Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Successes and Failures

How will I know if I am a good mother? In my job, I'm given targets that I must meet, objectives that I must achieve, tasks that I must complete. My progress is reviewed monthly, I'm given feedback. I'm told if I'm succeeding or failing. And I do the same for others. I observe them, I ask other people what they think, I ask them to give me evidence of what they've done. If I'm doing well, I'm told to maintain my performance. If I can improve, then I'm advised how to do so. And I do that for people too. So they know how they're doing.

I live on my own, my son is with me for half of the week. My own mother lives 50 miles away, my friends - the other side of town. Much of our time together is spent with just each other for company and we both delight in that. But how am I to know if I'm succeeding or failing?

Does one look for the positive? Does one mentally review progress? Yes, my son is always courteous and polite. That box is ticked. Yes, my son does as he is told, that box is ticked too. Yes, my son can spell 20 words of my choosing, that box is ticked. Is that how I will know?

Or instead, do I look for an absence of the negative? At a certain age do I say my son does not smoke? My son does not get into fights? My son is not in debt? Is that how I will know?

This morning, my son held out his hand in front of me, palm up. His finger was sore, could I see it? I told him that I couldn't see anything at all. Then I glanced up, and saw a fleeting, crestfallen expression drift across his face, vanishing as quickly as it came. But I had seen it. I asked for another look, maybe I had been looking at the wrong finger? Oh yes, I could see it now! That must be very sore. We went into the kitchen, where I have a small cupboard filled with plasters, bandages, creams, lotions and potions. Everything a mother could need. I opened the cupboard door, very slightly, and whispered "Magic cupboard, do you have anything in there for a sore finger?" The whispering was drowned out by the infectious giggle of my son, who seemed pleased that, once again, his mother was prepared to make a fool of herself, just to make him laugh. I put some cream on his finger, infections banished, the status quo restored. My son cherished.

We left the house in high spirits, the mood set for the day. My son asked if we could play a game on the way. Of course we could, that would be lots of fun. What game shall we play? We could have a quiz, he suggested, you ask me some questions and I will ask you some questions. Of course, I answer, what sort of questions would you like? About my favourite cartoon, he says. The one we watched last night, and the one we watched last week. And the week before that too. The one which has been on in the background, whilst I have thought of other things, grateful for a moment's respite, relishing the silence. I tried - I didn't get any of my questions right. And I could only think of one question for him, at which he snorted, complaining that it was too easy.

How am I to know if I'm succeeding or failing? How will I know if I am a good mother?


belle said...

You said it yourself, my lovely. You know you're a good mother because today, you both delighted in spending time together. Tomorrow you may delight in spending time apart. Next year he may tell you he hates you. But whatever he does, wherever he goes, he will always know that you love him. You don't have to get his questions right. In fact, getting them wrong was probably a smart move because he doesn't need you to be his best mate. He needs you to be his mother. To love him all the way round the world and back again twice. And he knows you do. Not just knows it, but really KNOWS it. It's written on his heart. That's what makes you a good mother.

Rainbow said...

Tina, you sound like a great mother. You're spending time with your son and giving him attention, and you've obviously got a good relationship. And it's the little things they remember - the repeating conversations you have, the games you play. I'm constantly amazed when mine are talking now (as teenagers) at what they remember. In their rather chaotic childhood there were some points of stability they come back to and they always seem very little to adults, but are very important to children. Your son sounds like he loves you very much and you'll never lose that. You're his rock and his foundation, and that's what's important.

Tina said...

That's very lovely of both of you. Perhaps you would both like to do my yearly appraisals?

Rainbow said...

I'll do yours if you do mine, deal?!!

Tina said...

Absolutely, Rainbow, I'll get the forms out...