Happy Birthday Joe

Today is my lovely son’s 19th birthday. I know, I know, I don’t look old enough and believe me, I can’t quite believe that I AM old enough to have a child that old – and he’s 17 months younger than his sister!

Of course he’s not really a child any more and I am really that old but it seems that, over the past 19 years, I’ve got progressively younger as he’s grown up. I certainly felt like an adult when I had him  and his sister but I look back now and know that I knew nothing about life and the things that were really important.

His childhood was blighted by my severe post natal depression. It got so severe that, when he was just 18 months old, I decided that just being with me was contaminating my beautiful children and that they would be better off without me in their lives. I walked out on them and their father, completely sure that I was doing the right thing for my babies.

The next few years were hell on earth as I battled with my illness, my guilt and my ex-husband, whom I had hurt so badly that he couldn’t begin to forgive me. The time I spent with the children gradually increased and although I wasn’t always in the best state of mind to be able to look after them properly we did have lots of laughs together.

When they were in their early teens their father’s decision to move away for work meant that they came to live with me full time for the first time since I had left all those years ago. At first I was nervous but it has turned out to be wonderful. It took me until that time to really be able to forgive myself for leaving my babies, and to understand that I was actually a good mother. Not perfect, by any means, but good enough.

In 2008, I opened up the paper on Mother’s Day and saw a photograph of myself. I literally did a double take, and then I read this letter that my lovely children had sent in as part of the paper’s Mother’s Day special:

Mother, we are 16 and 17 now, and therefore old enough to write into the big newspaper to tell everyone how fabulous you are. We thank you for the following: for taking us to Cadbury World on a birthday, and then never letting us forget that the elder threw up on the younger without waking him. For filling the house with books and music, and teaching us how to cook. For answering every “why?”, and for dignifying every ridiculous question with a ridiculous answer. For setting boundaries without limiting our aspirations, and teaching us to respect ourselves. For being silly except when we need you to be a grown-up. For laughing when we get a little tipsy, and teaching us to respect alcohol; for letting us have our own views and make our own mistakes. With lots of love from Bear and Boy

I am so proud of my beautiful babies, and of myself, for coming through the bad times and getting to where we are today. There were plenty of times when life was truly dreadful and getting through even another half hour seemed impossible. But all things pass, new situations occur and new ways of seeing the world appear.

My beautiful babies are strong, healthy and happy, forging amazing lives for themselves and determined to achieve their potential. They inspire me every time I see them; they make me want to go out and try new things, take great bites out of life as they do, and be true to myself and what’s right for me. Despite being in my mid twenties and thinking I was all grown up, I was a child when I had them. They are, and always will be, my greatest achievement.

Happy Birthday Joe. I love you more than you will ever know.

4 responses to “Happy Birthday Joe

  1. Oh Cathy, how wonderful that you can see how good motherhood can be even with a shaky start! What we do in life is change and do our best for our family. You are an amazing woman and a fantastic mother….be proud…and happy birthday to Jo of course.

    • Thank you Di. There are so many amazing women and fantastic mothers out there, who for whatever reason can’t see their own strengths. If I can help just a small fraction of them to see themselves in a clearer and more forgiving light, then what I and my family went through won’t have bee in vain.

  2. Well you’ve gone and done it again. I’m welling up over my toast and coffee.

    Another brilliant and beautifully written piece Cathy. Thanks for bringing sanity into my day.

    And thank you for being honest and brave enough to share.

    Maybe see you at another Leckhampton Jelly some time?

    Rosie x

    • Thank you Rosie – I made myself cry while I was writing it! To be honest it brought up a lot of stuff from way back when but I think it’s important to be honest about ourselves and our stories, not only so that we can overcome our own demons, but also as a way of reaching out to others, so that they don’t feel alone in their experiences. I’ll try very hard to get to another Jelly soon!

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