As Little Girl C turned 9, I think I was faced with my deepest moment of nostalgia and ageing since I first had children. Or ever really. I did not care about turning 40 last year. But I felt deeply my baby now being on the road to 10. Time is a true party giver and party buster.
The early years
From the moment she was out, Little Girl C became our everything. I spent her every awake moment (outside work) pouring love in, always feeling like it was not enough. Babies have this amazing feature that they take all the love you can get to them and it never feels too much. If anything, they want more. Little Girl C was bright and chatty. She walked early and talked early, in her rush to live the world. Looking back, I am surprised she did not also come out a few weeks ahead of schedule (I did). Go figure.
She was sociable with little ones as well as grown ups as we made it that she became integrated in our life, as much as our life was also entirely new. Despite her strong personality, for a few years we thought we had it easy. Her terrible 2 or even terrible 3 were not terrible, at least not until I was pregnant with Baby S.
The next 4 years
It can be disturbing to observe the change that the arrival of a sibling can cause in a Little Girl’s life. At times frustrating to try to express how much you still love them despite having brought another baby to the house. In a lot of ways, it changed Little Girl C’s personality. In her loving sister passion she also suffered immensely, she grew up to be less confident, more anxious, even more intense. But she also grew more caring, more aware of others. The outcome is still open. We trust will be the best for her. Everyone goes through this (or a lot of people), that is what we kept saying to ourselves. She just needed time to find herself.
She made each day count no doubt, and after she overcame the terrible 4s (a special), we got back on track to be wondered by her witty personality. By her drama. Her imagination. Her uniqueness.
Find who you are
There was a time she decided she wanted to be funny. Sometimes she says:
‘why don’t you laugh at what I do’
And it reminds me that it was only when a teacher told me a few years back how funny she was, that I understood she was just being funny, not rude. We course-corrected slightly by getting her a joke book for 7 year olds. That did the trick. But more importantly, I understood that it was important for her and that she was just trying to figure out how you make jokes, how you make people laugh.
The building of a human being is done in so many little ways and moments. Since the pandemic, I was no doubt able to experience more of those. And she has flourished in that. Working from home the majority of the time also allows me to try and be there a moment when she comes home to hear the story of the day first-hand. In pure emotion (rather than sleepy emotion). It is in those moments that I see time go by. The moment where she is crushed by a friend’s words, the moment where she is pumped about her pen license. Or the moment we practice resiliently for her piano exam. Those are the moments that build a human being. And those are also no doubt the moments I am terrified of missing with the passing of time.
Lessons about yourself
Sometimes people think they need to learn how to be good parents through books and courses. I have certainly done my fair amount of those. And with all their value, what they teach you is about yourself. Because it is only through knowing yourself, your fears, your values, that you can truly become a real parent (I am not using the word good or bad, only real).
What did I learn in the last 9 years (and counting)? I may have to keep adding to this list:
- I leant I don’t negotiate with terrorists is easier said than done. And I will often choose to be in the grey area of giving the children a choice between 2 things and argue I am not negotiating;
- I learnt that acting on your beliefs is so much harder than you think when you are faced with developing human beings that will question your every value;
- I leant that it does not really matter what I say, but really when I do. And when sometimes I see Little Girl C raising her voice to get Baby S to do what she wants while counting to 3, she is only modelling me;
- I learned that I am not as patient as I thought, especially when I am tired. That I can endure many nights of interrupted sleep and long work days, but sometimes my bubble pops;
- I learned that I am more judgemental than I already knew, and that I really had to tame my own self judgement to start being less harsh with everyone around me;
- I learned that no matter how much you design your life in perfection, the fears from the past will always come back to haunt you, so just put in the time to face them today;
- I learnt the true meaning of pride, of just smiling in awe at someone (once you pass the judgement stage).
I learnt the best and worst in me. And I wake up every day hoping that on balance, I give them the best more often than not.
Last week, as the 9 years daunted on me, I said it out loud. Little Girl C asked why it made me feel old that she turned 9. I explained she was growing up fast, in no time she would be a teenager, not want to hang out with me as much, and then leave home one day.
‘Mummy, are you sad, do you not want that to happen?’
‘No babe, not at all, I want you to be happy and that will be part of it, there is nothing wrong with it.”
She did not buy my answer, as much as I meant it. That was something else she thought me. A love bigger than one’s needs. Despite all conditions of day to day life, truly unconditional.