Do you remember when you had your first child? Were you like me? Did you see death and danger everywhere?
As my baby would sit happily gooing and gaaing at me I would watch in horror as her soother fell out onto the floor. Dear Jesus the germs! I’d rush to pick it up, knowing the vast number of germs which were just waiting for this moment. E Coli and God knows what else rushing onto that lovely teat and unless killed immediately they would make their way into my precious babies mouth. I’d seen the adds. I knew what these germs looked like. They were mean!
During the day there were so many concerns. Was she eating enough? Was she sleeping enough? Was I stimulating her enough? Maybe I should begin to read to her? Or play classical music? Feck I’d better buy some classical music.
I worried that she was too hot, and it was even possible for me to worry that she was too cold within the same moment. Many a night I couldn’t sleep, imagining my daughter lying freezing in her cot, having kicked off her covers, only to get up and cover her as she slept soundly, returning to bed frozen myself.
I lived in fear of cot death, a fear my husband shared. As we watched the television, our gaze would constantly wander to the baby monitor. If we heard a brief cry we jumped up. If there was no noise we couldn’t relax. We’d check to see if we had the volume up at it’s highest. Yes it was. Within minutes we would have convinced ourselves that we’d better check. Both of us would head up the stairs, like two on a secret mission, avoiding the creaking stair, and barely breathing. Cautiously we would open the bedroom door and hold our breaths. Could we hear her? Inevitably our investigation would have disturbed her and regularly we regretted our decision to check she had not left this world.
As she grew up I continued to worry. Now she could move there were plug sockets to be covered. Ornaments to be put away. Presses to be childproofed. Even the toilet was ‘locked’. The floor was regularly washed, and I was ever vigilant in case she put anything in her mouth, or choked.
And would you believe it, that baby survived. However so too did my last child, child number four.
By now the sterilizer was gone, and a quick scald with the kettle, or better still a lick from me, ensured a germ free soother. Her days were spent sitting in the play room, watching her siblings play. There were times when one of the children came in to tell me she was crying. I’d look at the clock and think, ‘God Almighty, when did I last feed her?’. On other occasions I’d make my way in to the playroom in order to put her up for a long overdue nap, only to discover she’d fallen asleep already.
This little lady ate whatever was going. She sat in her high chair sharing meals with her siblings, joining in the shouting and conversations as if she understood what was going on. She did her ‘homework’ with them, long before she went to school. The nearest to classical music we came to, was listening to ‘I love you’ on Barney. The playroom was awash with tiny toys such as Lego and Sylvanian families. If this was our first child we would have lived in a permanent state of anxiety in case she ate them. However it was child number four. A very less breakable child to our first.
Bedtime for this little one was also a very different affair. We had given up on the ‘don’t spoil her, whatever you do’ advice. If she cried we went to her. If she wanted into our bed, in she came. As she grew up, her actual bedtime became somewhat lax, and on many occasions we ‘discovered her’ still up, long after the time her siblings would have been tucked up asleep at her age.
There are days when it strikes me that my time as a mother of young children is almost over. It makes me feel quite sad. As I look back I can see how I have evolved as a Mom, and certain things strike me. Things I would change if given my time again.
I would not wish away the days and months waiting for my child to achieve milestones. I would just celebrate them as they happened.
I would not rush them into playschool, just because they were a certain age.
I would leave for school collections early, so a young toddler would have all the time in the world to dawdle.
I would have trusted my instincts more, and books less.
I would have expected less of my first child, in everything she did.
If I had my time all over again, I would parent my children more like my last. Child number four has grown up with a very different mother. A mother who has evolved over time. Who has learned many lessons among the way, but ultimately who has learned that it is wonderful to be a mother, but especially to be a mother of young children.
Now it is time for me to learn a whole host of new lessons, as the mother of older children, facing a new set of challenges. I may be a better, more chilled out mother of young children, but I’m not sure the same is true for me as the mother of older children.
Only time will tell.