Mother’s Day spe­cial:

Three well-known Kiwi women write heart­felt open let­ters to their chil­dren, re­flect­ing on what they’ve loved and learnt about be­ing a mum.


Kate Rodger, Hinemoa El­der and Noelle McCarthy write mov­ing let­ters to their chil­dren

Kate Rodger for her son Max, 4

“Max, sweet child of mine, this is a pretty big year for us. You turn five. I turn 50. One of those num­bers FREAKS me out. So does the other one. Both serve to make me feel two things at the same time: very old, and very young. And in many ways that sen­tence per­fectly en­cap­su­lates how I feel about be­ing your mother. First things first, know this: all ba­bies are tiny lit­tle mir­a­cles. But when it’s your own (ie, YOU) it’s even more miraculous. I was a ridicu­lously an­cient 45 years of age when I gave birth to you and to call you ‘un­ex­pected’ is a woe­ful un­der­state­ment. Nine months pre­vi­ously I had been se­cure in the knowl­edge that par­tic­u­lar ship had sailed. But along came your beau­ti­ful fa­ther, and that ship didn’t just pull a full scream­ing 180 de­gree u-turn, it sailed right into my ovaries, de­tour­ing via the womb and then on­wards into my heart, drop­ping an­chor and tak­ing up per­ma­nent moor­ing. None of that will make much sense to you right now; you’re only four years old af­ter all. And when you hap­pen across a copy of this won­der­ful mag­a­zine in a decade or two and read this, it will sim­ply make you squirm with awk­ward em­bar­rass­ment (a feel­ing you’ll have to get used to, I’m afraid; I am po­ten­tially one of the most em­bar­rass­ing moth­ers EVER). But I tell it to il­lus­trate this one ir­refutable fact: you were, quite sim­ply, the most as­ton­ish­ing lit­tle hu­man I have ever clapped eyes on and you have grown more and more as­ton­ish­ing each and every day since. You changed my life for ever with that first sin­gle heart­beat, in ways I could never have imag­ined. So here I sit, tucked up in bed late at night, break­ing our car­di­nal house rule of No De­vices In The Bed­room, qui­etly tap­ping away on my lap­top in the dark, steal­ing lit­tle glances at you peace­fully slum­ber­ing be­side me in your favourite Star Wars jarmies (or are they re­ally my favourite?) and mar­vel­ling at the phe­nom­e­nal roller coaster of ex­treme emo­tions these past five years have been. That first in­sane year of your life was a les­son in ab­ject ex­haus­tion, de­spair and un­holy self-flag­el­la­tion. Wracked by sleep­less­ness, self-doubt and an all-en­com­pass­ing sense of in­ad­e­quacy, it was ter­ri­fy­ing, hum­bling and the most in­cred­i­ble year of my life, as amidst that mael­strom of worry was a love so con­sum­ing it took my breath away and con­tin­ues to do so still. You see my child, I’d never imag­ined I could grow a lit­tle hu­man in­side me and then con­tinue to grow you out­side of me. A gazil­lion women right now and through­out his­tory have done it of course, this is hardly a one-off. I just never ex­pected I’d be one of them. I would look into your tiny lit­tle face in the depths of the night as I des­per­ately tried to feed you, calm you, set­tle you, your face cov­ered in my fallen tears. You would gaze up at me and in that mo­ment save my life with a gen­tle smile, some­how re­as­sur­ing me that ev­ery­thing was go­ing to be all right and I’d get the hang of this moth­er­hood thing re­ally, re­ally soon. I’m still work­ing on it of course, the Moth­er­hood Thing. Every mo­ment of every day in fact. I no longer burst into tears when I drop you at day­care (in fair­ness, you never look back as you hap­pily gal­lop in­side to play with your

mates). We now (mostly) sleep through the night bliss­fully, Daddy and I are wo­ken up by your big sloppy morn­ing kisses and gig­gles be­fore you bound out of bed to em­brace the day. You love Trans­form­ers and Power Rangers and Moana and Darth Vader (although I am work­ing on flip­ping that or­der of pri­or­i­ties). You love danc­ing round the lounge stark bol­lock naked when you think no­body’s watch­ing. And you love read­ing books about di­nosaurs. You love talk­ing, A LOT (go fig­ure) – the words pour out of you in a con­tin­u­ous glo­ri­ous stream of con­scious­ness. I love that when things are lost ‘it’s a mys­tery’, and that lit­tle rab­bit’s favourite soup tastes ‘ex­quis­ite’. I love that you an­nounced sud­denly one day your re­al­i­sa­tion that ‘dogs don’t cry, eh Mummy?’ soon af­ter pro­claim­ing your need to ‘buy a gun’. And I love that just tonight be­fore you fell asleep you wrapped your skinny lit­tle arms around my neck, breath­ing into my ear; ‘I love you Mummy,’ you whis­pered dozily, ‘and I love Daddy, and I love my­self.’ Rais­ing you is the hard­est job I have ever done, hands-down, and I’m still only an in­tern. So far, you’ve taught me far more than I’ve taught you. And please know, come what may, you are loved in a way I can barely com­pre­hend, let alone com­mu­ni­cate, and you al­ways will be. Your grand­mother, my gor­geous mother, the one in the photo you al­ways think is me; she died 20 years be­fore you were born and it breaks my heart that you didn’t get to meet her. Never have I missed her as much and felt robbed of her as much as I have since be­com­ing a mother my­self. What I would give to be able to sit down with her over a pot of Earl Grey tea back home, the sun pour­ing in, just yarn­ing for hours as you clam­ber all over her beg­ging her to read you Hairy Maclary and Scar­face Claw again and again. To be given the chance to say, ‘Mum, I get it now. I never re­ally un­der­stood what it took for you to raise me, to nur­ture me, to care for me, to love me the way you did. Now I un­der­stand.’ Thank you. And I love you.”

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