Do you ever look at your child and hurt with love?
It’s Sunday night. Hair night. So the boys are showered and gleaming and smelling like apples. I sit on the black leather couch sandwiched between them as we watch X Factor together. We’ve just finished home-made pizza for dinner because Sunday night is also my night off for dinner and Mark’s default dinners are pizza or barbecue. Last night was kebabs on the coals, so that was his barbecue card taken care of leaving tonight for pizza. One made by Stefan, one by Nathan and one by Mark. I have one piece of each and proclaim them all to be as delicious as each other [which is, actually, the truth]
Nathan is fully invested in X Factor. FULLY. Because it’s a competition and he loves himself a good competition. He has decided that we will all barrack for a different act, but Stefan wants to barrack for the same act as Nathan, so this causes issues because it's not a competition if you're both on the same side but Stefan doesn't like to lose so hitches himself to Nathan's winning wagon. He's clever like that. Stefan is into the show as much as he’s into anything which is quite a lot until he gets bored of it. Today he’s been complaining of his throat hurting when the sides touch, which is his way of saying ‘swallowing’ so he’s even more cuddly than his usual 120%. He wants to go to bed because he’s tired but he knows Nathan will stay up until the end of the show which means he will have to go to their shared bedroom alone and he does not want to do that, because his throat hurts and ‘I don’t want to be alone Mum’ So instead he pulls the hood of his dressing gown over his head to block out the light and goes to sleep in my lap, holding my hand. And I look down at his gorgeous face in his peaceful, warm slumber and my heart hurts. I hold his perfect little hand that no longer has those adorable baby dimples and instead has long fingers and nails that I notice need cutting and I think ‘didn’t I just cut them yesterday?’ But it wasn’t yesterday. It was weeks ago and I don’t know where that time went.
He sighs and I absent-mindedly pat his bottom and I remember when his whole body used to fit in my lap which surely was just last year but my heart skips a little bit because I know it’s been many years and as I’m gently tracing around his cheeks with my fingers, Nathan stretches out next to me and his legs are almost as long as mine. When the fuck did that happen? I pull him into me and I feel him relax as he rests his head on my shoulder and I’m taken back to when he was just a baby, before Stefan, and it was just Nathan and I and we were so in love with each other. When even the simplest moments between taking him out of his stroller and putting him in the car seat were opportunities for intense cuddling and big, wet, open-mouthed baby kisses on my cheek. And I’m quietly grateful that he still kisses me goodbye before he runs off to class in the morning at school.
It's the end of the day and my heart is bursting with love and pride but it aches just a little with guilt too. Because today, those gorgeous boys drove me mad. They fought with each other and dobbed on each other and pushed each other’s buttons. And every time they came to me with some bullshit complaint about the other, I got a little bit more pissed off. Each time that I had to tell them to stop fighting, or stop playing with the ball in the house, or turn the tv down, or remind them to use their manners, or go outside to play, or just shut up... my voice rose just a little bit more. So that by the end of the day, just before pizza, I didn’t want to look at them anymore. I didn’t want to hear their whining. I didn’t even want to be around them.
And I wonder, how can that be?
And I answer, because you’re a mum.