For Mother’s Day, what every woman with children wants is a heartfelt and grovelling apology from her offspring.
It was Mother’s Day two weeks ago (in the UK) – I’ll leave a pause while a couple of you scream: “Oh shit! I knew there was something I’d forgotten!” – and I was asked, as always, by my children, what I would “like”. “Shall we bring you breakfast in bed? Do you want to go out for lunch? Shall I make a cake?” they asked, because they are lovely children, and also a lot of moonpig.com adverts had reminded them. “What do you want for Mother’s Day, Mamma?”
Once I’d told them, and they tootled cheerfully off to make a gigantic mess using every single thing in the house, I turned to my husband, and said, “What do I want for Mother’s Day? What do I want for Mother’s Day? I’ll tell you what I want for Mother’s Day – I want what all mothers want on Mother’s Day: AN APOLOGY.
“This is what we’re all secretly waiting for – every mother, in the world. A FULL AND FRANK APOLOGY. A FULL LIST OF ALL THE HASSLE, BULLSHIT, UNREASON AND CRAZINESS WE HAVE BEEN SUBJECTED TO SINCE WE GOT PREGNANT, READ OUT LOUD, WITH EACH INFRACTION SINCERELY AND TEARFULLY APOLOGISED FOR, BEFORE MOVING ON TO THE NEXT ITEM.
“I don’t want a frigging cupcake. I want reparations and transitional justice! I WANT DUE LEGAL PROCESS! I WANT THEM TO BEG FOR MY FORGIVENESSSSSSSS!”
Once my husband had come out from behind the sofa, and made me put down the phone (“You can’t call your lawyer. You don’t have a lawyer”) I used his ensuing silent terror as an opportunity to explain further.
“The older one taking all my tights. The younger one calling me ‘a tiny wrinkly little raisin-woman’. The older one losing 17 bus passes. The younger one constantly bringing new pets home. The older one taking pictures of me while I do yoga. The younger one piping up at a dinner party, ‘So, Mum – how are RELATIONS with Dad? You still keepin’ the magic alive – or have you friendzoned him?’
“The older one taking THREE DAYS TO BE BORN. The younger one favouring the left breast over the right one, and leaving them lopsided. Both of them thinking it’s perfectly reasonable to wake me up at 1am, screaming, ‘HELP! HELP! EMERGENCY! THE WI-FI’S STOPPED WORKING!’ The older one blithely pramsplaining who The Smiths are.
“This is why I . . . have recently started longing for grandchildren.”
“The younger one sarcastically saying, ‘Is this the patriarchy’s fault, Mum?’ when I have a terrible, weepy hangover. You know what these past 17 years have been? They have been a GODDAMN HOSTILE WORK ENVIRONMENT, AND I WILL SUE THEM FOR EVERY PENNY THEY HAVE! WHICH IS ALL THE MONEY I HAVE GIVEN THEM! I’M GOING TO SUE MYSELF! THAT IS HOW CRAZY THEY HAVE MADE ME!”
Now, I am not an unreasonable person. I have always known what the deal is with parenthood. They are children and I am an adult – the adult who willingly brought them into the world, and fully understood that raising them would require patience, sacrifice, time, devotion and the end of my me-centric world. The unreasonable things they did as tiny children – they did them because they were tiny children. This is what tiny children do. I know all of this. I wholly accept it. I love them.
The thing is, as they get older – one is 17, the other nearly 15 – they are not unreasonable tiny children any more.
They are virtually adults. And with their new-found maturity and wisdom, it feels like the time is right for them to reflect a little on their general performance as children, then come into the front room, and say, “Mamma. I’ve just remembered. In the Co-op in 2005, when I was in my buggy, and had a tantrum where I arched my back so violently the woman on the checkout thought I’d been stung by a bee – when, in fact, I was just angry you had not bought a three-page Peppa Pig magazine for £17? Looking back, that was wholly unreasonable. I am sorry.”
Or, “Mamma. Those four years I was scared of butterflies, and you had to walk in front of me waving a stick, telling me, ‘I have dismissed all the butterflies with my Butterfly Stick’? That was a bad scene, dude. I am sorry.”
At this point in their lives, if they are not full of sudden, dazzling insight into how incredibly bloody tolerant and brilliant I have been since 2000, then surely I have failed as a parent.
This, I think, is why I – along with every other parent of teenagers I know – have recently started longing for grandchildren. Oh, we can pretend it’s because we’re broody, or want to continue our genetic legacy. Really, it’s because we’re longing for that phone call – three months after they’ve given birth – where they go: “Mum? I get it now. Now I see why you used to sit at the table with that weird look on your face, whispering, ‘I can’t believe I’m not being paid for this.’ I get it. I’m sorry. Now – can you help make the baby apologise to me?”