By Abby Boak
Have you ever had a conversation which has changed your life, or heard a little throw-away phrase that enters your consciousness and just makes things different?
Here’s the story.
From being a teeny tot, I had ALWAYS wanted to be a mum and live a simple, family life, have a home, a steady job, family outings on the weekends, cozy nights in…. You get the picture? I discussed it with every single one of my boyfriends in my teens and early twenties. I had a bit of a meltdown in my mid-20s and ended up pregnant to a man who wasn’t on my wavelength at all. Life’s a funny bugger, hey? Since my son Alex was born in 2005, we have lived in 11 different houses, in three different countries, with three separate partners. I’ve had 10 different jobs and completed two full-time, post-grad courses. He’s attended 4 different schools or nurseries and after 7 years of battling with schools has finally this last year been diagnosed with ADHD and Dyslexia. This means he says and does things impulsively, is hyperactive and has exceptionally poor short term memory skills, so building relationships, both in school and in the wider family, has been very difficult for everyone. His father doesn’t live in the same place as us and seemingly doesn’t know how to use a phone on a regular basis. Suffice to say this is not the steady path that I had envisaged.
This situation used to get me down. I used to be really concerned about whether or not I was ever going to have the simple family life I desired so much, and whether or not Alex was going to be good at anything (bless him, he’s not had the most stable of times).
One day about 4 years ago I was visiting a friend. She has four boys between 16 and five. She’s also a trained Art Therapist, University Lecturer and just an all-round lovely person. I was telling her how Alex was not good at most things, how he struggled so much in school, in sports activities, in general. Rightfully so, she pulled me up:
“Can’t he just be?”
Wow. Really. It’s that simple. The fab four were right. LET IT BE.
I hadn’t realised that over the years I had been partially blaming Alex for my difficulties in not getting the simple life I wanted. I had expectations of my life, my career, of him as a son, of my partners, of myself and whilst my expectations were not unreasonable, they were only leading me to feel disappointed when they didn’t turn out as I planned. With most other things you can change your path pretty easily, but becoming a mother, that’s a one-way ticket.
This realisation changed my whole approach to mothering and I can tell you that it has mended a huge rift in my relationship with my son. I am now able to let Alex be himself. I’m no longer worried about his academic successes or difficulties- he just is where he is and it will take as long as it takes. I no longer feel mortified when he says mean things to me or others- right now he has no stop button but he will eventually learn to control his impulses. I no longer apologise when, as a more-or-less single parent, I have to take him along to social gatherings – I now embrace having this incredibly funny, charming, helpful, excitable, tactile being who is able to enjoy every adventure we have.
And guess what? We now have a pretty simple family life.