See that cute little boy catching a kiss from his mama at 10 months old. That’s my first baby Lachie and today he turned 9. Nine… I’m not even sure how that happened. People always say “enjoy them while they are little, they grow up so fast”. But nobody said “blink and you’ll miss it”. But I almost did miss it. His birthday that is. I only saw him for 1hour and 45 minutes today. Does that make me a bad mum?
It’s the children’s week with their dad, so firstly he isn’t even staying with me at the moment. When Dad said they probably would just have dinner at home this year (we normally do a big family affair at the local pub) because it’s his partner’s birthday Friday so they would probably combine the two later in the week, I suggested I’d come for lunch instead since I was in Bendigo the night before and Dad lives about half way between there and Melbourne. (Bendigo was ace btw, interviewing some awesome mums in business who I’ll introduce you to soon.) So we made plans to meet at a pub near them for lunch to celebrate Lachie’s 9th birthday.
I had Lachie’s presents all ready in the car. Granted I only bought them yesterday, I’ve been busy ok, but I know his Dad did the same as we discussed what to get him on Saturday at soccer. So I don’t feel bad about that! This morning I woke up in my gorgeous Bendigo Art Series hotel room, showered, headed downstairs for breakfast, answered a few emails then logged into my scheduled webinar I had on at 10am (The Digital Picnic LinkedIn Online Masterclass, was fabulous!). The plan was to head straight to the pub after that finished. Webinar over at 11.50, text dad, “I’m on my way”. He says “let’s meet at home, baby Ted is asleep, if you haven’t eaten you can have something here”. Of course I haven’t eaten, we are meant to be having lunch at the pub. It’s OK, I don’t care, as long as I get to see Lachie.
As I’m driving the hour to Riddells Creek it occurs to me that it’s almost 1pm and I haven’t even called my son, or messaged his iPad (we are pretty social savvy) to say happy birthday. Surely a good mother would have called him first thing? “It’s ok, he will be in your arms shortly mum”.
I arrived, we have cuddles, I give gifts. Apparently Monopoly Empire is the best present he’s ever had after he realised he could buy and sell businesses, not streets, and would soon be the new owner of Xbox and Nickelodeon ($25 at Kmart, bargain). We have a game of ping pong (dad’s gift), then I get a work text message asking when I’m coming to bump out my stand at The Big Freeze Festival which finished yesterday but I was in Bendigo. I was thinking I’d go tomorrow, but they are ahead of pack-up schedule and the tent walls are coming down. Fountain Gate is 1.5hrs away and I need to get there before dark as there are no lights. If I don’t leave by 3 I’ll never get there in time.
Someone mentions dinner with Nana and the cousins tonight and Lachie asks if I’m coming to the pub for dinner. My heart sinks. Daddy told me we weren’t doing dinner, that’s why I came for lunch. Dad said he thought as I was coming for lunch I wouldn’t want to come to the pub so didn’t tell me. Crossed wires? I was coming for lunch because there was no pub dinner. “You can still come yeah?” says Lachie. “Sorry sweetheart, but mummy needs to go and pack up her stand at the festival, in fact I’m going to have to leave soon to make it in time”.
It’s not my fault, It’s Monday and technically a work day, surely I’m not a bad mum? Lachie being the sweet and mature boy he is says it’s fine and seems thrilled to have seen me in the short time we had.
When I finally get home, after bumping out in Narre Warren in the semi-dark and the rain, I crash on the couch and hop on Facebook. I stumble upon a thread in our primary school FB group. A mum is asking what time everyone’s kids go to bed. Lots of answers (none the same as mine) and other mums take it as an opportunity to also say when they let their kids have devices and tv as well. Bedtime general consensus, 8-8.30pm. iPad time, never during the week. Wow, who are these super parents. Best I not contribute to the thread. My daughter is practically nocturnal and wont fall asleep till almost 10 most nights. Lachie is better but closer to 9. But technology…I’ll be honest, iPads are my after school care. I pick my kids up every day at 3.30pm, come home, throw them a snack and an iPad and don’t hear a peep from them for 2 hours till I finish my working day. I can’t afford after school care, plus the kids hate it, and it means I can get a full days work in and the kids are happy and don’t interrupt me. Bad parent? Maybe. But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. Some parents might judge, but I don’t care. But the Facebook post makes me feel bad all the same, at the end of a long day.
But you know what? I’m not a bad parent. I’m just a single parent trying my best and doing what works for me. I’ve been doing this pretty much on own for 5 years now. It’s hard work when no one has your back. But Lachie doesn’t mind. No nine year old is going to say “Mum, you give me my iPad too much” are they?! So happy birthday to my beautiful boy. I know your life is not quite as traditional as some of your friends, but it’s our life and I wouldn’t have it any other way. You are growing into an incredibly smart and beautiful little man and you make me very proud. More cuddles on Saturday when I see you next baby-boy xxx