Wednesday 22 February 2012

Now that I am mum

My parents kept me from children who were rough
Stephen Spender
My parents kept me from children who were rough
and who threw words like stones and who wore torn clothes.

Their thighs showed through rags. They ran in the street
And climbed cliffs and stripped by the country streams.

I feared more than tigers their muscles like iron
And their jerking hands and their knees tight on my arms.

I feared the salt coarse pointing of those boys
Who copied my lisp behind me on the road.

They were lithe, they sprang out behind hedges

Like dogs to bark at our world. They threw mud

And I looked another way, pretending to smile,
I longed to forgive them, yet they never smiled.

These last two weeks have brought a roller coaster of fears, anxieties, excitement and anticipation. When I was out on my run on Saturday evening, I was so pleased that eventually the poet Stephen Spender's name came to me as I was desperate to track down the poem above as it was one of my absolute favourites when I was at school and I felt that it was able to express some of my emotions about being a mum at this point in Alice's life. About protecting, yet letting go of our children.

English literature and poetry was my sanctuary away from the bully girls in my last year at school.The library became my best hideout ever. 

I never saw the taunting and snide remarks and giggles (amongst other things) behind my back as bullying as such and despite my mum being upset about my so-called-friend's behaviour I tried to never let it get to me. This all started in the last 6 months of my matriculation (last year of school when I was 17). All because I wanted to knuckle down and get the grades to do a Science degree at University. All because I didn't want to go out drinking to get drunk every weekend and didn't want to sleep with boys to distract me from my studying. 

I remember the sheer joy of getting good enough grades to go to University and pursue a life away from the girls who had "rejected" me as their friend. 

I never looked back. University and my new life away from my home city was the best thing that ever happened to me. 

I chose a new way, a new start away from the pain I realised only years later that I had carried during those last 6 months of school.  

It felt good.

I guess the essence of my blog post today is that these past few days/week is seeing our lives change again. Metamorphosing into it's next chapter. The letting go of teeny tiny but very strong apron strings.

Practicing catching the bus, crossing busy roads, handling money and fledging into the world without me and learning to spread little wings of independence.

It's that fine line, that delicate balance of letting go but still watching over.

Allowing growth and dispelling any fears.

Seeing this as a positive and exciting thing.

Each time we go our separate ways in the mornings and find our separate ways back home at the end of the day, knowing that it will feel more and more normal.

Remembering how strong and brave my mother was needing me at 5 and my sister at 7 to catch 2 buses home and that despite my fear of all the evils in the world our sweet child is resilient and strong and sensible and will do just fine despite her mama's worrying!

Having all safety nets and contingency plans in place, I can start my new job on Monday in peace knowing we will be good.

Trusting that she will blossom :0)

Knowing that she will.

ps. Thanks for all your lovely comments, I do love reading them. I have been asked a few questions lately and thought I might reply in my comments box as some other people do on their blogs  so that I don't have to email you separately as I don't want to appear rude and not answer your Q's. Would that be OK? xox 


  1. What a beautiful and inspriring post. I loved that poem and it brings to mind perfectly well those feeling we have when bullied.

    I feel for you and your concerns at this point in your lovely girls life. I have yet to reach this stage with either of my girls but with La la recently reaching the giddy heights of 8 it has been in my mind about her growing independence. And although she is a little way off from secondary school and taking herself there I do feel some small steps have to be made. Otherwise I dont think I will be ready never mind her to cut those apron strings. It's hard as a parent to let go although I have seen at first had the destruction that not does to lives. Its that sobering thought that keeps me on the straight and narrow. But like you says its is a fine line.

    Well done to you too in pursuing your dreams and getting on with them. I wonder how those girls lives who mocked you have panned out? I wonder if they feel proud or happy in their chosen path in life? I guess we will never know.

    MBB x

  2. What a poignant post....I remember that poem from my school days too.

    My oldest (almost nine) was upset last night about a situation in his school......I feel so for him, my middle boy has a 'water off a ducks back' attitude to everything, whereas the oldest is a deep thinker and very sensitive....trusting that she will blossom, knowing that she will, sums it all up. The best job I can do for my boys is grow them up so they are independent and don't need my constant support....I will always be there for them of course, but if they are always reliant on me I haven't done my job as well as I could.

  3. Such a lovely post and gorgeous pictures.

    I had to let go just that little bit more last September - I thought it would be easier with boys - but I still fret......I think we always will. I just never realised my mother probably felt the same way.

    Take care

    Nina xxxx

  4. Mothers always worry, Mothers always care, we never stop. Its part of what makes us good parents. But letting go is so hard i know just where you are i have had to stand back the past 12 months and let my little boy take his wings even though he doesn't like he is 11 but he has to walk to high school now etc and cross a busy road i hate it but i always cuddle him and tell him in the morning before he leaves the house that i love him and to be careful. We can't do any more. dee x

  5. This is all in the past for me ... I look at the four amazing young adults it is my privilege to have raised and I know I needn't have worried. There are some tough days when they're teenagers but, in my experience, nothing too terrible, and to watch them grow into who they will be is just a joy.

    Good luck in that new job x

  6. What a beautiful post and so eloquently written. It made me creep up stairs into the rooms of my sleeping almost teens and give them a a late night hug. Almost mothers day, I hope you get spoilt x Best of luck in your new job!

  7. What a beautiful post that will touch the hearts of all the Mothers who read it! I remember those days and the heart ache so well.. but children, as you say, are so strong and resilient... and despite us, they blossom.... we give them roots, they grow wings, and there is nothing to be done but watch and be proud... :)x

  8. I could feel your concerns and your love in your writing. So heartfelt. With a mother like you Alice will grow to be a self-assured and confident young woman.

  9. Just beautiful, Penelope, and expresses all that maternal anxiety which never goes away, even when they are grown with children of their own! Alice seems such a thoughtful and responsible girl I'm sure she'll blossom as she becomes even more independent.
    Your photos are a delight!
    Penny x

  10. This is such a beautiful post - both the words and the photographs.
    This is all to come for me... I'm sure Alice, and you, will be fine.

  11. best of luck in your new job Penelope, this is such a time of change and growth for both you and Alice!
    Lots of love XXX

  12. Beautifully and tenderly written -

  13. I get you. I had the pleasure of my three children, all over the age of 20 now, who taught me how to let go graciously and to learn to trust. They are all beautiful, well adjusted and loving people. It wasn't easy at times and I had to pull my humour hat out of my boots a few times.
    Lovely post...words and pics.
    xx Sandi

  14. Love is a really hard thing isn't it. I never felt prepared for the depth of love I feel as a mother. Sometime Rosey rolls her eyes and complains that I'm 'being too overprotective' because I won't let her watch certain films and wear too grown-up clothes (what do I know?). As I read your incredibly thoughtful post all the fears that I have as a mother came through as our girls are only weeks apart in age. It's been a real learning curve for me, as I can absolutely see it's having to be for you, to realise we've done a great job and raised level headed girls who are growing into grand young women. Even though you know she'll be fine it never stops the worry or desire to wrap them in cotton wool until perhaps they're 30, but then we'd be raising oddballs wouldn't we.

    Good luck for next week Penelope. Hoping we'll still hear your lovely voice and catch up with your news as you settle into the job.

    Have a wonderful weekend.

    Lisa X

  15. What a lovely post. Alice is lucky to have a Mother like you and I am sure she will be just fine. I have enjoyed reading the comments which have helped me as my eldest boy is 18 next Friday. Good luck in your new job. Karen X