I’ve always endeavoured to ensure that being a mother does not take over my identity. I’ve spoken of this before: I need time to be with the lil boss, but I also need time to be myself, be a daughter, be a friend.
But good Lord Almighty, it’s so difficult to keep to that philosophy when the kid grows up so quickly and every moment so fleeting that every memory seems to slip out of grasp if I’m not present in the moment.
Let’s get real: the lil boss doesn’t need me to be there as much as I want to be there to capture what I can.
A month ago, the lil boss was still insisting on my cradling him during his showers so that water would not get in his eyes when I wash his hair (rule that applied only to me ) . Now he will not have it: I have to let water rain down on him, because it’s fun to blow bubbles like a goldfish.
A week ago, he’d whine about having to go to school and then cling on to me at the gate, demanding to be carried in. This morning, he was jumping and skipping to school, excited to show his favourite teacher (crush, coughs, crush) and classmate his new Elsa crocs. He also promptly walked into class with nary a backwards glance. Barely over two, and already in a hurry to disassociate with uncool, hovering parents.
We celebrate the firsts, but we barely have time to register the lasts.
Today the lil boss still climbs into my bed at night to sleep on me (yep, Minion the cushion). He still pretends to cry and whine (yes, all an act), just so he can sneak in a “Mi mi must carry”. He still wants cuddles in the middle of the night- let no one talk to me about sleep training- and he still wants me to sing lullabies. He still wants me to play and read with him, to share a drink and split a bag of biscuits. God knows when he will stop wanting any of these.
Sleep can wait. I’m getting all the cuddles I can.
I’m slowly leaning towards the nature camp in the nature-nurture debate. Nurture mitigates or accentuates but kids seem to come with an innate, base set of attributes. Two parents can do exactly the same thing and get completely different results. Same thing with raising siblings.
In D&D terms, you create a character with a set of inclinations and abilities. You can brush up on your dice-rolling skills, you can even cheat and weigh dies in your favour, which can do a lot to shape outcomes but your character is still stuck with the base set of attributes and their actions still take some guidance from there. No one else is getting this analogy, yah?
Any case, digression. This is why I take parenting books and articles with a spoonful of salt. Or for that matter, well meaning (and not so well meaning) advice from relatives, friends and the occasional nosy stranger.
I’ve had so many people warn me against carrying the kid as much as I did when he was growing up, because I’m apparently encouraging him to be clingy and needy . Well, the lil boss turns out to be fiercely independent: he knows what he wants and he learns quickly how to get it. He insists on doing things himself and gets frustrated when he can’t. He also runs off by himself in a mall without care, resulting in one heart stopping episode recently. So junk that theory.
We’ve also surrounded the kid with a variety of toys: building sets, puzzles, a giggling Minion (that he’s terrified of). He has cars, vehicles, entire Thomas sets from indulgent family members. But no, he is simply not interested. Not even in those that make appropriate choo-choo sounds. Instead he takes beautifully to open ended play and sensory bins (sand, water beads, rice, slime, light). He also loves his art materials and currently his little drone. I did not set up intentionally to adopt a Waldorf approach to play – I learnt about that only in the process of finding new things to engage the lil boss, and now he makes me look like an overachieving parent.
We exposed the lil boss to the performing arts, but we never did have to teach him to stay quiet and to whisper if he had to when a performance is on- he just naturally respected the performing space. We didn’t set out to make him interested in chores; he is just inclined towards pretending to be an adult and policing his space. Probably the only thing we did deliberately was to keep the lil boss interested in books, and even then, I don’t think we can take credit for how well he takes to them.
(If he sounds wonderful, know that he’s also naturally inclined to hate the sun, avoid anything remotely mathematical, dislike drinking milk, and stubbornly choose to give up what he wants and likes than meet your terms.)
God probably had a lot more to do with how he’s turning out than we do. We just to learn to avoid screwing things up and throwing the dice wrongly, really- and that’s some comfort at least.