I was sitting playing with Smallest and sniffing her tiny toes. I was chomping her feet and she did that croaky, dribble filled laugh I just can’t seem to get tired of. It struck me that I have more time for this tiny person in front of me than both eldest and middle kid at the same age.
I began to think back to the same age range. I recall it being very important that I was made up, clean, crisp and ironed with eldest and that she was the same. She was breast fed for a little while, 6-8 weeks at a push, and she slept in my bed peacefully most nights – not because I was clued up on co-sleeping, but because I couldn’t be bothered to try and get her settled back in her bed, knowing she would cry and I really needed to sleep. I was still in university and every morning she was dropped off at 8am to the nursery, picked up at 6pm and home to bed. I believed it was important to have her in a strict routine. I believed it was best for her and I, to do it this way. What I wanted and what I expected is what I now refer to as a ‘Television baby’. A ‘Television baby’ is that perfect, chubby, rosy cheeked baby that smells only of baby powder and sleeps through the night from 1 day old. At this point she only wore boutique baby clothes, Burberry denim dresses and handmade shoes. I needed to be the yummy mummy. I felt like being 20 with a baby I had to be flawless and in order to do that I was an arm’s length mummy, always there but never really ‘there’.
With the middle kid I was going to be different I was a little older, wiser (barely) and so on. This time I co-slept again, but only because she wouldn’t settle in her Moses basket. I breastfed for a longer than with Eldest but I gave up again. We had less of a routine than the first time round and it wasn’t as strict when we did. I played with her more often. We attended and completed a baby massage course. I had no university, no job and Mr was on nights. I’d sit at 7am pretending to be a sock puppet but secretly I’d be counting down till nap time.
Middle kid was placed in frilly white dresses, lace trim socks, fluffy diaper coverings and head bands of various colours and shapes. I had less to prove and I knew it. The thing about feeling you need to prove people wrong is because deep down you currently agree with them, or else you wouldn’t feel you had anything to prove – would you. I had a read a little more into co-sleeping, baby led weaning and the importance of creative play and stimulation. Mozart wafted through the air and with it carried the weight of my new expectations; of myself and middle kid. I could feel the routine and need to control everything peering over my shoulder and probably far too often I let it take over. Half way through my attempt at messy play I’d give direction on how to get the best version of the picture. By letting go that tiny amount I could see her flourishing in a different way, even now she is different. She is freer, more outspoken, braver and more confident in her own abilities. I stepped back enough to let her grow – just.
Smallest. She is still breastfed, still co-sleeping and is treated completely differently. There are barely three years between middle kid and smallest but I’ve changed completely. I still pretend to be a sock puppet for hours but I don’t watch the clock, I feed through the night. I enjoy the night feeds. The 5am mornings are nothing. I have even made breast milk and fruit ice lollies. There are no frilly dresses and lace socks. She is happier in soft cotton baby grows, or nothing at all. She cries less than eldest and middle kid ever did, she laughs more. I laugh more. The nights she sleeps without me are not nights in which I enjoy a movie, read and work, instead they are night where I wait. I wait for her to wake up. I know that I am her climbing frame, I’m her teething ring, and I’m her main source of food, her comfort, her warmth and her sleeping bag. She does not know that she is my source of comfort, my source of joy and my source of contentment.
The thing I know now is that they are only like this for the blink of an eye.
The thing I know now is that the way you parent has a very profound and direct impact on their future selves.
The thing I know now is, how to love yourself at 5am with eye bags, cracked nipples, baby belly, hair in knots whilst smelling faintly of poop and baby wipes.
So perhaps I lied in the title, what I meant to say is ‘How I love them all differently and how I love the youngest better’.
Or maybe what I meant was –
‘My children taught me how to love – in all forms.’