This is a difficult blog to write because I am simply not sure that I can do justice to the subject of this narrative. It was a struggle to pick a suitable title, because the likes of ‘Supergran’ or ‘Great Granny’ simply seemed insufficient at embracing the magnitude of my message.
It is certainly true that we don’t fully appreciate our mothers until we become mothers ourselves.
Over the past three years I have come to appreciate and depend on my mum more than I could possibly have imagined.
Mum has a monumental influence on my family’s life. She is a resource that I simply could not function without. Jenson would be less happy, life would be less organised, and, well, I would be a bit of a mess.
As the mother of a three-year-old with multiple and complex needs, I have to rely on others more than I would like to. This is a sentiment that will be very familiar to many readers.
My gratitude towards my mum for the reliance I can place on her is quite simply boundless. I feel fortunate beyond belief for having my mother in my life, and for the amazing grandparenting role that she plays for Jenson.
From the day of diagnosis, when my world was irrevocably turned upside down, she has been right there by my side. She has nurtured, embraced and cherished Jenson. At no point has she wished for him to be ‘normal’; for it is his very differences that make him so special to her. She loves him unconditionally and she advocates for him and protects him like nothing I could have imagined.
My emotions fluctuate on an hourly basis from euphoric to miserable and with no prior warning. My mum moderates, mitigates and pre-empts these moods in a truly deft fashion. If I am glum because we have experienced a set-back, Mum will pick me up, shake me off and get me back on track. If on the other hand, Jenson has just amazed us with a new skill, Mum is right there beside me shouting from the rooftops. She experiences the very same raw, visceral emotions as me. I don’t need to tell her what I am thinking; she simply knows. I don’t need to tell her how I feel; she feels it too.
The emotional connection between Mum and Jenson is unparalleled: his face lights up when she arrives, he cries when I prise him away to leave, and they exist in their own harmonious little bubble while they are together.
Mum’s been to the school of difficult parenting, having raised my sister and me, and she understands the arduous nature of this thankless journey. She appreciates those powerful feelings of wanting to protect and provide for your child. She knows how my mind works and can second-guess my reactions, my emotions, my thoughts.
She knows Jenson as well as I do. She watches me parent him and she absorbs like a sponge, she locks in to my techniques, my preferences, my strategies and she takes these forward in her grandparenting. She knows when to object and question my judgement, and when to accept and assent. Mum is sensitive to when my husband and I need quality time with Jenson, even though I know she is eager to see her grandson. She knows that we need occasional romantic nights out, and her offers of babysitting flow in abundance.
Attending a plethora of appointments is tough, especially while holding down a job. And as we all know too well, they don’t make it easy for us, like giving lunchtime appointments to a two-year-old, or clinics that are running an hour late with a waiting room full of 20 agitated children and a modest supply of (mostly broken) toys. Having Mum there not only makes things easier, but dare I say, sometimes even fun! Whether it is gathering up the pile of detritus that we have dumped in the consultant’s office, or wiping up yoghurt from the floor of the waiting room, Mum is my wing-man. She rearranges her own life to be there for us, to attend the appointments, to pick him up from nursery when I’m running late, and to look after him at short notice when he’s poorly.
I struggle to ask all the questions I want to ask, while I’m being distracted by Jenson playfully asphyxiating the poor doctor with his own stethoscope, or empting the clinical waste receptacle all over the floor. I then struggle to remember all of the important information that has been departed on to me, for the very same reasons. With Mum there, Jenson has his favourite playmate, and I have a dependable second set of eyes and ears. I also have a second line of defence in a difficult conversation, a second opinion where things are not straight-forward, and an emotional backbone when I am dealt bad news and need a cuddle or tissue. An eternal pillar of strength, but also an objective and rational third-party, Mum’s presence at appointments can be invaluable.
Carrying the bulky supply of feeding, changing and medical provisions along with the ever-increasing stock of entertainment resources, a second set of hands has proved to be indispensable. Remembering all of these items, where I am prone to forgetting, is equally key to a successful trip out of the house. My mum excels at all of this. She is the most organised, pragmatic and systematic person I know.
Another important point about Mum is that she just gets on with it. She cares not what folk think; she takes Jenson to Rhyme-Time, playgroups and soft play, immune to the vast differences between him and the other children, and insulated from the looks and comments.
All hail the bank of Mum! If I was to add up the amount of time that Mum has spent caring for Jenson and equate it to even the humble salaries commanded by carers or pre-school practitioners, I would be indebted to her for the rest of my life. Mum looks after Jenson for two full days per week and this does not even account for the additional appointment she attends, or the times when she looks after him so that my husband and I can have a night out. What makes this fact all the more staggering is that Mum gifts her time to Jenson wholeheartedly for the love of that little boy, and for no reward other than to see him grow and develop, and spend time with him.
Mum is the most innovative person I know. I have lost count of the number of times that I have been greeted with another new skill learned through Mum’s imagination, resourcefulness and tenacity. Perhaps it is down to her former life as a PE teacher, but Mum has an amazing ability to create ingenious ways to push Jenson forward, physically and cognitively, yet keeping fun at the fore of all activities. One day it might be a new set of colourful homemade flashcards, the next it is a novel technique to get him eating a new food.
Mum loves Jenson and Jenson loves Mum. Simple, pure, divine and unconditional love. And Mum, I love you too!