A comment on my recent post concerning William and Kate’s engagement described me as a “bit of a romantic at heart”. That set me thinking and I thought I’d try to explain why in this circumstance that is most definitely the case.
The answer is quite simple. I wrote it and adopted that tone because I’m a mum. And I think being a mum is the best job in the world. I wrote it from the perspective of a mother who is proudly watching how her son turns out. Parents don’t know what is going to happen to their children in life, but they do worry and usually care more about them than they do themselves. I am no different.
People do sometimes take the “fact” of parenthood for granted. For many couples, becoming a parent is very easy. Some can simply decide to have a family on demand and then nine months later have a child. Others have children who weren’t demanded, but who arrive to be loved and provided for nonetheless. As the late John Lennon wrote in the song Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy), which was dedicated to his own son: “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans”.
But then for millions more aspiring parents the babies simply don’t turn up. Not everyone can have children, even if they want to be parents more than anything in the world and appear far better suited than those for whom children are not considered a joy, but a burden.
Like many events in my life, parenthood came later for me than most people. Most of my highly educated school friends were married and had children by the age of 22. Very few of them pursued careers of their own. Instead they produced large broods of children and are now grandparents.
My path to parenthood was – somewhat unintentionally – much more leisurely. I married much later than my friends, long after I had qualified and been working as a solicitor. We then had to wait seven unpleasant years before our son was born. During that time, as every couple who are desperate to be parents will know well, there were hospital visits, doctors, intrusive medical examinations and surgery. At that time, I remember that it was my mum’s patient vigil and wise words that helped me through.
Once our child was born, all was forgotten in the joy of his arrival. In a flash life turned into the whirling, non-stop roller coaster ride that every parent knows well. We then faced a struggle to hold down jobs, pursue careers, and look after our firms and clients, while at the same time function as a normal loving family. We were determined to give our much longed for son the best of everything we possibly could – and I don’t mean financially. We have tried to educate and nurture him in preparation for his own future, and we hope his own family. There is a saying that when you raise a child you also raise your grandchildren too.
And so there have been ups and downs in having and caring for our quiet boy. But I have been so deeply privileged to take part in his upbringing and to witness it all: from sleepless nights and nappy changing, to toddling, walking, talking and learning about life. I’ve been there at the first day of school when he wore a uniform that was slightly too big. I was also present at many rugby matches, often shouting fearfully for him not to go near the boy with the ball until a teacher once told me to shut up! And I have sat with heart in mouth as, at eight-years of age, he recited a poem we wrote together at his school’s Speech Day, in front of hundreds of his fellow pupils.
And so it has gone on. I have been there every step of the way, most recently as he has grown from a boy into a man. I parked anxiously in the school car park on the days his GCSE and A-level results were announced, mentally practicing what I’d say if the news was bad. And I was also there when he discovered he had been awarded a first class law degree, making a fool of myself with utter, uncontrolled delight.
Always and no matter what, I’ve been there for him and with him. We have our disputes for sure, but we have a mother and son relationship that is priceless to me, and goes beyond words. And yes, I still seem to do all his washing…
The whole world could see that the late Princess Diana adored her boys. We also know that they still think the same of her, with the passing of time doing little to diminish their love. I suspect the future King of England would give up his every last penny without a second thought if she could be with him and his brother again.
And so this is why I wrote as I did. Parenthood is sometimes not fully appreciated, and is often underrated by even the most well-meaning of us. For some it is tragically and permanently denied, and I have known many couples whose relationships have ended because they cannot be parents together. So I would never take being a parent for granted. In family law it is sadly and perhaps unwittingly not always given its due importance. To that my response would be that the welfare of children is always paramount, as indeed it should be, but that parents are a part of the family fabric too and just as deserving of our help. I hope, understanding the enormous privilege and gift that is parenthood, that I conduct myself in the same spirit as a family lawyer. And that this always shows when I advise my clients, help those in difficulty and write this blog.
I’ve chosen Beautiful Boy to accompany this post because it beautifully describes the parental bond between a parent and child. I hope you can all appreciate the song’s sentiment and can understand why I am at times such a shameless romantic.