I´m not completely sure when it happened, but happen it did.
It wasn´t when I gave birth, and it wasn´t during my breastfeeding trials either.
I think I can identify one moment in particular that has caused me to admit that I, Helen Cordery, a woman with 29 years on this planet, am no longer functioning as myself. I am Mother. And I can crookedly trace that moment back to September 14 2016.
The date when my 2 year old became a 3 year old.
(To those of you reading this without children, or still at that stage where your offspring are all squishy, cuddly and (dare I say it) unable to form complete sentences, you may be a little confused or even think I´m dramatizing an evet as wonderful as toddlerhood. But there are others out there who are living this reality with me, and who have lived it many, many times … and to those ladies, I salute you with respect).
September 14 2016 appeared, for all intents and purposes, as an ordinary, innocent date. The sun shone and cracked through air still bearing the touches of Autumn´s chill, panaderia staff rose early and churned out the day´s supply of bread, dogs went for their usual wander around the neighborhood leaving their gifts for those unlucky souls trudging their way to work, and at least half of the residents of Chile looked outside their window at the mountains and let out a little sigh.
Well, my son rose on that particular day and thought ´the time has come´.
It was not to be a day just of Thomas the Tank balloons, colorful cupcakes, forgotten wrapping paper and healthy-snacks-to-prove-a-point, for this was the singular moment in my son´s life when he realized who he was.
And that he was no longer my baby.
Perhaps my greatest challenge these past 29 years has been acknowledging and dealing with the fact that my son is his own person. He is not someone I can just dress in any old clothes, or tell to eat his dinner, tidy his mess, or be nice. I can not just hug or kiss him with abandon, like I would when he was smaller, when I´d squeeze him so fiercely because he did something so cute that I just couldn´t contain myself.
The day E turned 3 (or there abouts) was the moment when he grasped fully what ´No´ meant, and that he had every right to say it.
And say it he does.
In fact, it feels like all I ever hear these days is a big, fat, loud ´NO!´ and this word … this word makes me want to throw every single item we own and hold dear out the window until there is nothing left but a plate that is finally empty, because it´s 1.35pm and jardin started 5 minutes ago.
This word grates on my last nerve and consumes every inch of my brain because it seems like now there are no longer enough hours in the day; time is ticking on and you, beautiful, infuriating child, are not helping us to progress through it.
And this is what I mean about now being all Mother.
Each day starts and ends almost exactly the same and I, as the Mother, am the sole person responsible for keeping it that way (you don´t want to know what happens when the routine breaks – think tears, lots of tears, them and me).
I am driven by this purpose, and although it may seem like all I am doing is keeping a baby, toddler and 2 adults on schedule, what I am really doing is fighting a war.
I battle the clock, where each tick leads me further and further away from where I need to be. I battle my partner, who often appears to be completely oblivious to the chaos unfolding around his feet (usually E and M fighting). I battle the endless dishes, the washing that never seems to dry because we have now entered the six months of the year when Santiago is not a desert and more like one overflowing drain (go to Huechuraba in the rain and you will know what I mean). I battle work deadlines, the stress that winter brings to my children´s immune systems, endless assignments that are far too advanced for my poor son to comprehend at his jardin and now I battle the constant sound of ´no´ ringing in my ears.
When I was pregnant, my mum bought me a Baby Record Book. We both thought this would be a lovely memento to have of my first child´s early years. I sat with this Record Book resting on my ginormous stomach, chewing the end of my pen, while pondering about those big, important questions that you only think about when you´re pregnant with number 1. The book told me to write down Our hopes for you in the future. ¨Be strong, know who you are, act your age & don´t grow up too fast¨ was some of what I wrote down, when E gave me a chance (he was always kicking away). And that is exactly what I got.
I have a son that is like me in so many ways – who speaks his mind, is strong and likes to laugh – which is exasperating at times, but are qualities that have always been so important to me. It is difficult
sometimes regularly but as a parent your role is to guide your child not force them, to lead by example and not by pressure, and to show them love when it all gets too much and they fall apart. I wrote in my Record Book,´I hope you always have a parent who shows you love and is present´and this is the greatest lesson I have learnt across my adult years on this earth: you will lose control at times and so will I, a bit, but I will always strive to be someone that is with you and for you, in that moment.
I am not a perfect mother – far from it. And my son is not perfect either – far from it (though maybe to me). They say control is an illusion but I think it means balance, as we live each day moving between the ´yes´ and the ´no´, the right and the wrong, the good and the not so good, looking for – aiming for – that moment when it all balances out, the world is smiling and you look into those tiny, round eyes and see nothing but happiness.
What the Words Mean
Panaderia – place where they make bread (most corner stores serve fresh bread morning and night)
Jardin – kindergarten/nursery