There are few pleasures greater than singing nursery rhymes with your two year old. To have their spikey little finger ‘tickle you under there’ warms the soul like nothing else.
I have been bed bound for a week now. That’s a lie. I did venture out in the car to the playground once, and struggled to make it the few yards from car to school. It’s a usual standard week for me lately. My good bits seem further apart and shorter. It makes me feel pretty bloody morose if I’m honest. There are only so many books to read, films to watch and Facebook posts to comment on before you feel yourself slipping away into darkness.
It’s in those hours that the kids are the biggest blessing.
Today I had to evacuate the bedroom and provide sofa based back up for my husband, who after a week flying solo is beginning to crack. I barely had it under control to be honest. Those little ones soon work out if mum can’t move, then ignoring her stern voice will allow them to have much more fun.
It was in the midst of this chaos, that my teenage daughter arrived home from her friends house and said ‘ well I shouldn’t go out of you two can’t cope’ . It was like a knife through my heart, I never ever wanted my children to feel responsible for me or the little ones. I never wanted them to be carers and to have to replace my role in the house when I’m not present. The reality is they sometimes have to, and that breaks my heart.
Our funny small home isn’t ideal for looking after multiple children. The kitchen is tiny, so to cook means you have to leave the big ones in charge of the little ones if there isn’t an extra adult around. Same goes for washing up and washing. Engaging a two year old in these tasks while possible is often short lived, and ultimately results in more work.
I try to care for the littlest while bed bound but our shared room is stuffed to the rafters, and she spends her whole time like a lemming, attempting to launch herself from my care into chaos. Just ten minutes while hubby uses the bathroom, become a mountain.
It’s the little things that we find hard.
And the guilt.
Oh my god the relentless, ever present guilt.
That I’m ill, that we aren’t good enough for these amazing kids, that we ask too much of them, that my husband should be able to cope alone but sometimes feels he can’t. It never stops, and weeks like this are so very tough.
So when my tiny two year old singings round and round the garden and tickles me, or we practise counting again and she deliberate throws in a number thirteen after 4, just to make me laugh, I feel so grateful. We are doing a great job, we are doing the best we can, and our kids are wonderful people in their own right.
When government ministers or civil servants such As Michael Wilshaw, OFSTED head, throw around this idea that kids from poor families should be forced into education at two years old, it makes me want to cry. The assumption is that my poor kids can’t cope with personal hygiene, play together or socially integrate…. My bright little bella with an incredible vocabulary and even bigger heart is not good enough for wider society? Do you not think we beat ourselves up enough already? That every school trip and uniform request becomes yet another way we have to prove we are doing ok as parents?
My kids may be poor, they may have more on their plate that anyone would wish upon them, and it can be very very tough on them, but you know what?
They are brave.
They are kind.
They are compassionate.
They stand up for what they know intrinsically is right.
They are also bloody smart.
Had they not had me as a mum, with all the baggage that brings…. Well who knows? Of course I wish for a simpler, easier life for them, but sometimes it is the crazy tough times that bind you together, and make you the profoundly wonderful people you are as a family and as individuals.
So Sir Michael Wilshaw, don’t write off my kids just yet.
They are going to do amazing things, mark my words.