THE FIRST I STARTED thinking about what kind of mother I’d be, in any serious way, was second, maybe third year of university. I took a class on developmental psychology, and time and time again, over the duration of a semester, we went back to how the way we are raised affects the kind of people we become. Most took their knowledge to future careers as social workers and counsellors; but mine, I’ve taken to motherhood.
I remember writing, in response to exam questions, that authoritarian parents will often raise obedient adults with low self-esteem; so I give my children space for risk-taking, for arguing, for discussion. I recall the lesson that permissive parents raise thought-leaders — so often were they given charge of their own upbringing — but often the anxiously-attached, so I give my babies boundaries.
And everywhere — in bachelor degrees, books on philosophy, from parents with adult children — more than anything else, it has been impressed on me that parents are the bedrock upon which children place their faith in the possibility for a secure life. Be flawed, yes; but ultimately, you must be the reason your children believe that things can be fixed, can be forever. Some truths aren’t for childhood — their entire emotional wellbeing as adults depends on it.
So I cut apples into perfect wedges, removing the pips and core, so they know that love can look like service and hope that when they get older, they’ll recognise it when it’s given to them. I tell them every morning and every night that I love them, on the days they welcome it and on the days the words are just another piece of lint in the air to them, so they believe that some things are dependable and are to be counted on. And when my daughter cries and tells me she never wants another family and that she wants to live with her father, siblings and me forever, I tell her that, darling, you can stay here for as long as you like.