It will get easier, they said. They lied.
Having little kids seemed like the toughest part of my mothering journey, but it was during their adolescence I had to step up in ways I never imagined.
I wonder why we don’t talk about this part of parenting with the same intense focus as the early days? Is it because the days of idealising motherhood are so far in the past? Because you can’t take a teenager to the shops and take a photograph of them lying wrapped in a sheet next to a bunch of pumpkins?
Watch: The time I felt like a bad mum. Post continues after video.
I remember holding my toddler against the side of the car with my knee while I buckled my newborn into his capsule, praising my six-year-old for clipping herself into her booster seat.
As a 36-year-old Warrior in the Woolworths carpark I imagined a time when my kids weren’t constantly at risk of being mowed down in the traffic, or being lost in a shopping centre or abducted from a swimming pool toilet.
I imagined the freedom as a mother of older children, when in the absence of this constant physical vigilance that I would have all this time to myself.
No more endless readings of Spot Spot Loveable Spot, of going to the zoo or the paranoid alert of a beach outing. No more lying beside a child that won’t sleep at 2am telling them softy hushed stories trying to lull them into sleep while you silently weep for your lost freedoms. Like being in bed asleep at 2am.
I didn't realise, all those years later, I’d still be getting up at 2am, but to answer a distress call to pick up my darling from a party. Oh, and they’re covered in vomit. I thought it was a sleepover. Mum fail.
By 41 I had five children, and as they grew older and more independent, I realised something: as they get older they don’t need you less, they actually need you more.