When our TV isn’t in use for watching actual TV, we use it to play a slide show of our favourite photos. A montage of memories from our past, our travels, parties, friends in various states of intoxication, family events, people who are still with us and those who sadly are not.
Mostly though, our photos are a record of our children, from babies through to the relative giants they are now. There are images of me in hospital holding one new born or the other, looking about as beaten up as it’s possible to be, post birth. Photos of first smiles, first steps, hilarious first experiences with solid food, little birthday celebrations.
Memories all now long past. And the memories are bittersweet, tinged with familiarity, longing, some regret, some guilt.
So many are fond recollections, but depending on the evening, they can also leave me in tears, pining for my children’s infancy, toddlerhood, early school years.
It’s the guilt that comes from being a working mother for so many years. Feeling like your children’s lives are travelling by faster than you can blink, while you put in extra time at the office. Extra time to give your children the life you want them to have, without recognising that you’re missing so much of that life, until it’s just too late.
The thing is, you can’t change the past. You can’t go back and be there for all the moments in your kids’ lives that you missed. Those moments are now memories. So the guilt is wasted. The tears are pointless. You can only learn from the past and be there for them now and in the future.
The thing is, my kids don’t hate me because I wasn’t there enough when they were little. I think about it far more than they do. I’m sure I could psycho-analyse some disorder they have as a result of my absence, but they’re actually pretty well adjusted. My son can be a little clingy and insecure (which is probably my fault), but that could as easily be his nature.
Now we come to the contentious bit – I actually like them a lot more now than I did when they were little. I’ve never really been one for small children. I tire of them quickly, I find them demanding, I just can’t really relate to them. I know this is a personal short coming, but I just prefer older kids.
I like that my kids can talk to me about the things that interest them in detail. That we can spend time discussing the things that bother them, the challenges they’re facing, why Donald Trump is an issue for the world, what we can do to minimise climate change. That we can talk about these things intelligently, in an adult manner. That they are interested and interesting.
At this point of their lives, they’re about to head into their most challenging years. In their early teens, they’re moments away from their first love, first sexual encounter, first heartbreak, first drink, first adult-free party, first car dates, first day of university, first job, first flat. These are the years where they really need me. The years where I can give them all the support they need to help them grow into well adjusted adults.
I know I wasn’t there for them as much as I should have been when they were small. Much as I don’t want to feel guilty for it, I will never feel completely absolved. But I can learn from my mistakes. I can be there for them now. And I am.
This is an old family recipe created by Richard’s grandmother, Audrey. Audrey passed away last year, but the recipe endures. My kids love them so much they have to be hidden so they last more than a day!! You can find the recipe here.