My mum has always been my role model.
On the arrival of my fourth grandchild, I couldn’t help comparing the different parenting styles of the two mums who are raising my four grandchildren. One copes with the parenting chaos by sticking strictly to routines, the other is laid back about sleep times and feeding schedules.
I seem to remember my parenting style being a mix of both depending on the occasion and the day. I thought of all the mums I have known and realised that the more things seem to change the more they stay the same. We all have a bit of the psychologist in us, a well-developed bull dust detector and the skills necessary to kiss ‘boo-boos’ better. Mums are a mix of personalities and skills all rolled into one. As that song goes, ‘we are one but we are many.’
There’s Story Telling Mum (STM). She likes nothing better than to read the same story several times a day for weeks on end. She will often stop at every other word to answer multiple questions directly or indirectly relating to the story. STM rereads the favoured tale of the moment with enthusiasm, keeping to the tone and to the spirit of the story, making sure not to deviate by even one word from the original text. STM’s children have their own library cards and book bags, and although she hates dusting with a passion, she and they also make a regular pilgrimage to the local bookshop to add more dust collectors to their ever increasing stash.
When not reading tall tales and true to her brood, STM, mutates into GPM, a Game Playing Mum who drops whatever she is doing to make herself available for I Spy or Monopoly. She always knows the rules of the game, but rarely manages to win one. She has discovered that game playing promotes the sort of conversation that direct questioning never does, so that ‘I Spy a car just like Mikey’s’, reveals that Mikey had hit GPMs child over the head with his toy car. His lower lip trembles with the injustice of it all. After the ensuing tussle he had been made to sit in the time-out corner.
GPM sheds her mild mannered persona to become Fix It Mum. FIM wants to dash straight down to the school or kinder to sort things out with the teacher but is having a tussle with Adviser Mum who believes it’s important to formulate strategies for her children so that they can learn to deal with their own issues. Generally and after embarrassing her children with their peers a couple of times, it’s the latter mum who wins out.
There is a time in every mother’s life when things get a bit confused and she wears the wrong mothering hat (Monster Mum) and makes a wrong call (Raging Bull Mum). Or possibly it’s because she made them eat their greens that her children declare that they hate her and are running away from home. When this happens, it’s the job of Suitcase Packing Mamma to facilitate a smooth escape with a minimum of fuss; she helps with the packing and drives her children to see GMM (grandmother mum). SPM also makes herself available for the return trips at no extra charge.
Listener Mum takes short naps to store up the sort of energy necessary to listen and respond appropriately. At the tail end of an entertaining TV program or a vital news item she has been waiting to hear, there is bound to be the inevitable, ‘mummy, where do babies come from?’ This is where hopefully the question answerer mother takes over, tailoring the answer to suit the age.
The question answerer mum encourages questions (although she dreads the above), but finds herself struggling with the follow-ups.
‘Why does aunt Prunella have wrinkles?’
‘Because she’s old, honey.’
But why is she old, mummy?’
‘We all get old, sooner or later.’
As each explanation followed by the ‘but why’ response finally defeats her, question answerer mum finds herself echoing her own mother’s ‘because I said so’. Words she promised herself faithfully (before she had children of her own) that she would never use. At around this time she gets flash-backs to her own past and can’t help but admire her own mother’s forbearance.
Interpreter Mum plays a vital role in her children’s lives. In the early years, she explains their precious utterings to the world, translating what sounds like gibberish to us into toddler gold. IM owes a great deal to the lessons she learned as Answerer Mum. When the children reach their post pubescent phase she translates with ease the language of grunts and shrugs, finding a wealth of meaning in a raised eyebrow or a snort.
‘How was school?’
‘Ergh.’ (fill in your own blanks here)
This is a short phase that thankfully disappears at the end of the teen years. I’ll leave it to you to discover what comes next. Suffice it to say, prepare yourself for empty nest mum/swinging door mum, casserole baking and laundry cleaning mum and finally there is the mother-in-law mum. The latter is a story meant to be experienced rather than described.
No matter what day or time of day the Rubber Pot Mum (mine) is prepared without notice to provide food for the hordes. To that end, there is a pot of soup constantly bubbling on the stove. Rubber pot mum hangs round the house waiting for the chance to host her children’s friends. She remembers their names, who is a vegetarian and who is allergic to pumpkin. Once fed, she beats a silent but hasty retreat.
Chauffeur mum delights in being on call for her children. Although the term communication is a misnomer (communication being only one way), sophisticated devices like iPhone have proved to be a blessing to her. Day or night, CM keeps her trusty phone handy and her car fuelled up and waiting in the garage. She prefers the night-time calls as insomnia tends to keep her up on date nights.
Nobody speaks about DM, Demoted Mum if they can help it, unless it’s in hushed whispers. Demoted Mums dispense their old fashioned advice long after the use by date. It’s a depressing but mercifully a short-lived phase. It’s only a matter of time before DMs re-brand and turn into born-again GMMs, Grand Mother Mums. GMMs get to claim a brand new and much more receptive audience. They get to do it all over again but this time round it is with all the care and none of the responsibility. GMMs tell the stories, play the games, and answer the questions. It’s true that they have to rest a lot more often between sessions, and they do sometimes envy the youth and energy of young mums, but mostly, Grandmother Mums are content to find a useful niche for themselves once more.