Pink & Blue Mummyland

Pink and blue parenting through pink and blue moods….

Hey, old friend…

on September 14, 2014

This weekend I travelled back to my home town with my little family.

We stayed with my friend Michelle and her family, with whom I’d sort of fallen out of touch. When we moved away, her two boys were the age of MiniMe and MicroBob; they are now strapping lads of 16 and 14, with deep voices, square jaws and at least a foot on me. It’s funny to look at them and remember changing their nappies, trying to persuade them to eat vegetables, and building endless brio tracks for them to chuff toy trains around.

I’m not quite sure how losing contact happened – Michelle wasn’t just my maid of honour, she was so much more. For a long while, when things in my life were difficult, her family were my family. After Bible college, when I sunk into yet another deep depression and anorexia reared its ugly head again, they took me in and helped me pull myself back up into the land of the living. I was definitely high maintenance, but Michelle never gave up on me, and always chose to believe that I wold get better.

Losing contact was probably partly caused by the feeling that I have always felt bad about the pressure I put them under. I understood that parenting was a huge pressure all if its own, one that involved exhaustion beyond anything else. I knew that the input was immense, whilst the outcome was often invisible until adulthood. I grasped just through babysitting that parenting was a thankless task and therefore next to impossible to constantly do to the best of one’s ability. So being taken in by them, and often behaving as a belligerent child who refused to eat and needed watching to prevent purging, was the last thing they needed. It was incredibly hard to take them up on their offer, even though I knew that I was on the edge of survival and needed help.

As much as I have dealt with my feelings of guilt regarding how I’ve treated people over my life, I still carry around those feelings about how I behaved when I lived with Michelle and Andy. When I think of some of the things I did when I lived there I’m embarrassed, and I still feel shame at how being so screwed up made me behave. Whenever that time in our lives was part of the conversation, I had to look away in embarrassment.

But it turns out that there was a quid pro quo in the deal that I’d never seen until now. As we spent time with them, they made comments about what it had been like when I had lived there. When Michelle’s husband was ironing shirts: “I never had to iron when you were her, you just did it all.” When sat in the kitchen watching Michelle cook: “it takes longer now you don’t do all the chopping for me.” When the boys were making their packed lunch: “Can’t you do it like you used to?” I learnt for the first time this weekend that I had provided something as well as taking from them.

In the last couple of hours of their company, I sat drinking coffee with my old friend, talking about the effort of raising my children – even with as supportive a husband as Cable Guy. I expressed the frustration that all I wanted was someone to do the odd bit of housework for me, or to make me a sandwich after a stressful morning taking a grouchy MiniBob shopping. I shared the innermost desire for a half hour baby sitter so I could just sit with a cup of tea without someone wanting a drink poured or an argument resolved or a bottom wiped. Michelle’s response? “You need an Abbie.”

What a statement. I had never realised before that I had been as valuable to them as they had been to me.

It seems that my view of that time was impressively skewed. Instead of viewing the past through rose coloured glasses, I had donned grey ones, seeing that season as one where I’d done nothing but take. It had never occurred to me before that, from Michelle’s perspective, I had done some giving too. I had a sudden change of what Glennon Doyle Melton calls ‘perspectacles’.

I left walking taller than I had when I arrived.

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