Like Twilights


I sit in bed. Small girl to my right. She pulls herself in to me until we are connected along the length of our arms. I am jotting notes in my diary. A task I do each night before settling to sleep. She watches me then runs to get her ‘diary’ and some pens before settling in drawing flowers. She chatters away. About what she is drawing, what I am doing and making suggestions for flowers in my diary. I am quiet.

Finishing up I say ‘I’m going to sleep now’

‘No!’ she looks at me indignantly.

‘Why don’t you keep writing Mummy? Why don’t you write about what fun you had at the red tent?’

When I do not reply she looks at me inquisitively ‘Yes mummy?’

Not waiting for a reply she turns back to her diary. She has filled it with sunflowers and a powerful crown. Like twilights.

I am tired, so tired. And the small girl goes on. And she goes on. A little night owl, revelling in these stolen moments. Stolen, i think, from my sleep. She never slept as a baby. Not during the day and not in the night. Daytime naps were dropped before turning a year and nights remain foggy in my memories. A haze of feeding, holding, singing, crying. Me crying. All vital energy drained through depravation of sleep. Leaving a tiredness so heavy it was almost more than I could carry. Basic functions eluded comprehension. A clear memory of a hazy day sees me sat on the edge of my bed. Gazing, agape. Delving deep, trying to grasp within, the connections in my mind. Not understanding how to make my clothes work. And giving up with the stark realisation that today would not be a day we would leave the house.

‘Please can you finish your flower mummy’ an instruction not a question. Her pages of flowers wearing crowns grow. With heavy eyes and sluggish mind I love this moment. Our ‘sleep is for sissies’ phases are now simply that. Short phases. And once asleep my little night owl refuses to rouse early.

So little moments in the dark. Just us. Just two, are to be cherished. Savoured. Saved and remembered. Balm to heal ancestral wounds between us and set us on a journey of lasting amicability. I neither take these moments for granted nor expect it to always be this way. Her delight in our moments together. Drawing close. Colourful flowers and magical crowns. The insecurity in navigation of the mother daughter relationship agitates my nerves.

We are bonded deeply, with long held traditions and values. We carry much from our mothers but they also provide us with the images of what we want to break free from. We assess from their lives what we want to carry forward in our own and what is surplus. That which we choose to reject. And the bonds that nurture us through childhood can become a strangling web. And our mother is the image of what it means to be a woman. How to conduct, be, cope. In a world that is ill equipped to support what is truly feminine. Motherhood, menstruation, creativity, community. Young girls are instructed through a misogynistic media in ‘how to be a girl’ leaving little space for influence in ‘how to be female’. Disunion.

And so I try to prepare the way for when Maia needs to both push away from me yet hang fast to the feminine influence. Mayhap that as I grow my role as her ally she will understand that to reject traits does not mean to reject me.  Or that I in any way reject her for growing into her own beautiful womanliness. A magnificent blooming sunflower bedecked in magical crown.

But now we have our quiet times. Night times. The feminine time. Writing, drawing, chatting. Growing our understanding of each other.


Before we go


I am sat on an underground train. I am watching my child. Recovering. Quiet. Resting. I look at his face; long, drawn down in sadness. His eyes dark and red rimmed peering over two oversized balloons. His mouth hanging open in a gentle O. His eyes gaze, empty, into nothing around him. I feel bruised. We have weathered a small storm. Louie grips his balloons tighter and brings them to his chest. Neither triumph nor victory that he carries them with him.

Leaving the house I fretted about the balloons. Almost bigger than him and floating along behind on a straggle of ribbon. I knew they would be caught up, blown about, blown away. I saw how I must end up carrying them along as they become too cumbersome. Man, I hated those balloons for what they were about to put me through.

So I’d bargained. Whined. Suggested. ‘How about we leave the gallons here?’ ‘What if they pop?’ ‘What if we lose them?’ What if they get taken off you at the tube station?’ Until my boy is in tears. Sobbing with grief between the choices of abandoning the beloved balloons at his grandparents or losing them to London underground staff. And my frustration gathers momentum. Those bloody balloons. Already bringing so much stress to my day. To my time, To my plans. And I am unable to comfort him as his grief and my anger become a swirling vortex between us. Each of us feeling out of control trying to grasp something, anything, that we can call our own.

We push on. The station approaches. Louie gathers the balloons. Holds them close to himself. Fat tears plummet over his cheeks.

Suddenly realisations smacks. Pulls me up and blows my head clear. I have been stuck in a train of thought. I have aligned myself with a stressful unhappy day. And I have brought this day to my children. I have missed the magical imagination at play. The joy and fun brought by these temporary toys. I have frowned and fretted and wound up this unhappy scene. And I see how my son is more than capable of solving the problems that I so readily conjure. He will handle these oversized balloons through small and overcrowded spaces.

And I am watching him. Small. Drained, and I must make this good. I lean over and stroke his hair. He looks up at me.

‘I love you’ I say.

He leans in and I kiss his head. He looks intently into my eyes. He knows I did wrong. I know I did wrong. It takes the smallest words and actions to re-align a whole day to the right tracks.

There is a strange dynamic as we hurtle through life together. The rights, wrongs and unknowns of family. Motherhood is a precarious balance of holding fast and loosing control. The intensity of love for my children is both a wonder and terrific goliath. I would lay myself prostrate in shit if they so much as needed a bridge but I resent a childish request to bring balloons on a train. I would lay my life out on the line for them but would really rather they just left me alone from 7.30pm onwards. I find myself in a dichotomy of motherhood. It is so much of what makes me yet it smothers so much that I call myself.

We rattle on together. Underground. Quietly contemplating our depths.

We will emerge, eventually. Nothing said.

And endure on onwards.

Thriving together.