I feel bad for my Mum at the moment. I’m sure she’s getting limited sleep due to worry. She’s already one of those people that is trying to pack fifteen lives into one, so she’s pretty busy and quite likely doesn’t give herself time for her regular 8 hours regardless. But that’s not why I currently feel bad; it’s because even though I think she is over reacting, I understand.
My brother lives at the other end of the country to us and struggled for a few months to get work. He’s recently found some on a prawn trawler, a boat that goes out on the ocean for weeks, almost months, at a time. The weather and work can be unpredictable, and the people are individuals you probably haven’t met before, let alone worked with. So naturally, Mum is constantly worried about him.
In the family, we all think she is being a little paranoid, but when I really consider it, I’d probably be worse. In fact I’m sure I would cry all day if it were me. I have heard parents of friends say that when their children were traveling overseas (when said children were aged in their late twenties and early thirties) the parents often had to turn their child’s displayed photos face down, as they burst into tears each time they walked past them.
I know why this is. It’s because from the second you are a parent, your sole responsibility in life, is to your child. Even when they are born, they are still physically connected to you until someone literally cuts the cord. You love them so desperately, and almost as strong is your sense of responsibility for their welfare. As they become older, your level of accountability dims; which is why doing ‘the right thing’ in raising them is considered so important.
It’s very easy for us to judge other parents for ‘not doing the right thing,’ and so on, especially when we only know half of the story. Tragedies such as a child going missing, or drowning, and you hear a lot of ‘Well, where were the parents? I always know where my children are…I would never let that happen’ and so on. Unfortunately, placing blame doesn’t fix bad outcomes, and sadly, accidents occur. Not one of us is the ‘perfect’ parent and never will be.
So, do you cut the metaphorical umbilical cord as early as possible so they learn how to survive in the wild? Or do you keep that cord attached but stretched so they always have you to twang back to, no matter how old they are? I often whisper to Jack that he can live with Mummy and be looked after for ever and ever – -much to the chagrin of my partner Shayne – but on the other hand I let him have as much independence as I deem safe in regards to what he physically does.
I’ve known a few ‘mummy’s boys’ in my life. When a friend and I shared a flat at the age of 19, other kids regularly crashed the night. One friend in particular was very spoiled, I distinctly remember him lying on the mattress in the lounge room asking me to get him some toast, some cordial, put Rage on the telly (of which he was directly in front of) and for a blanket. I got the blanket and instructed him to help himself to the rest. He was going to be very bored, hungry and thirsty otherwise.
He’s not the only one like that, and it seems the epidemic is unfortunately becoming worse. I want to give Jack everything, but need him to grow as a child with motivation and initiative. So, I let him put dishes in the sink for me, even though we suffer a bit of broken crockery from his enthusiasm. I let him slide into the bath off the little ledge between it and the shower, even though I’m petrified he’s going to slip and split his head open. But I will never let him cry out for me in the night and not go to him. It’s not just about giving them everything we can and making sure they are healthy and happy, it’s ensuring they can do it for themselves one day, but always knowing he has support. As a mother, the hardest battle I face is the one between my mind and my instinct on how to raise my child. So, the metaphorical umbilical cord, to cut or not to cut?