The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.
I’ve thought a lot about it recently. Mini is having trouble at school – her friends don’t want to play with her anymore and neither she nor I can get to the bottom of what’s going on. When I pick her up from school she tells me about the other children she’s played with instead. She talks as though she is non-plussed about the situation.
She talks about her birth mother the same way. To the ‘naked eye’, she doesn’t seem that bothered. Her armour is so strong she struggles to break out from under it and it’s nearly impossible to get in from the outside.
Despite what I said yesterday about wanting to ensure more people felt seen and accepted, I’m struggling. It seems easier to address the challenges of entire schools, workplaces and communities than those of one lost little girl. Perhaps because by addressing challenges that don’t require me to change, I solve a much easer problem.
It takes more work, greater vulnerability and brutal honesty to face problems that require us to alter ourselves if we’re to solve them.
Mini was 7 when I met her. We’ve been together two and a half years and, even now, the mother-daugther thing can feel like the thinnest of veneers. A few months ago when she slept over at her friend’s house she woke up in the night, disorientated. “I miss my mum,” she sobbed. When I heard the story the following morning, I couldn’t work out whether she’d been talking about me or her ‘old mum’.
Mini’s needs are vast and complex. She reaches out in ways that scare and stress me. I pull away from her, feeling anxious because she needs me in ways that suffocate me. No amount of attention is enough.
Until 36 days ago, I numbed out my failure to consistently rise to the challenge of being the mother she needs. I told myself I was doing my best, just like any mum. I laughed at the memes and the “why mummy drinks” books. I felt like I was part of a little club. I made it about me – excuses are so much easier from that vantage point.
But if we’re all doing that, how does the cycle change? How do we avoid ending up hitting the bottle to avoid what we’ve bottled up? I don’t want that for my children. I don’t want that for anybody’s children!
I don’t think I’d have stopped for long enough to contemplate all of this if not for my 100 alcohol-free days and, by extension, this blog. I’d have ploughed all my energy into the business and potentially overlooked the growth I require to do justice to my role as parent. If my life’s work culminates in my children being able to say with confidence, “I am loved no matter what I do or what I achieve. I am enough,” well, that would be a life well lived.