Tuesday 20 March 2018

Smug married: Joy of marking time with belly kicks and wet towels

Reflecting on 15 years of parenting brings to mind a wise old Spanish saying for Aine O'Connor

Andrea Byrne

YOU hear it often ... how time flies. Certainly the older I get, Time's wings do seem more powerful, generating a momentum that can be truly freaky. You realise that "the Eighties" was 30 years ago, that that joke about stuff happening last century that was so funny in January 2000, isn't funny anymore and you watch Reeling in the Years and think "that was nearly 10 years ago?" because you thought the euro came in two or three years ago. Five, max.

You hear it often, too, how children grow up so fast. How "it seems like only yesterday" since they were babes in arms. You meet someone the odd time who says "how are the kids? Your eldest must be seven or eight now." Nope, he was 15 yesterday. Yes, 15. Yesterday.

But actually time hasn't flown, it doesn't feel like yesterday since he was a babe in arms, it feels like yesterday he turned 15 and 15 years since I was this baffled woman with a baby in her arms. It feels like 15 years that I've had him, that I've been on this mad journey called motherhood.

I remember life before children -- I gave it a good shot by jove -- but it feels really far away. It feels like another me, and in many respects, I suppose it was. I remember thinking, when I had just had him, that I was never actually truly "busy" before, or not in the way I was now. Pre-mother me had often said I didn't have time, and I meant it. I was just wrong. That feels like a long time ago, simply because well over half of my adult life has been as a parent. I did wonder if maybe I wasn't cut out for this motherhood lark, which felt shocking because you're not supposed to feel like that, you're meant to be all awash in love, but it was all the more shocking because while I was pregnant I had felt totally and completely devoted to the little jujitsu champ who kicked out my every meal. All of that doubt and panic feels like a long time ago.

Once he was born, I was back at work and trying to live a normal life. Because we all believe our lives won't change that much with kids, I felt overwhelmed and exhausted a lot, if not all of the time. And that feels like a long time ago.

You have to find the best of yourself and confront the worst of yourself to do your kids justice. Some people manage to do that anyway, I think I needed to have children to do it, not that it's a process that ever ends.

He finishes his Junior Cert on Tuesday. I've seen the news reports: the celebrations that accompany said finish are a whole other parenting hurdle. But finally I can get off his case about study for a few months, get back to just hassling him about getting out of and into bed, walking the dog and not leaving wet towels to fester in his room. For two months I'll have both children at home, and I'm looking forward to it.

In Spanish they have a saying: "I love you less than tomorrow but more than yesterday." It sounds weird first off but is actually very sweet, and true. Parenting has been the hardest yet most rewarding thing I've ever done, and it feels like 15 years that I've been loving a little more every day.

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