You’re a new Mum. You’re overwhelmed, you feel like you’ve been hit by a train. You’re leaky, weepy, bloody and scared. You’re holding someone’s heart in your hand and YOUR heart is in your mouth. Every breath is a miracle, every hiccup a delight, an irregular intake of breath makes your heart race…
Then they shit all over you. Or chew your nipples raw (I was topless for six weeks). Or only sleep for 20 minutes for weeks on end. Later, they bite your shoulder; throw your home-made fish pie on the floor or scream in your face when you stop them dancing with a pair of scissors….and they still don’t sodding sleep.
But you should cherish every moment. EVERY MOMENT.
That’s what they tell you. Old ladies especially, even though, ironically, they are often the ones giving you the stink eye and tutting whilst you stumble around the supermarket with a shrieking Tasmanian Devil. Well, I am here to say stop it. Don’t even try. You are setting yourself up for failure. As Katy Kirby of Hurrah for Gin put it so clearly “Some moments, say for example when your son pukes in your actual mouth, are totally un-embraceable.”
Along with the many ideals we are meant to live up to as ‘modern mothers’, the ‘cherish’ directive is a constant refrain. “Cherish every moment, they grow up so quickly.” These, generally older, ladies and gents look wistfully at your clean-scrubbed and beaming bundle of joy (they caught you in that glowing five minute window of the day when the little one doesn’t look completely feral) and whisper this sentiment, all misty-eyed with memories of their own children. But it’s hogwash. They didn’t do it (too busy self medicating with Gin, practising benign neglect and serving up Findus Crispy Pancakes) and they have selective memory; rose tinted glasses; clouds of nostalgia fogging their rear view mirror.
But what you can do is this: “Catch a Falling Star and Put it in your Pocket; Never Let it Fade Away; Catch a Falling Star and Put it in your Pocket; Save it for a Rainy Day.” I started doing this, without realising what I was doing, when my little boy was very small. It essentially means inhaling every particle you can of a moment in to your soul and storing it away. This can be when Little One throws their arms around you as you stare up at a morning moon and rests their cool chubby face against yours. Or when you’re at a coffee shop quietly sharing a ‘ccino (baby for them cappu for you) during the only peaceful moment of the day. Or when you laugh like drains playing hide and seek in the kitchen (where there are no actual hiding places, just places to stand stiffly against the wall and giggle). Or dancing en famille to Prophets of Rage (just us? thought so…) Whatever it is – it is a moment slipping by, gone in an instant like a falling star, but forever held in your mind and in your heart. You can recall it on tough days, when the toddler-beasts are raging around or when they’re teenagers and in no way resemble the human you thought you grew and nurtured, or when you’re out at work and pining for their gap-toothed grin…or, of course, when you’re that old lady gazing doe-eyed at a little sproglet splashing in puddles. Because they are right, those old dotes. It does go quickly. It’s like grains of sand passing through your fingers, you grasp at it and still it trickles through. And life is so busy, time whizzing by so quickly and suddenly they’re walking, then they’re running – and not towards you anymore, but away from you and into life.
I look at my little boy and wonder where the baby went. But he’s always going to be my baby, captured in those falling stars I put in my pocket. I don’t mean recorded on your iPhone. We accumulate hundreds of photos of the years and they are, indeed, precious, but these ‘cherished’ moments are full of colour, smell and feeling. In the words of that classic song ‘’Grease is the word’ …it’s the time, it’s the place, it’s the emotion (yes, alright I know the actual lyric is motion not emotion but they clearly got it wrong, okay?).
However, I don’t believe you can cherish every moment. I certainly can’t. To cherish means to hold on to a memory because it is important to you or brings you pleasure. Whilst we cherish our children, we cannot be expected to ‘cherish every moment’. Cherishing is special, it’s holding on to the extraordinary and deliciously ordinary moments that define your relationships. I may cherish watching my son chomp on piece of watermelon, whilst sitting on his ‘special snack step’. Generally though, mealtimes are my bete noire and I also do not relish getting up at dick o’clock. So, instead I Catch a Falling Star. As a hopeless romantic and someone who is no stranger to nostalgia, I catch quite a lot of falling stars and my pockets brimmeth over. But that’s how I like it. And that’s how I get through serving up fish fingers again after my arancini balls and veg medley have been roundly rejected.
So, the next time that kindly old lady tells you to ‘cherish every moment’, instead of wearily nodding or telling her to Rack Off (too much ‘Neighbours’ as a kid) – tell her you catch the falling stars and put them in your pocket. She may wonder if you’ve been on the Gin or she might just get it. And beware, we will probably all become that lady – because no matter how many stars you catch, or how often you look at them, we will all one day pine for those crazy, pukey, shouty, sleep-deprived early days and I hear rose-tinted glasses are mandatory for the over-50s anyway.
About L C Nicholl
LC Nicholl lives on the East Kent coast with her husband and young son. Currently working as a freelance consultant for a number of charities, LC has had a colourful and varied life which includes treading the boards, travelling and working abroad, being a ski/beach bum and then, latterly, creating a successful career in the not-for-profit sector. She is passionate about feminism and women’s rights (in particular around pregnancy and birth), worker’s rights, environmental issues and the theatre. She is a lover of chocolate, dodgy dance moves and the Blaze of Glory soundtrack. Words that have been used to describe LC include ‘free-spirit’ ‘passionate’ and ‘feisty’.