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.”