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I was blessed with a little being we fondly nicknamed Feral-Sheryl and sometimes Genghis (Khan, the destroyer of worlds).
Feral-Sheryl is a true beauty: long, blonde hair that curls at her shoulders and blue-green eyes framed by lashes that touch her button nose, they’re so long. She is perfection to look at—not even butter would melt behind that rose-coloured smile.
All looks aside, however, my Genghis is feral to the bone.
She is often coming inside from play with mud, sticks, and assorted tree leaves matted into her once brushed hair. Her pudgy, wee hand will be carrying something unrecognisable and smelly. This kid has pushed every limit, every boundary, and her tired mumma to the edge of reason—far more often than one can be expected to hold onto one’s sanity.
I am the parent you’d prefer to visit without said child accompanying her. Just “in case she hurts herself” whilst exploring the new world she finds herself in.
I can feel you murmuring to yourself, “It sounds like she just needs consistency and discipline.” It’s always the parents, not the children right? Well, I agree…kind of.
My girl is the fourth and the youngest of a wee family that grew up with less than most (although, more than some), and well, in short, each child is a remarkable human being in their own right.
I was a teenager when I birthed my first bub, and because of this, he and I grew and learned from each other. He is stunning, inside and out. When my second came along, a daughter, with an IQ that would rival Feynman, I had my work cut out for me. I wouldn’t say I’m the sharpest knife in the block.
My girl questioned everything. It drove me to despair and made us late for all appointments.
On one particular day, I was racing her out the door and up the street to catch the 4:30 p.m. bus. She was dressed beautifully, and at 15 months old, getting her hair into immaculate shape was a fine task indeed.
It had been raining and we were off to visit their conservative grandparents. These family members were not agreeable to my having children young and out of wedlock. So I did my best to keep a picture-perfect family for them. As we rounded the corner with the bus in sight, my darling daughter swiftly jumped—splat—straight into a large mud puddle. The wave of brown water and debris covered us both to our elbows.
I lost it: “Why, why, why did you just do that?! Why, when you know we are getting on that bus to Grandma’s?! What were you thinking? My God child! What is wrong with you?!” My hands were held out in front of me, shaking in disbelief.
My confused wee one replied, “But, mumma? Puddles are for jumping in?”
And with that, I stopped trying to control her. I stopped trying to do what was “best” in the eyes of others and I started listening, watching, and spending a lot more time learning my child’s “why.”
It’s the Tao of the two-year-old, so to speak.
She is wise beyond her years and has a mumma who celebrates her naughty, little personality and allows her as much space to be free as she needs (within reason, of course).
Below is a short list of what I have learned from the deliciously feral wee bug I am lucky enough to enjoy on the daily.
1. Don’t take life seriously—unless it’s really important stuff, like when there’s no strawberry ice cream left and it’s all you felt like having.
2. Sleep when you’re tired. Your body will tell you—listen to it and allow those rhythms to occur naturally. Get a good night’s sleep every night. Even when it means that you take over your mumma’s bed by sleeping sideways and snoring in her ear.
3. Be close to your loved ones, as much as possible. Let them know you love them regularly, even when it means you need to interrupt their work by sitting on their knee, blocking the laptop.
4. Fight for what you truly believe in, especially when you feel it’s unjust. Those chocolate Christmas decorations aren’t going to eat themselves.
5. Find beauty and joy in the small things each day. Pick the neighbours’ well-loved flowers. Eat the snails. Wash dolly in the toilet water. It may look like mumma is having a mare, but the truth is, she now has something to write about on Elephant Journal.
6. Find what you love, love it with all of your being, and then do it all day, every day. Your vocation is your vacation…whether or not the entire family is sick of the baby shark song.
7. Be a trendsetter by not following trends. Matching clothing isn’t important and neither are labels. Wear what’s comfortable and what’s available. You can find a perfectly suitable outfit for your meeting at little cost. It’s powerful to peacock, and most fashion designers are two-year-olds—or at least their clothing looks like they are. Go out in purple paisley print, red polka dots, green stockings, and sparkly silver shoes. People shouldn’t be so quick to judge a book by its cover, and Mum says it’s cute anyway.
8. Stop worrying about what others think of you. What’s important is what you think of you. Those people will be long forgotten later on.
9. Strive for personal greatness. Climb everything. Move your body. Set goals and go for them. Hike mountains. It doesn’t matter if you don’t get it the first time. Keep trying or at least struggle loudly until someone helps you get there.
10. Keep your sh*t private. Find a quiet space, take the time, work things out (crouch down if you need), and when you’re ready, share it with someone you love and trust. If it’s particularly rich, Dad is less likely to respond well to it.
11. Think outside the box—nothing has a set rule. Flour is meant to be poured all over the floor so you can draw pictures through it, and toothpaste makes a decent art medium for windows, mirrors, and suede couches. Porridge makes for excellent hair wax: place it in wet, allow drying time, and your Mohawk will last all day.
12. Sometimes you’ve just got to put your big girls pants on and get through it. Be brave. Dig deep and go face it. The dentist doesn’t really want to hurt you and neither does your boss.
13. Meet all beings with love. When people are mean to you, be quick to forgive and/or forget. (Afternoon sleeps aid short-term memory loss.) You’ll find you never have to worry about having a friend to play with at kindy. Everyone has their own journey and struggles—that’s not something to hold against them or judge them for. Be kind. Allow them the space to grow. If they continue being mean, squish a banana in their shoe and find someone else to play with.
14. Be you—irreplaceably you—whatever you do. Mum will always love you no matter what.