Learning from the best: My Mum, My Sister, My Friend

My mum is a mum of girls. Three of us, to be precise. And we would all be lost without her. 

For as long as I can remember we have been a team of four, outnumbering my poor dad as he tried, in vain, over many many years, to discuss football scores, motor racing or cricket with us.

Mum is the leader of our gang, always leading by example and always there to listen. With just four and a half years between the eldest & the youngest, in addition to “mum”, she’s also had to play the varied roles of referee, careers advisor, agony aunt, cook, maid and chauffeur as well as that of best friend. She’s never had a day off in my lifetime and now that we’ve all flown the nest, she splits her time between being full-time carer to my elderly grandmother and looking after her own grandsons while their mum goes out to work. She is, in short, nothing short of a living legend.

She’s always joked that she was a “child bride” and, with a wink, takes a few years off her true age every time she’s asked. In fact, I appear to be catching her up now and fully expect to be planning a joint 40th birthday party in a few years time! 

She’s the glue in our family and so we all came a bit unstuck recently by an unexpected health scare. It made us revert to children again and we realised more than ever, how much we still need her in every way. She may not kiss us goodnight anymore, or wipe our bottoms, but she’s the first one we all turn to for anything. If one of my boys has bumped his head; if I’ve had a bad day and need to vent; if one of my sisters has upset me (yes even now); if I’ve gone into labour at 4am and need an emergency babysitter. In short, if things go wrong in any aspect of my life, my mum is now my best friend and confidante at the end of the phone who is ALWAYS there, come rain or shine. 

Even the possibility of losing her broke us all but, worse than that, it became obvious that our mum was most upset, not by the treatment itself, but by what she felt she was putting us through. But that’s what we do as mum’s, don’t we? We protect our children: their bodies, their dreams and their hearts. We’d wrap them all up in cotton wool if we could, and I guess that feeling doesn’t stop because a child leaves home, gets married or has children of their own.

On the day when I submit my school choices for my eldest baby, I’m all too acutely aware of how time ticks away before our eyes. It seems minutes since he was a tiny toddler and just hours since he was a baby in my arms. In September he’ll start school and some lucky teacher somewhere will become his everything, taking the place I hold in his heart now.

What this past year has taught me more than anything is that nothing will ever replace that space in mine. However big he gets, wherever he goes in life and whatever he becomes, he’ll always be the little baby that I will protect with my dying breath. Just like my mum feels about us.

Thankfully, Mum’s story has ended well, with the all-clear at the end of last year. So we enter this year filled with hope and happiness.

As everyone knows, all good Disney movies have an element of peril: a moment where things are looking pretty dicey for the heroes of the piece, before the forces of evil are defeated and everyone lives happily ever after, and I’m eternally grateful that our story followed the same path.

I’m grateful that my mum is better and that we have many more years ahead of us to plan, scheme and dream together.  I’m hopeful that I may have as good a relationship with my own boys when they reach adulthood, although it’s a hard act to follow. I definitely feel a greater appreciation for my mum now, both for what she’s done and continues to do for us, and for how much she loves us. I hadn’t realised until now that I really have three sisters, who I love dearly, and want to grow old with together.

Last summer, on one afternoon before this all began, mum and I were at a National Trust property, sitting in the shade of a lofty tree, with the boys playing together on the picnic rug next to us. It was idyllic, a lovely moment to treasure, and I remember saying to mum: “let’s still do this when we’re 90”.  She laughed as if I was being ridiculous and, of course, I was! By the time I get to 90, my mum will only be 67… 

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