Belfast Telegraph

Home Life Weekend

In return for giving my three children nothing but love, they've gifted me a broken toe, smashed kneecap and very painful bash in the face

By Kerry McLean

It's been said before, but it's a truth worth repeating - if you actually had to apply for the post of 'mother', few would read right to the end of the job spec before rolling their eyes and moving on to a far more attractive, better paid position like crocodile wrestler or maggot farmer (and yes, that's a real job. Look it up online, though I'd advise waiting until after you've eaten).

Cook, cleaner, seamstress, resident expert in art, English, geography, maths or whatever that night's homework may be, a mother is all this, rolled up into one handy, cuddle-dispensing person.

I don't even need to include driver, laundry maid and general dogsbody into that already hefty mix of roles and responsibilities to show that it's a tough old gig. I'm sure most young women contemplating parenthood for the first time are probably well aware that the task before them is a tough one.

What they may not know is that it should come with danger money, or at the least free health insurance. I'm walking (or should that be hobbling?) proof. In return for giving my three children nothing but love, care and attention over the last 12 years, they have in return gifted me a broken toe (when my eldest dropped a vase on it) and a smashed kneecap (when my son accidentally tripped me in the street while showing me his judo moves).

Since last year I have sported a little scar under my bottom lip where the toddler grabbed my heavy-paddle hairbrush and bashed me so hard in the face that my teeth came through the skin. For a few weeks after that I could have given Katie Price a run for her money when it comes to ridiculously swollen lips.

I put that violent streak in our young, however unintentional, firmly at the door of the McLean branch of the family tree. There's a history there.

My lovely, gentle mother-in-law has often told me how, as a toddler, my husband Ralph, all blond hair and innocent big blue eyes, pulled himself up on her knee one day, leaned forward and without so much as a word, poked her in the eye.

The result was a long six months when poor Iris had to wear a black eye patch, giving her a strangely piratical look each week when she went to play the church organ.

I was less heavy handed with my own mother, but a lot more light-fingered. As a toddler, I liberated her jewellery box from her dressing table. By the time she discovered both I and it missing, I had flushed most of her precious pieces down the loo, including her engagement ring. Now if anyone else in the world did that, you'd never forgive them, but I'm told that after shedding a few tears my wee mum was more concerned about how upset I was than recovering her lost jewels.

Not that I'm surprised by that. She's always been an amazing mum.

A teen bride, she had my sister and I at a very young age, and at 24, when we were starting school, she began her own new chapter in education, as a mature student at university, spurred on by my ever-supportive daddy.

I'm not quite sure how she magicked enough hours out of the day to make this possible, but she worked full-time throughout her studies and still always seemed to be there when we needed her.

And I needed her a lot. I was a very sickly child, with severe asthma and eczema, and I spent weeks on end as a patient in the Royal in Belfast throughout my childhood.

On the nights when I was at home, I slept in my mum's bed and, because I found it easier to breathe when my head was elevated, she slept sitting up every night, with me leaning back against her. Like I say, an amazing mum.

She's been my blueprint on what a mother should be. Any time I need help with my own three, she's there, advice, love and understanding on tap.

I'm decades away from those nights spent sleeping in her bed, but I know one thing has never changed - she's always there for me to lean on.

Belfast Telegraph

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