcare centre. When he started bringing craft home, dedicated to you. When he graduated from kindergarten. When you took him to primary school on his first day. When he finished reading the Harry Potter series and could talk to you about it. When you heard the familiar voice of Neil Gaiman narrating his audio book and you realised that he had borrowed the book. When he hugged you and forgave you when you were short-tempered with him.
For every moment of his life, your love will not wane. That flame will keep burning and there are times when it grows fiercer. There will be wonder and joy and anger and exhaustion – oh, you will continue to be tired from juggling all those hats – but the love will never waver.
And that is the privilege that you bear as his mother. And what an honourable privilege it is.
It’s been 10 good, eventful years of being a mother. I say this at every age but 10 is really awesome. I love Aidan for the 10-year-old that he is, and I love that he is at the stage where he is independent yet still comfortable enough to be a mama’s boy.
You are the best of papa and me in many ways. You have a forgiving, gracious heart. You have a wild imagination. You tell me to quit my job so that I can be better paid because you truly believe that I deserve better. You speak like a mini philosopher sometimes, and tell me you love history. You are competitive but without malice. Your teachers consistently tell us that you are a helpful and kind boy. You listen to us carefully when we explain your flaws or mistakes, and we can see you trying your best to improve. You love your brother – even though the two of you troll each other relentlessly. You are not someone who envies others, in fact, you are always taking stock of the things that you are grateful for.
You are not a perfect, unicorn child, but I never expected you to be one, especially since we are such flawed parents. But you have brought me so much joy and love since the moment I knew you existed and I am thankful that you chose us to be your earthside family.
I love you to the moon and back!