I didn’t get a lot of sleep the night before last. It wasn’t because I was tossing and turning and feeling sorry for myself, it was because my (occasionally over demanding) youngest son was moaning and groaning his way through the small hours. The onset of a bug was upon us.
At 3.06am the moans developed into wails. I dashed out of bed and into his room just a fraction too late; youngest son had managed to spray more vomit about his bedroom than a garden sprinkler. Nice. The hasselback potatoes so lovingly prepared by my hubby (and aspiring chef) for our evening meal just hours earlier had made a very prominent reappearance over not only the dinosaur bedding and several books, but also over oldest son’s beloved Alton Towers Monopoly. Eww. And oops.
Cue herding of youngest son to shower and removal of seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time Angry Birds onesie without touching anything. Not the easiest of feats.
Whilst showering ensued I proceeded to clean up the mess – trying not to wake oldest son – my boys share a room. This is not a process I wish to labour on, anyone who has ever had to clean up sick will understand why, but I may have sworn, a lot.
Just as I finished, my towel clad, wet haired, ashen, trembling and really quite poorly boy appeared at the door and said sorry. I flapped a bit, ushered him into my room (hubby had vacated earlier on account of snoring, I shan’t say who’s) and settled him into the bed. Then I went downstairs to get a bowl for the next eruption and to put the washing machine on. I wondered if electricity was still cheaper at night.
By the time I got back upstairs, said youngest son was almost asleep and looking almost see-through. I climbed in next to him and he said again that he was sorry. I hadn’t realised until then how crossly I’d reacted to his illness, and as he dropped off, clutching hold of my arm as if for dear life, I couldn’t help but wonder why. Several reasons it would seem.
1. It was the actual middle of the night. I’m not sleeping very well anyway and I totally blamed him (in advance) of the rest of the night which I was NOT going to get any sleep in.
2. I had got down on my hands and knees to clear up carbohydrate based vomit and knew I wouldn’t rid myself of the smell for days despite having two lengthy baths a day.
3. The Alton Towers Monopoly. Enough said.
4. (and most importantly in the early hours after too much meditation on mortality) I’ve got cancer.
Ooh, did I really say that?! Yes, I jolly well did.
Because, frankly, shouldn’t this type of thing not be happening to me right now? Shouldn’t the other aspects of my life be completely and utterly uncomplicated due to the fact that I’ve got a VERY COMPLICATED CANCER to cope with? Shouldn’t my difficult, challenging, fussy, self-absorbed children for once in their lives just damn well behave (and this includes NOT vomiting on the Alton Towers Monopoly) because isn’t my need more important at the moment? These are some of the thoughts which went through my head. There were plenty more but I don’t wish to voice them because, because what? Because it’s really not cricket, is it?
No parent is perfect – a couple of wise women said to me yesterday – but by crikey, to go and get cancer while your children are still young? That takes the biscuit. So while my difficult, challenging, fussy, self-absorbed, beautiful angel of a child slept next to me, I became crippled with guilt.
It’s not unusual for me to feel guilty about my parenting; I spend my life trying to do the right thing but ultimately failing. You only need to check out some of the leaving letters oldest son has left me (see below) to understand that I am very clearly not in the running for any parent of the year award. I sometimes swear, I sometimes give them food laden with evil white sugar and I agonise daily about what the hell I should put in their lunchboxes to make it look like their tastes are well rounded and nutritious when in fact they despise brown bread, don’t really enjoy fruit and as far as vegetables go will only eat sweetcorn or cabbage (as long as it’s cut up in uniform 5mm strips).
Not only am I a rubbish parent generally, I’m even more rubbish now because I’ve gone and got bloody cancer which threatens to take me away from my children which means that they are really, really bloody cross with me. And who can blame them?
It’s funny, I always thought parenthood would make me selfless, rounded, content and secure. It never did. It just made me worry about everything in minute detail. From the ‘Yummy Mummies’ (ugh, I hate that phrase), to the ‘MILFS’ (hate that even more!), to the Professional-Women-Managing-Amazing-Jobs-And-Kids (my wonderful surgeon being one of them), I was sure I only ever really fitted in to the Help-I-Don’t-Have-A-Clue-What-I’m-Doing gang. Even more so now.
My boys know I’ve got cancer; we have a saying in our house that we never keep secrets and as soon as we knew about my diagnosis, hubby and I worked out the best way to tell them. The thing is, however well you phrase it, it’s never going to come out well. It’ll always come out like something from a soap opera or a stage play and that’s because you probably never imagine yourself in such a position. I certainly never did.
When I was diagnosed I honestly thought that I’d be able to chill out a bit more, to relax my parenting a bit, to not sweat the small stuff because I’d been given this momentous news that would change my life forever. But that didn’t happen. Probably my parenting hasn’t changed that much at all. I might look at my boys for a bit longer when they don’t know I’m watching them, I might make a little bit more time to do multi-player Minecraft with my youngest and I might try to smile and nod more convincingly when my oldest is going on and on and on about FIFA.
Ultimately though, my children need me to sweat the small stuff because whatever unfortunate situation I might be in, my role as their mum is supremely more important. It’s still up to me to pack the lunches, sign the school letters, wash the PE kits, make play dates with their friends and clean up vomit. Cancer won’t stop me from being a mum – the same non-perfect mum I’ve always been. And if it means I don’t have to miss out on a single day with them I’ll spend all the time in the world cleaning sick out of Alton Towers Monopoly.
They’re kids, small stuff is important.