When’s the right time for mums to let go?

Nobody's a perfect mum but we do our best... Picture: BB

Nobody's a perfect mum but we do our best... Picture: BB - Credit: Archant

Now her son is 36-years-old, married with three children, Lynne is wondering whether to sever the apron strings... maybe in a year or two.

My baby boy is now 36 years old.

This is when you have to appreciate that, although you do not stop being a mum, you do have to stop holding their hand when they cross the road.

In fact, this man who is my son is the father of my three grandsons and yet, I look at him and see the small boy who once spent three years eating very little but boiled pasta and sugar cheese (parmesan). The child who, his primary school teachers once told me, had a hearing problem I should get checked out.

After testing him at home by whispering from the other side of the room and getting an immediate answer, I asked my six-year-old why his teachers thought he couldn’t hear. “I don’t listen because they’re boring,” he said.

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I was appalled - how could a seven-year-old child make such a sweeping and harsh assessment of his education? I was only ever terrified of my teachers and was scared of his teachers too. There was no way I was going to tell them what he had said in case I got into trouble with the headteacher. Instead, I prevailed upon my son to just listen a bit more and look as if he was appreciating his lessons. The teachers never got back, so I assume he did this.

He had been an initial worry when, at his first school gym session, he jumped off the top of the climbing apparatus.

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Once again, I was taken to one side and asked if he had done this sort of thing before. He hadn’t and, to be fair, he never did it again.

My daughter, who is two years older, was never did such things.

At car boot sales he would always choose to buy disadvantaged toys, such as the one-legged bendy Spiderman. He was especially fond of his little, faded Yoda - why he chose to bury it in the shingle area at Banham Zoo, I have no idea. We never found it.

As he got older, most of his male friends suddenly got taller but he didn’t. At the age of 15, he was about five feet four with light brown hair. Then he disappeared into his bedroom for two years and emerged, like a butterfly from its chrysalis, nearly six feet tall with black hair.

There were occasional sightings of Mark during the bedroom years, usually when he was looking in the fridge for food (obviously a very hungry caterpillar). His pasta-days were behind him, now it was all about cheese, tomato and bread.

Now, when I hear that his sons are fussy with food, I get a warm surge; the presence of karma, which is not a cheese. Karma is a sort of mystical pay-back. But while the eating habits of vegetarian, non-cheese eating George, non-potato-eating Wil and (currently) “Feed me, feed me,” Herbie may be some sort of return for the years their daddy ate little but pasta, it is not the whole story. For they are lovely little boys... just as their dad was, so that must be karma too.

The birthday almost coincided with Mothering Sunday (I can’t bring myself to call it Mothers’ Day) and the annual run on daffodils.

Children have been known to blame parents for everything that has ever gone wrong in their lives and I suppose parents (as poet Philip Larkin made crystal clear) can indeed mess you up. I have tried to adopt my own mum’s model, which is to be there when needed but, otherwise, not to interfere. My mum never pushed me to stay on at school, go to university, get a job or move out.

She never disapproved of my friends even when I did. She never tried to influence my choice of boyfriend, although she did ask one of them who went barefoot all summer to wear shoes in future when he came into the house - the other way round to the usual “take-them-off-at-the-door” instructions.

After a year or so in stockings, I went into affordable non-ladder pantihose from Woolworths. They didn’t ladder but, when plucked, they developed holes. My mum darned holes for longer-lasting tights. She did my ironing even after I had a husband, children and an iron of my own.

When I cycled home from school in the snow, my mum helped me to peel off my gloves and brought a bowl of warm water to defrost my feet. Mum baked cakes and gave me cuddles.

She still gives me cuddles.

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