I began to write this it at the end of a particularly ‘challenging’ day with the Hurricane. This unique little human was given to me as complicated reflection of myself, ready to mirror and enhance my own flaws, strengths and convoluted aspects of self. We can and do butt heads, both stubbornly standing our ground, the fiercely passionate raging against each other.
Picking up the crumbled fragments of the day, it began to prompt my thinking about the precious gift we are given in the form of a child. Vulnerable, trusting, unguarded, placed into our embracing arms full of promise and self declared expectation. The path to parenthood and raising a child perfectly paved before you. With the greatest intentions you move forward together in this new role as parent with your child, little bumps along the way, you find yourself tripping, stumbling and clambering over hurdles. Eventually your perfect image is cracking and splintering around you.
In my reflection I contemplated my first time experiences with the Hurricane and looking beyond the mirror, beyond the reflection, to the flip side, to the current experiences and to the way in which I react and interact with both my children, now having had our second. While our Little Ray of Sunshine is still a young baby of eight months I can already acknowledge and recognise distinct ways of difference that I connect and respond to her in our normal interactions. She is, yes, a different, calmer soul to our Hurricane, which does in itself lend to easier transitions. Yet I wasn’t satisfied with that conclusion.
I looked upon myself and how I am different as a parent the second time around. My presence with my daughter is indeed one of learned knowing. I have a tried and tested attitude. It is sometimes restricted an almost one arm tied behind my back juggling routine as I am often hindered or occupied by a whirling Hurricane toddler. It’s not a matter of caring less. It’s a matter of having a lessened quick draw response. In my feeling, I don’t have that constant, nagging worry that consumed you with the first. The rapid moving questions of concern and doubt racing through every aspect of your thought “are they too warm? Are they too cold? Why are they crying? Maybe it’s teething? Maybe they’re hungry? Should I let them cry? Should I cuddle them? Is it time too sleep? Are they sleeping too much? Routine, routine, regimented routine!”
The reality is that you are a much cooler parent with your second child. A mentality of ‘relax kid, stick with me and you’ll be fine’ element of confidence. They sleep practically everywhere, the car, the stroller, at the park, school drop off, swimming lessons, play dates, anywhere and at any time, in and around your eldest’s activities. They nurse and feed either stopping and starting with interruptive needs of your older child (that must be seen to immediately or the whole world will implode) or with an invasion of space as the bigger brother/sister must share mummy’s lap simple because the baby needed it. Their self soothing is markedly better as in all honesty you let them cry longer than you ever did with your first as the little newborn fussing is nothing compared to the ticking time bomb of your toddlers meltdown. We pander to our first children and without intention our second born little ones tag along for the ride.
As a first born, I am still pandered to by my wonderful parents even as an adult! I have, of late,made several apologies to my younger follower, my beautiful sister, the Speechie, as I am now watching and living the repeated interactions of siblings and the role we as parents take with each. The Speechie has of course loved every minute of the roller coaster ride she jumped on, firmly established by two year old me, already in full momentum, as unfortunately or fortunately, however you’d like to see it, second born children know no different!
Your first child has had the advantage and at the same time the disadvantage of a sole, premier relationship with you as a parent. It is an incredibly selfish and all encompassing symbiotic relationship where you are entirely each other’s world. In that same beautiful breath you are exploring new territory and a new journey of parent and child, navigating together. This new and unfolding little being are however living, learning and experiencing a NEW parent. A parent who is by all accounts on their ‘Learner’ plates and only ever likely to progress to a probationary licence.
That’s when it struck me. I am still that new parent and will always remain that new parent in the role and relationship with my first born, with my Hurricane. We will always be in a continuous cycle of learning through each other.
It was in that moment of realisation, that moment of self reflection that I spoke in my truth, from a place of brutal honesty and openness to my son, to my Hurricane;
To my first born son,
I am sorry for my imperfections. I am sorry that you are here, foremost, to teach me how to be a parent, how to be a mother. As with all learning I will stumble, I will fall, I will make mistakes. Thank you for your knowing, thank you for your patience and thank you for seeing me with all my imperfections and for still giving me all your profound and unconditional love. I will continue to hold your hand as you have held mine from that perfect moment we began walking this journey together.
Continue, persevere, and unfold my spirited, seeking, exploring, discovering, mischievous young soul. I will watch, I will marvel and I will follow your now small footsteps as they imprint larger and broader, navigating, side by side, first as my independent adventurer and now as the gentle, nurturing and guiding big brother to your sister, your Little Ray of Sunshine.
My Hurricane, I look forward to and will ever embrace the close to perfect days and even the not so perfect, challenging ones. You make me a better a person and a better mum every time I have to reflect, restructure, gather my thoughts and take a deep breath. Thank you for holding my hand and for letting your little sister hold the other.
Your loving and imperfect Mum.
Mothers, particularly, are harder and more judgemental of themselves in their role as a parent. We place so many unrealistic expectations upon ourselves that when cracks appear, larger pieces inevitably follow and fall around us. There is no perfect mother. There is no perfect relationship and there is no perfect constant interaction with your children. You will trip, you will stumble you will fall. You will yell, you will hide, you will cry and you will scream even with the most heart felt and strong intentions. Be gentle with yourself. Learn and grow together with your children from those less than perfect moments so that when you encounter them again you’ll be left smiling, left laughing and left with loving memory. Love them and love yourself, warts and all.