I sometimes wonder how my children survived childhood with me as their mother. When I think of some of my failures in parenting I also wonder how they still talk to me! My daughter Natalie had more than one “adventure” when she was very young which I look back on and cringe…
There was the time she wanted curls in her hair and I dropped the curling iron on her arm – she still has a faint scar. Or the time she fell off her chair in church and I forbade her to cry in the middle of Mass, only to discover afterwards that she had fallen on the hot air vent in the floor which was so hot it had burned the poor child’s little legs… terrible!
But one incident in particular marked me and I still think of it and wince. Natalie was the only one of my children to have a ‘security blanket’ (like Linus in Peanuts) In fact, she had two! They were the two blankets from her baby crib so they were small and easily transportable, but they were white, so had to be constantly washed. They were woven in a sort of honeycomb design so were full of little holes which easily got caught on things, and I was forever sewing up little tears. When she was about four years old I decided that I really could not have her carrying around her ‘bankies’ anymore because, in spite of the washing and the mending, they looked decidedly sad. So we had a few little talks, to get her used to the idea of detaching herself from her ‘bankies’. “Darling, don’t you think you are a big girl now and could leave your ‘bankies’ at home? Or even perhaps put them away altogether?” From an outright “No!!” we graduated to a grudging “Maybe…”
One day we were on a family walk in the park and of course Natalie was carrying her two ‘bankies’. It was a glorious sunny day in spring with a fierce wind that whipped the trees and grabbed at our clothing, and I had an inspiration…
“Natalie, you see all the birds flying around?”
“Do you know what they are doing? They are looking for things to make into nests to lay their eggs.”
“Yes, they use little twigs and then they line the nest with soft things like leaves and feathers and little bits of cloth they find…”
“I was just wondering, would you like to give your ‘bankies’ to the birds so they can make a soft nest for their eggs?”
Natalie gave me one of those ‘you-have-to-be-kidding-me’ looks, and held more firmly onto her ‘bankies’. I said nothing more, but I could see her thinking about it. After a while she asked
“How do we give them to the birdies?”
I nearly jumped up and down with elation, but managed to speak calmly:
“Well, you see how strong the wind is? If we hold the blankets up they will fly away and the birds will be able to find them and use them. Would you like to do that?”
After a short silence she said,
“That’s fine, one will be perfect.”
We chose the worst-looking one and I held her up as high as I could and told her to throw the ‘bankie’ in the air. It was whipped off by the wind and flew up into the treetops, and before Natalie could cry or regret her actions, the whole family cheered at how happy the birds would be with the ‘bankie’ to line their nests.
For the next two weeks Natalie held doggedly to her remaining ‘bankie’, until one day she came to me as I was in the middle of cooking dinner:
“I was finking … do the birdies want my other bankie?”
“Oh yes, I’m sure they would love to have it.”
“Awright. I’ll give it to them. Can we go now?”
“Oh darling not now, it’s almost dark and I’m cooking dinner. Instead, we shall wrap it up carefully and put it in the garbage bin because tomorrow the bins will be collected and they take everything up to the dump and there the birdies go and collect all the stuff they need. Shall we do that?”
What a dreadful mother, offering to throw her beloved ‘bankie’ in the garbage! I cringe as I think of it now. However, she agreed, so we wrapped it up in some paper and carefully deposited it in the garbage bin.
In the middle of the night I was woken by Natalie.
“Mummy, my hand hurts.”
I was more than half asleep so mumbled,
“Does it darling? Well I’m sure it will be better in the morning. Do you want to get into bed with Mummy?”
“No, my hand hurts.”
“Look treasure, it’s the middle of the night. You need to sleep. Get into bed with Mummy and I’ll cuddle you and it will get better”
“But my hand hurts…”
So the child got into bed and I cuddled her and she went to sleep. In the morning, to my horror, I found blood on my sheet… Not a great deal but enough to have me jumping out of bed and running to find the child. She had a small cut on her hand and I managed to discover that in the middle of the night she regretted having thrown away her ‘bankie’ and had gone to look for it in the dark in the garbage bin. By that time I had already changed the bag so she did not find her ‘bankie’ but did find an opened can which cut her finger. What a dreadful mother!
Natalie has forgiven me but I do wonder whether she’ll ever let me look after her own children…