When I told my Mum I was thinking of adopting I’m sure she was worried but graciously hid her concerns. I’m sure she was aware of the naivety with which I set foot but encouraged me every step of the way.
It began and has continued with adoption and childcare related articles arriving in the post. She was like a one women research unit sending facts, figures and examples, both good and bad. Like a strange sooth sayer, articles from her would arrive on subjects I was just about to consider, or inspiring stories precisely when I needed cheer-leading.
Other times parcels would be sent or given. I had become unemployed very quickly as my daughter could not manage school and money was tight. Cat food, homemade jam, socks, wellies, cake, vegetables, children’s books, vitamins, seeds. Quirky but perfect if you know us.
She didn’t get cross or even mildly irritated when my six year old put weed killer all over her store of home baking in the freezer. Nor did she bat an eyelid when the window got put through on the day we dog sat.
Very quickly my Mum became a key figure in my daughters life. Like a Zen Granny, patient, curious and non reactive. Where others more expert and professional would flounder in the face of extreme behaviour she just was. Gentle and unflustered. It was as if she had graduated with a PHD from the university of Dan Hughes in between the supermarket and cooking everyone’s tea.
At the times when I was so pushed to my limit that I wanted to explode, I would bring her to mind. I would also say her name to my daughter when she felt the same. At the moments we wanted to kill each other I would say, “Imagine Granny was here”. It was as if in our atheist household she was the head of The Karma Fairies, an omnipresent but forgiving goddess.
I hid lots of things from my Mum. The extent of our struggles and the intensity of the drama that played out over the years. It felt like one of those necessary lies. The type that kindly prevents the worrying and sleepless nights that particularly Mothers are prone to. But the truth was revealed quite suddenly and without edit when we hit a crisis so major it was undeniable.
As ever she took it on the chin and loved my daughter more at a time when others struggled with feelings of protecting me above all else. The non judgement was precisely what was needed. The articles that arrived became more political and in them an unsaid encouragement to me to fight back, to not give up, to know we were right.
As my daughter is transitioning into adulthood I am reflecting on what we have learnt and using that to inform us on how we may best be able to support others.
Part of that reflection is the realisation that I couldn’t have survived without the support of my Mum. It makes me wonder about the mothers who do not have the support from their Mums (or mum figures) either in the present or through the maternal lines of their history.
My Mum could teach me because her mum taught her and with this I can be a good enough mum myself.
It makes me worried that some mums, birth, adoptive, and foster may have to rely on the state for support in the absence of an available/financially solvent parent. The state as the surrogate mum that is at times more a cruel and stingy nanny. A morally bereft mum that judges and ignores and doesn’t listen properly.
Us mothers are often pitted against each other in the complicated dialogue of neglect and care. But the more we fight together for early intervention to mother the mothers, the more the wheels of karma may be oiled and the safer our children and our children’s children will be.